Ichiban: Austin’s Original Tatami-style Dining Experience

Audrey Gutgsell

First Look

As you drive down Austin’s well-known Burnet Road you will come across the delicious Japanese and Korean restaurant Ichiban. This eatery definitely lives up to its name because ‘Ichiban’ translates to ‘number one’ in Japanese. From bento boxes to bulgogi, and specialty sushi rolls, every customer is able to find something to satisfy their personal cravings. 

The Ambiance

As you approach the front of the building you will find yourself walking on a miniature bridge that is on top of a little pond. Inside this pond, you are greeted by Koi fish that come in all different colors. You are even given a chance to purchase some koi fish food inside the restaurant if you wish to give these fishy friends a treat.

After you finish looking at all of the vibrant colored Koi fish you are immediately welcomed by the host and even some of the sushi chefs working behind the counter. The dimmed lighting inside gives it a calming ambiance that will make you relaxed and ready to enjoy your meal. Even the simple flower decorations placed on each table add a soothing touch to this Austin favorite. 

Tatami-Style Dining

You have a choice to sit at a regular table or to enjoy an original Tatami-style dining experience. For people who enjoy the ambiance of Japanese culture, this style of dining requires you to remove your shoes before entering the wooden booth. Inside there are mats known as ‘tatami’ that you sit on while eating at the table. You are secluded from the other customers and have a bunch of space underneath the table where you are able to either cross your legs on the mat or dangle your feet. 

I have experienced both regular table dining and Tatami-style dining and I have to say that I prefer the latter. It feels comforting to take off my shoes, place them on the rack outside of the booth, and just cross my legs on the mat and enjoy my meal. There is something about being in a private dining ‘room’ that makes this dining experience at Ichiban more memorable, intimate, and fun. 

What I Order 

Before I get into the main event I like to order some Gyoza because who can go wrong with wonton wrappers stuffed with pork and cabbage? Now it’s important to note that every time I have dined at Ichiban I take full advantage of the Two Roll Combination lunch special. For only $10.95 I am able to enjoy a bowl of Miso Soup, the House Salad, and my choice of any two rolls from their Classic Rolls selection. It can’t get any better than that! 

My predictable order of a Philadelphia Roll and Spicy Tuna Roll always makes my tastebuds content and my stomach full. But I have yet to try all of twenty-seven of their Signature Rolls because the quality and prices don’t get any better than this. My sushi orders occasionally come out on a little wooden boat which makes the presentation even more luxurious. 

If I choose to not order the lunch special I will order Salmon (Sake) Nigiri and Chicken Katsu which is a crispy, deep-fried, panko battered chicken cutlet served with steamed rice and Miso soup on the side. Cleary, their menu blend of both Japanese and Korean cuisines makes your decision difficult when it comes to ordering. But, it just means you will need to go more than once and I assure you that you will want to after that first bite! 

Encore 

Whether you choose to dine-in or pick-up your order, both ways are COVID-19 safe because Ichiban has taken every precaution necessary to ensure the safety of their employees and customers. Check out their Instagram page where you can enjoy their posts and access a link to their website where you can order online. Your lunch and dinner plans are set whether sushi, yakisoba, fried rice, or bulgogi are on your mind. And, don’t pass up on their beer, wine, and sake options! 

Take a chance on this fan-favorite restaurant that only offers high-quality and fresh ingredients for all their dishes. Not all five-star meals come cheap so make the most of this special Austin spot. Don’t blame me when you find yourself visiting more times than you bargained for.