Sushi Ichi is the 2nd Sushi Bar that was mentioned on our old board to have been noteworthy in an area not usually known for great Sushi. After having tried Sushi Kimagure, we’d been meaning to give Sushi Ichi a try thanks to the recommendations on our old board and @J_L’s great review here on FTC.
As we sat down, Ichi-san (the chef-owner) greeted us warmly. Chatting with him, it seems he used to work at Japon Bistro (on Colorado) before opening up his eponymous restaurant.
Harushika - Junmai Daiginjo Sake (Nara, Japan):
Our good friend brought in this bottle - Harushika Junmai Daiginjo - from Nara, Japan. It’s very fruity and fragrant, and finishes a bit long, but dry. This was pretty pleasant and paired well with many of the dishes this evening. (Note: Corkage fee is only $15 / bottle, which is pretty nice.)
Tsubugai - Whelks - Boston, U.S.A.:
Just cooked through. Tender, light chew, nice flavor.
Wakasagi Furai - Fried Smelt Fish:
These Smelt Fish were delicious! Lightly fried with a nice crispness and excellent brininess.
Kijihata Sashimi - Rockfish Sashimi (Shikoku, Japan):
I don’t think we’ve had Kijihata Sashimi before, so it was nice to try this for the first time. However the actual taste was super mild. It was very fresh and clean-tasting, but just didn’t have very much inherent flavor at all. The Ponzu Sauce gave it a nice bump in flavor, but at that point we were tasting mainly Ponzu.
Shiro Baigai - Japanese Ivory Shell (Shizuoka, Japan):
This was a steamed Shiro Baigai, with a delicate seasoned Dashi within. Tender, lightly chewy and tastier than the Tsubugai we had earlier.
Hotategai - Scallops (Niigata, Japan):
These were excellent! Tender, bright, just a great dish.
Amaebi - Sweet Shrimp (Canada):
So good! So sweet, tender but firm. Outstanding!
Zuwaigani - Snow Crab (Toyama, Japan):
We’ve had Zuwaigani many times, but trying this Snow Crab from Toyama was new for us. Lightly sweet, a wonderful distinct texture for the Snow Crab, this was a treat.
Fried Sweet Shrimp Heads:
It was too hot for a Miso Soup preparation, so we opted for Fried Sweet Shrimp Heads.
Shigoku Oysters (Washington, U.S.A.):
These were OK. Meaty, these weren’t as bright as the Shigokus we had at Connie & Ted’s a couple weeks ago.
Shako - Mantis Shrimp (Toyama, Japan):
I haven’t seen Shako very often around here in a while. This had an almost smoky hint, meaty and almost earthy.
Katsuo - Bonito (Toyama, Japan):
Inherently stronger-flavored, oily, briny, this was pretty good.
Otokoyama - (Spring Limited Edition) Shiboritate - Tokubetsu Junmai Nama Genshu Sake (Hokkaido, Japan):
Otokoyama can be found on a lot of menus locally, but when I saw the cute Polar Bear on the label signifying their Spring Limited Edition release “Shiboritate”, I had to order it!
This had more aroma and fruit notes compared to the Harushika. It was livelier as well, although it didn’t finish as cleanly as I had hoped. Still it was pretty tasty with the rest of the courses.
Aoyagi - Surf Clam (Boston, U.S.A.):
Lightly sweet, meaty.
Ohtoro - Fattiest Tuna Belly (Spain):
It’s easy to drool over Ohtoro, but the Ohtoro from Spain on this visit was truly outstanding! So buttery, luscious, creamy, amazing.
Kanpachi - Amberjack (Shizuoka, Japan):
This was fine, but the Kanpachi served at Aburiya Raku was superior in every way (which sounds crazy).
Madai - Sea Bream (Ehime, Japan):
Very good. One of the better bites of the evening.
Kinmedai - Splendid Alfonsino (Chiba, Japan):
Lightly smoky, meaty, great balance of some fattiness and lean.
Aji - Spanish Mackerel (Tsukiji Fish Market, Japan):
The Aji was tasty, but at this point there were a few fish where Ichi-san didn’t know the provenance of the Fish, sourcing it from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. This isn’t some “big negative” or anything, but it speaks to how Ichi compares with some other itamae around L.A.
Uni - Sea Urchin Roe (Santa Barbara, U.S.A.):
This was a bit funky, not as fresh as we’d like.
Ikura - Salmon Roe (Canada):
This was also OK, better than the Uni, but lacked the super bright pop (literally and figuratively) compared to Shunji or Mori.
Dewazakura - Izumi Judan - Ginjo Sake (Yamagata, Japan):
Ever the excellent recommendation from @beefnoguy, this Izumi Judan was super-dry with no aroma or fruitiness or sweetness. It was just dry.
Kamasu - Barracuda (Tsukiji Fish Market, Japan):
Smoky, oily, tasty.
Anago - Sea Eel (Tsukiji Fish Market, Japan):
This was even better than the Kamasu. A wonderful smokiness and balance of meatiness and oily qualities.
Kohada - Gizzard Shad (Shikoku, Japan):
Loved the little kick from the Ginger contrasting the inherently oily nature of the Kohada.
Hamachi - Yellowtail (Shikoku, Japan):
It seems almost passe to serve Hamachi these days. We’re also not sure why Ichi-san served us Hamachi near the very end of our course, after a barrage of fatty, oily fish. But after taking a bite I knew why: This was absolutely delicious!
Buttery, luscious, it almost tasted like Hamachi Toro (Belly), that was how lush it was, but either way, it was the highlight of the evening (along with the Ohtoro).
Engawa - Fluke Fin (Tsukiji Fish Market, Japan):
The torched Engawa was smoky and tasty.
Ankimo - Monkfish Liver (East Coast, U.S.A.):
Clean, but buttery.
Blue Crab Handroll (Mexico):
Lightly sweet, briny, slightly crisped Nori wrapper.
This was the end of the Omakase course, but we asked for one more order of the Ohtoro because it was so good.
Service was fine, it was literally a 3 person operation with Ichi-san, his wife, and one other server. The total came out to $230 per person (including tax & tip), which felt like a premium for what was served.
Sushi Ichi delivers a very solid Omakase course: Most of the fish tasted fresh, the nigiri was perhaps a bit heavy on the Fish with less Rice. The Rice itself was OK, not overly vinegared, but it wasn’t really noteworthy either. There were a few highlights like the surprising Hamachi, Ohtoro, Amaebi and Anago.
But Ichi never reaches the heights of L.A.'s best, like Shunji (with the interesting, engaging variety of fish and outstanding cooked dishes (and stunning use of Truffle)), nor does it approach Mori Sushi (not close).
For a neighborhood Sushi restaurant, Ichi is quite good, but the problem is the price: While what is “too pricey” is subjective of course, if you’re going to charge folks $230 per person, you’re entering the realm of Shunji and Mori (for price). Except Ichi doesn’t execute or deliver on that level of excellence. (We didn’t even get a nice switch to Hojicha, or any Tamago or Dessert (not that we could’ve eaten anymore.))
633 S Arroyo Pkwy.
Pasadena, CA 91105
Tel: (626) 395-9977