Inventive Maki Rolls at Ichiban in Asheville

If you’re into sushi and you haven’t heard of Ichiban, listen up. Ichiban is the hibachi-cooking cousin of Asheville’s number one sushi restaurant, Wasabi, and although the menu is different, the sushi chefs here are equally talented. I’ve been wanting to review this place for a while – it was actually the first thing we ate as new Asheville citizens thanks to Valet Gourmet – but it took us a while to actually dine in.

My boyfriend loves the hibachi, so if you like hibachi, I’d definitely recommend it. I’ve picked at the scallops and veggies, and they’re cooked surprisingly well. Not too chewy, and definitely not undercooked. They also give you overflowing proportions, so lunch tomorrow will be taken care of.

But here’s what I really love. Browse the sushi menu, particularly the chef’s special rolls, and you’ll find some of the most unique combinations I’ve come across. Although there’s a good bit of deep frying and eel, neither of which I’m fond of, the rolls are still quite creative. And then there’s my favorite: the Colorful Roll.

What a weird name for a sushi roll, I initially thought. Until I saw it. With chunks of bright orange mango and three different colors of tobiko, colorful is the ideal description considering the Rainbow Roll was coined long ago.

Here’s what makes it so cool: spicy lobster on the inside, white tuna and mango on top and a sprinkling of various tobiko all over. It’s mild, with just a slight sweet spice to it, almost reminiscent of a Thai red pepper and mango salad recipe I came across. Add to that a side of the best spicy mayo I’ve found in Asheville and a bit of fresh ginger (like, non-pink ginger) on top, and this is one of the best sushi rolls I’ve ever had.

It’s filling, too, although at $12, I’d hope it would be.

I hate to gloat over a condiment, but this place definitely has my favorite spicy mayo in town, which is big deal for me. Some people add shrimp sauce to their food. Well, I add spicy mayo to anything and everything. Not to overpower but to enhance, and there’s has a perfect combination of creamy spicy flavors. The consistency is a bit on the thin side, but the taste makes up for it.

I honestly can’t remember the other roll I ordered because I was so infatuated with my Colorful Roll. It really is that good. And they’ve got some great miso soup as well that has a lot of substance; not the kind that skimps on the seaweed or tofu. The broth is potently flavorful and is the perfect start on a chilly day.

After finding my perfect roll, I’m fully convinced Ichiban isn’t the ugly stepsister of Wasabi when it comes to sushi. It’s not better or worse, just a little different, and I think it deserves a fair amount of praise for its sushi, not just the hibachi.

Food: 9/10

Value: 8/10

Overall: 8/10

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Fujiyama Japanese Steakhouse – Beckley, WV

Recommended: YES!

I guess it takes a vacation and the opportunity to try some new restaurants to get me blogging. Or maybe it’s this really nice iMac I have access to that makes me want to blog some restaurant reviews. Either way, here it is.

After a few hours worth of traffic jams all up I-77N, I decided to stop for some real food to hold me over for the next six or so hours I would be driving. Sorry, Comfort Inn complimentary continental breakfast, but donuts and apples just don’t fill me up. I was craving sushi, and I decided to stop at Fujiyama, a place I’ve passed a hundred times taking this trip, but never stopped to try.

Well, today was the day. Or rather, yesterday.

The restaurant is in a mini-mess of chain restaurants, hotels and gas stations, so it’s easy to miss. And once you do see it, you might have wished you had missed it and continued on to the nearest Applebees. (And I hate Applebees.) But looks can be deceiving.

Even though Fujiyama looks like a run-down shack of a building (especially when it’s raining – which for me, it was), once you step inside, you won’t remember where you are. The interior is quite grand and dimly lit, perfect for romantic evenings, although at lunchtime, it’s rather full of families. There’s a large seating area for guests not choosing to trek to the back of the restaurant where the hibachi cook-in-front-of-you stuff goes on, but I never made it that far back. Instead, I sat at the sushi bar located right in front of the hostess stand.

Now the only thing odd about this sushi bar is that is considerably lower than your typical sushi bar, so you feel VERY short in comparison to your sushi chefs. Nonetheless, it’s a nice, intimate little space. While I was looking through the menu, the sushi chef began chopping away and quickly served me with a small complimentary dish that consisted of sliced crab meat, cucumbers and possibly some cabbage in a light, slightly spicy, cream sauce. It was delicious. And it put me in the mood to try more new things.

They offer two sushi lunch specials. Choose from one list of sushi options and get 2 rolls plus soup or salad for $9. This list contains all your usuals like Philadelphia roll, tuna roll, California roll, etc. But since I was being adventurous, I chose the from the 2nd list of rolls for $13. I settled on an Ohio roll (spicy salmon wrapped in seaweed and rice topped with tuna – mmm) and a New York roll (crab, tuna, yellowtail, avocado, and cucumber wrapped in seaweed and rice topped with masago – a HUGE roll.)

For starters (well, after that crab salad), my miso soup was great. Unlike most places who skimp on the tofu, seaweed or green onion, the only thing Fujiyama might skimp on is enough broth for all the stuff they put in their soup. And it was extremely flavorful. My sushi rolls were up in no time, and they were enormous. There were 8 Ohio rolls and 5 New York rolls, and I had to take 3 and 2 home, respectively. The Ohio roll has something a bit crunchy mixed in with the salmon to give it a slight spice, and the New York roll is almost too big to fit in your mouth. Everything tasted fresh, and I didn’t even bother asking for any extra dipping sauces or the like because the taste of the rolls were so good on their own.

I’m not sure the people there realize how lucky they are to have good sushi since I didn’t see too many people with sushi at their table. This place definitely beats out a lot of the sushi restaurants in Savannah where sushi runs rampant. My only problem would be that the wait staff was a bit unorganized and slow, but it was lunch rush. What was lost in the speed of service was definitely found in the friendliness and helpfulness from everyone working there.

Oh, and they have a koi pond fountain inside. I really don’t think I could ask for more.

Overall rating: 8/10