A Christmas Eve tradition in our household is to go out to eat sushi and to take in a movie. We didn't do it last year, primarily because there weren't any movies that we really wanted to see. This year, we wanted to go see Anchorman 2 (a funny film for about 3/4's of the way through, then they realized they didn't know how to end the movie) so it meant an early dinner at a new sushi place in Davenport - Ichiban Sushi and Steakhouse.
Actually, Ichiban is the upgraded version of the old Shogun Sushi and Steakhouse, the first place we went to years ago to start our Christmas Eve tradition of sushi and a movie. The two owners, I've only known them as Henry and Tim, ended up selling Shogun a couple three years ago and I'd heard that it had gone downhill. Quite honestly, we hadn't eaten at Shogun for the past couple of years because Red Ginger, a sushi place near our house, had opened up (click here to read about Red Ginger); and Osaka in Bettendorf - before their service began to suffer - had been our "go-to" sushi place in the Quad Cities (click here to read about Osaka). In the summer of 2013, Shogun shut down and on trips by the building we noticed that they were gutting the place. When they reopened in the fall of 2013, we heard that Henry and Tim had taken back the ownership of the business. Probably wanting a fresh start after the bad press the old Shogun received after they sold it, they named their new and improved business Ichiban, which means "Number One" in Japanese.
It was around 6 p.m. when we pulled into the parking lot of Ichiban at the busy corner of Brady and Kimberly, the two main thoroughfares in Davenport (see map - but you can only get into Ichiban's parking lot by either going northbound on Brady or eastbound on Kimberly). They share their parking lot with Griggs Music, but there was only one other car in the lot when we pulled in. Cindy was a little leery of going in even though the "Open" sign was on in the window. She thought no cars in the parking lot in front of the building was not a good sign. To me, it was a good sign because I knew we'd get our sushi fast.
They had certainly upgraded the interior of Ichiban over the old Shogun, keeping the Japanese-style decor, dark velor wall covering with royal blue trim, and the large hibachi table in the middle of a side dining area. The place was empty and we took a seat at the six-seater sushi bar. As we were taking off our coats, we were greeted by the sushi chefs behind the counter - Lin was the main guy that night - and I immediately ordered up a spicy tuna roll. A waitress came out and Cindy got a hot green tea while I ordered a tall bottle of Asahi. She said they only had the 12 ounce bottles and that was fine with me. (Picture below left courtesy QC Life.com)
It didn't take Lin very long to hand the spicy tuna roll over the counter to us. I was ready to give it a try. In fact, I took the picture above right after I'd scarfed down the first piece of the spicy tuna roll and then realized that I'd forgotten to take a picture of it. While the roll wasn't big, it was packed with a savory and somewhat spicy tuna wrapped in a seaweed sheath and rolled in rice. It was a great start to the meal.
From there, we ordered up Maguro (tuna), smoked salmon and regular salmon, yellow tail and red snapper. I noticed on the menu that they had toro - the high grade fatty tuna. I asked the sushi chefs behind the counter if they had toro that evening - some places show it on the menu, but many times they don't have it - and Lin immediately said, "Yes, toro! Yes!" We got a couple pieces of that type of sushi.
We soon realized that we weren't the only ones wanting sushi that evening as a few other people had wandered in by the time Lin handed the plate over the counter to us. First of all the presentation was tremendous - the maguro was nestled on a bed of ornamental twigs sitting atop two small bowls that had alternating LED light embedded within. A small orchid laid on top of the sushi. Cindy said, "Oh my God! This looks too good to eat!" I made sure I took a number of pictures to make sure that I got a good picture of the presentation.
The first thing we had to try was the toro. And it was fresh, flavorful and literally melted in our mouths. The price - $7.95 a piece - precluded us from ordering more, so we just let it savor in our mouths before we moved on.
I like smoked salmon, but I'll have to say the smoked salmon at Ichiban was a little tough. It had a good smoked flavor and all, but the consistency was stiff. It was all right, but I'd had better smoked salmon. The regular salmon, however, was absolutely killer. It, too, sort of melted in our mouths yielding both a wonderful taste and a pleasing texture. I immediately ordered up four more pieces of the salmon for us.
I tried the hamachi (yellow tail) next and I was pleasantly surprised that the fish was fresh with no fishy aftertaste. Same with the red snapper - if it really was red snapper. I've been told that most red snapper sushi is usually some other type of sea fish that is similar to the red snapper. But both were very good, great taste with the right amount of firmness. The fish was all very, very fresh.
Cindy was getting full and she didn't want to have any of the yellow tail or red snapper. I told her that it was some of the best yellow tail I've had and she didn't want any more, citing that she was full. However, she suddenly wasn't full when the waitress came back and asked if we wanted any dessert. Dessert? At a sushi joint? Well, they also do hibachi, so I suppose dessert after grilled meat would be nice. Cindy asked to see the dessert menu and the girl said, "Oh, we have a tiramisu..."
Cindy stopped her there. She said, "Do you guys make it here?" The waitress said that they did. I was a little incredulous, but Cindy went ahead and ordered up some of their tiramisu.
First of all, I thought we didn't need any more food. Secondly, I sort of wondered what kind of tiramisu they would have at a Japanese restaurant. It turned out that it was more of an ice cream-based tiramisu with round patties of flavored ice cream sandwiched in between a bed or lady fingers. The presentation looked great, but it wasn't very good. I told Cindy afterward, "OK, new rule - no tiramisu at a Japanese restaurant." She quickly agreed.
But that was the only black mark on what, otherwise, was a great experience at Ichiban Sushi and Steakhouse. We always seem to go overboard when we do sushi and this was no exception. The bill ended up at $90 bucks with a tip. But we don't do sushi together all that much and Christmas Eve is a nice time to splurge a little on ourselves. While we like the close proximity of Red Ginger, we've sort of fallen out of favor with Osaka because it has gotten too busy and the service has fallen off. We were very pleased with both the sushi and overall scene of the new and improved Ichiban. I think we'll be going there more often in the future. (Photo courtesy Trip Advisor)