Every time I watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, an incredible documentary about the world’s most celebrated sushi bar (watch it on Netflix!), I start craving the more traditional sushi that we’ve all but passed aside for the newer (albeit tasty) rolls that put Japanese food on the map in America. And while there are no sushi bars nearby worthy of reserving months ahead of time and paying over $300 for (seriously, watch that documentary), we’re lucky enough to have good sushi in nearly every corner of our area. So, when I recently watched Jiro for the umpteenth time, I decided it would be a worthwhile pursuit to start tasting the traditional sushi we have available right at the bar as opposed to simply ordering rolls at a table. My brother joined me for my first stop at Ichiban.
It seemed like the right place to begin because I’ve always enjoyed the look and feel of its dining room, which definitely has the most Japanese flourishes. We headed straight to the sushi bar at the back, ordered some beers (Kirin Ichiban for my brother, Sapporo for me) and perused the raw offerings. You can order each seafood as either two pieces of sushi or four pieces of sashimi. We opted for sushi, each piece resting over a thumb of rice.
First up was a plate of escolar, yellowtail, and tuna. The pieces were separated by thin slices of lemon, which looked nice but also lent a subtle taste of citrus that went well with the fish, especially the light escolar. The yellowtail, however, was our favorite. We ended up ordering another round of it at the end of our lunch.
Next up was a plate that tested our pallets: uni and mackerel. Uni is an orange-yellow substance found in sea urchin that I’ve long seen brave food adventurers like Anthony Bourdain consume with great pleasure. My anxiety wasn’t about the flavor as I’ve always heard it described as amazing, but rather the texture. I took a breath, put the uni in my mouth, and began to chew. My anxiety disappeared as I realized that beneath the uni was rice like all the other pieces, adding the texture I needed to enjoy the flavor. I can only describe it as seafood butter, extremely rich and definitely of the sea. The mackerel, on the other hand, was more challenging. If the strip of glistening silver skin didn’t already inform you, the mackerel has a powerful fishy flavor. I’m glad I tried it as that was exactly what I was looking for: getting out of my comfort zone and actually tasting the raw fish as opposed to it simply being a component in a flavorful roll.
We finished with barbecued eel and our encore of yellowtail. Eel was part of my first sushi experience, and I’ve always liked it but find it can be off putting from time to time. The eel at Ichiban was great, though.
The chefs behind the bar did great work, and we’ll definitely be back, but not before we check out the other sushi bars around and see how they all stack up.
Ichiban | 1639 Martin Luther King Blvd, Houma, LA 70360 | (985) 868-1688