Wednesday, June 24, 2009


If you've read my blog before you've heard of Raku, the beautifully sedate space on Spring Mountain just West of Decatur that serves amazing, refined Japanese bar food. If Raku is a 45-year-old Tokyo businessman with years of experience and the clothes and cars to show for it, then Ichiza is his 19-year-old, Tamagotchi playing, anime watching, punk rock listening, fauxhawk wearing nephew. I like to be around both of them, it just depends on my mood and who else is going to be around as to which one I prefer any given night.

Ichiza, located about a mile East of Raku on the second floor of one of the many Asian strip-malls on Spring Mountain, does everything I've tried amazingly well. From the simple but tasty beef tataki to the miso marinated cod, the boiled tripe in a tasty broth to the chicken katsu, everything is cooked wonderfully and has flavors good enough to make this critic swear off French cuisine for good (don't worry, I had my fingers crossed). This place makes me extra happy because they have lightly breaded, deep fried smelt, a hard to find favorite of mine. I even tried their fermented soybeans. Definitely an acquired taste. The deep fried quail eggs garnered what has been my only complaint about their food thus far, with the plastic-like outer part on a couple of the whites (this happens whenever you over fry an egg) of the otherwise delicious eggs.

So where does the contrast with Raku come in? Certainly both do a bang-up job in the food department, but it comes down to one thing: Style. While Raku is warm and inviting in a more sedate and refined way, Ichiza welcomes you with communal tables, a long bar, upbeat music barely audible over the more raucous crowd, and an English speaking waitstaff. The platings at Ichiza cannot touch the delicate grace of those at Raku, but they don't really need to. Ichiza does everything right with the food and has dead solid service so the more rudimentary platings won't bother anyone.

While Raku will probably remain my go-to spot with foreign dignitaries (friends and family) and heads of state (my girlfriend), Ichiza is my new favorite gritty locale for out-of-this-world late-night grub.

Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.

Ichiza Sake House on Urbanspoon

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