Surprise! You can find a high quality restaurant in a strip mall.
Surprise! You can find an excellent sushi restaurant in the landlocked Midwest.
Surprise! You can find a restaurant that has had loyal customers for over a decade.
Surprise! You can find all of this at Ichiban Sushi, a Japanese restaurant in (surprise!) Joplin, Missouri.
This was the first sushi restaurant that I ever ate at in Joplin and, believe me, I was hesitant to do so. The idea of eating ocean fish in a strip mall, which was located in a part of the country where beef and pork dominate restaurant menus, was not very appealing to me. Still, people claimed that it was worth taking a chance on this hole-in-the-wall place, so I did.
It was worth it.
That was over ten years ago. Now, Ichiban is a restaurant that my husband and I visit on our date night, which works out well since our kids don’t like sushi anyway.
It’s also a fun place to meet my fellow sushi-eating friends for a girls’ night out, which is something I did recently with my friends Carrie and Erin.
We arrived around 5:30 p.m. on a Friday and there were two other tables occupied. By the time we left, nearly all the tables were filled. That shows you the kind of power that word-of-mouth advertising, plus internet reviews, has for Ichiban. While other restaurants may focus their resources on heavy media advertising or on elaborate buildings and decor, Ichiban focuses its energy on serving great food.
Let’s talk about this great food. I started my meal with a house salad, which contained crispy iceberg lettuce, crunchy carrots and red cabbage, and juicy tomatoes, topped with a refreshing dressing made with ginger and sesame.
For an appetizer, Erin and I split an order of gyoza, pan-fried Japanese dumplings filled with ground pork and spices and served with a dipping sauce.
It’s a good thing that I ordered the gyoza to take the edge off my hunger while I reviewed the sushi menu or I would have ordered more than I could eat. The portions here are very generous.
For instance, take the Thai Veggie roll that Carrie, my vegan friend, ordered.
This monstrous roll was stuffed with asparagus, broccoli, and Thai peanut sauce, then topped with jalapenos, cilantro, sriracha sauce, and crushed peanuts. This was not a roll that could be eaten in one bite, and Carrie struggled to figure out the best way to do it.
I ordered the TNT roll, which is an unusual sushi roll because it is served warm. It’s made with a California roll baked with Dynamite sauce and topped with masago, which is an orange roe that adds a crunchy “pop” when you eat it, exploding in your mouth like TNT.
Erin ordered the Sushi and Roll, which included tuna (three types), salmon, octopus, shrimp, unagi, and a couple more types of fish, plus a spicy tuna roll.
Her platter was colorfully arranged like a masterpiece of art.
We ordered more rolls to split, like these mini rolls filled with shiitake mushrooms and avocados.
And the vegetarian version of sashimi: meaty Portobello Mushrooms, and Fried Tofu (which had a slightly sweet, dessert-like taste).
For those who don’t like sushi, Ichiban also serves cooked Japanese food like teriyaki dishes.
Carrie, Erin, and I were too full to order dessert that night, but I’ve heard wonderful things about Ichiban’s Tiger Chocolate Cake which contains layers of milk and white chocolate and is served with a secret sauce.
Surprise! Chocolate cake at a Japanese restaurant.
I love surprises.
Ichiban Sushi is located at 2914 E. 32nd St.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.