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Phat vs. Food: Ichiban

Ichiban in Kahului seems like an institution here on Maui. Nestled in the Kahului Shopping Center, Ichiban shares a similar cuisine with a restaurant in the same shopping center. An Asian Fusion style restaurant, Ichiban’s variety of Japanese, sushi, and local favorites has an enticing allure. Phat vs Food is ready to put Ichiban to the test.

My partner, as always, showed up first to the establishment. I moseyed on in a few minutes later to find my partner enjoying two precursor dishes. One happen to be an Ichiban favorite, the deep fried california roll and the other was a scallop dynamite. I started salivating at the dishes that were ordered the moment I sat down, so I decided to order the exact same dishes from a friendly server who was polite and playful about my tardiness to lunch. While I was waiting for my dishes, I had the opportunity to scan the dining room. I first noticed that the restaurant was busy during lunch, but what I really wanted to observe was the wait staff and the ambiance. The ambiance was a hodge podge of pictures and statues of an Asian motif, along with a misplaced TV with sports playing on it. I was not a fan of the distraction of the TV since it was lunch time and what I wanted was a bit of conversation with my lunch partner without having to compete with a loud sporting event. The ambiance was bland and not impressive, but there was a bit of delicious sunshine headed to our table that could turn around this lunch service.

AZD's favorite- the infamous "Dynamite"
AZD’s favorite- the infamous “Dynamite”

My two appetizers hit the table in a timely fashion and let me tell you, this is exactly what I needed to hit my palate and brighten up lunch. The deep fried California roll was incredible. Deep fried sushi, if not done properly can be oily and soggy, but not here. The cucumber was crisp, the crab was delicious, and the rice stayed together. No complaints at all with this sushi dish. The next dish was a scallop dynamite.This dish was prepared with fresh scallops then topped with a seasoned mayo dressing then broiled for several minutes. This dish was hot and tasty. The scallops were cooked perfectly and not rubbery, but the mayo dressing on top for my taste was a bit sour and off-putting. Overall, however, these two dishes got lunch off to great start.

As we were finishing up our appetizers, my partner and I ordered our main courses. As with most Asian cuisine restaurants, we were enticed by the combination plates that consist of beef, chicken, pork, fish, or tempura. My partner ordered the shrimp and vegetable tempura with teriyaki beef and chicken katsu. I ordered the teriyaki beef, teriyaki chicken, and pork tonkatsu plate. Let’s start with my partner’s lunch. As it came to the table, the food’s fragrance was lovely and was served in a sectioned plate with each entree and the rice in each. I, of course, sampled his lunch for this review. The dishes that weren’t on my plate, the tempura, and the chicken katsu, were sampled and were both crisp and hot.

ichiban-phat-3-tempura

The shrimp wasn’t oily and didn’t taste fishy and the chicken katsu was fried to perfection. Sadly, the chicken katsu, when not accompanied with the katsu sauce is bland on its own. This is not unique to Ichiban. Katsu at most restaurants seem to suffer the same bland flavor without the katsu sauce. I know this might be intentional as to not make the dish too salty, but just some salt on the chicken before preparation would work wonders. Moving to my dish, I was ready to partake because it looked quite delicious.

The teriyaki beef and the teriyaki chicken were seasoned perfectly with just the perfect amount of teri sweetness.

The pork tonkatsu is similar to the katsu and suffers the same fate. Not great on its own, but with the sauce it’s at least has flavor. I failed to mention that even though the dishes came with rice, the dishes do not come with macaroni salad. I did order a side of mac salad and I should’ve skipped it all together.

In the end, our overall impressions were positive. As of late, we here at Phat vs Food have begun to notice a trend that lunch is becoming less affordable when it comes to a traditional sit-down experience. This is also true with Ichiban. It’s unfortunate that we can’t have a decent lunch without spending a king’s ransom to pay for it. By the time you and your lunch partner are done, at minimum you will be spending 45 dollars with drinks, tax, and tip. I think it may be time for the government to stop taxing and regulating the hell out of these small local businesses. I think it’s okay for these local businesses to make a profit without gouging their customers to pay for governmental overreach, but I’ll save that last rant for a different article. Ichiban is one place that I believe you can get a dependably great lunch and good service. Let’s hope in future Phat vs. Food articles we’ll be able to report on more places as consistent as Ichiban.

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About The Big Phat Nation

AZD & G Money have over 15 years’ experience in the media. They grew to notoriety with the #1 rated morning radio program on Maui, “The Big Phat Morning Show”, where this ‘dynamic duo’ weren't afraid to ask the tough questions facing Maui and advance a conversation. They now can be heard on the MAUIWatch Radio Network raising the bar for media excellence with their new show, “The Big Phat Nation”.

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