Number One

. January 30, 2013.

Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
4641 Washtenaw Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
Phone: 734-975-0989
Fax: 734-975-0589
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-9:45pm;
Fri 11am-10:45pm; Sat 12-10:45pm;
Sun 12-9:45pm

“Which side?” the hostess asked. I was standing in Ichiban Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar with my husband and kids, ages seven and four. The restaurant had two dining rooms. The traditional room in front of us served dishes such as Tempura and sushi. We wanted the side where chefs cook right in front of you, but my mind went blank. Was it simply called the steakhouse side? The Hibachi side?

“The entertaining side,” I replied. I counted eight rectangular grills around the room, each able to accommodate ten people. My family was seated next to a couple, with several seats between us. This seemed the typical seating arrangement for most grills.

Order with ease

Ordering was easy: just pick a meat or seafood. The kids’ menu consisted of chicken ($8), steak ($9), shrimp ($9) or filet mignon ($12). Adults could choose one meat, seafood or a combination. I chose chicken ($15) while my husband selected steak and shrimp ($21). Included with all meals were clear miso soup, house salad, fried or steamed rice, vegetables, plus two appetizer shrimp for adults.

The small salad consisted of iceberg lettuce, carrots, cabbage and cucumber in a tangy dressing. The miso soup was broth with bits of mushroom and green onions. “Hey Dad, you’re right,” my son said after trying it. “It does taste like chicken noodle!”

A dazzling display

The chef dished out bowls of sauces before beginning a dazzling display. Spatulas flew, forks tapped the grill rhythmically and eggs were tossed in the air — even landing in his hat. He scrambled the eggs before mixing them with rice and diced vegetables to make fried rice.

We dug into the warm fried rice (plain steamed for the kids) as the chef moved on. He sliced and grilled zucchini, onion, carrots, broccoli and mushrooms and finally the meats and seafood. We found the veggies slightly crisp, not soggy. Meat and seafood had a nice chargrilled flavor.

A meal with personality

Our chef was personable and entertaining. He lit the grill on fire more than once. He attempted to flick a piece of zucchini into each of our mouths. Everyone at our grill laughed heartily at his antics.

Indeed, the kid-friendly factor was high at Ichiban. Our attentive server brought new chopsticks every time our kids dropped theirs. Later, he introduced “training” chopsticks and showed the kids how to use them. He also served them drinks with extra paper umbrellas and plastic swords.

“Ichiban” means number one and the restaurant touts that its number one goal is to provide a unique and memorable dining experience. I’d say they succeeded, and they made it kid-friendly at that.

Katy M. Clark is a freelance writer from Saline.

To avoid wait They are busiest during dinnertime, Friday through Sunday
Noise level moderate to high, depending on how crowded
Bathroom amenities Clean, but no changing stations
High chairs Yes
Got milk Yes
Kids’ menu Yes
Anything healthy for kids Veggies! Plus, nothing is swimming in oil or heavy sauces. Food allergy concerns Patrons with allergies can have their meals cooked first and separately.