Frequently travelling for business across Canada (mostly West) and the U.S. (periodically), we are privileged with eating in various cities, experiencing the life of the city and through the magic of food, different cultures.

The reason for starting this site was because we can't tell you the number of times we would look on other sites to find reviews of restaurants by the general public, only to come away scratching our heads. Yes, that likely will make us sound like snobs, but hey...there really is no accounting for some people's taste.

Unlike most "reviewers", we never, ever tell the restaurant who we are, or what we are doing. This ensures that we receive no special treatment, and that the establishments aren't on their "best behavior" just because we're there. So you'll hear about the worst of the worst, the best of the best and everything from fast food to luxurious restuarants in our travels, as that is the range and diversity of our palates. Please join us on what has been one hell of a food ride thus far, as we finally unveil, without prejudice, what we really think of the food and let you decide where to eat your next meal.

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Ichiban: Winnipeg Manitoba Canada

Having had SJ's "day job" purchased by a Japanese company, we recently learned that Ichiban (in Japanese), means "Number 1". This restaurant clearly has long ago stopped attempting to live up to its name. Arriving 5 minutes early we were politely asked to wait to be seated. The entrance, which was dimly lit with a display case of Japanese souvenirs, provided a slight distraction from the tacky decor. While waiting, we reviewed the articles on the wall usually reserved for great reviews of said restaurant. In this case however, one of the two displayed boasted that in 1973 Liberace consumed a meal there. In my opinion...not the best use of advertisement or space, and immediately lent credence to the fact that this place was in dire need of an update. I mean, come on...an extreeeeemley flamboyant lounge musician from the 70's ate there???? 33 freakin years ago??? Yikes, we must try this place!!!

After having been seated promptly at 6pm around a grill where the cooks are known to prepare an "entertaining meal experience", we immediately noticed the crowded space allotted to the amount of chairs surrounding the grill. So we promptly repositioned our settings to provide some room to eat. About 10 mins into our seating a woman came by to take our drink orders, both SJ and I had our usual which was prepared in the...well...usual fasion. (double dark rum and coke, double gin and ginger ale).

While seated at the table we couldn’t help but notice that the music was extremely irritating. SJ’s daughter, Taylor, commented that it sounded like a sheep being slaughtered in the background, which of course made us laugh as it really did! To further add to the amusement, a few minutes later we overheard our table mates mentioning how horrible the music was. I can certainly appreciate that it must have been authentic, however, like the decor, 1970's Japanese music may not be an enticement to most Canadian patrons.

After having received our drinks, the same woman, now 20 mins into our seating, took our orders. I can only assume the delay was so we could get liquored up in order to tolerate the sheep mutilation...AKA the "music". About 30 mins into our seating our soup, which came with each of the combo meals ordered, arrived. It was a welcome sight, as we were all starving by this time. Unfortunately, "dish water" would be the best description available for this chicken broth with vegetables. Mine, was very salty and the vegetables undercooked. SJ’s , salty with the vegetables overcooked, and Taylors, the same. I had to wonder if I got a different batch because mine had a lot more kidney beans than SJ’s and Taylors. In any event, mercifully the soup was quickly rushed away by the servers and the cucumber salad with our substituted appetizers arrived. The combo meals come with chicken livers cooked in a special way on the grill as an appetizer. Neither of us being fans of liver at all, we both decided to pay extra and get the Gyoza, provided at ½ price for a substitution. While the cook prepared the chicken liver for the other patrons at the table, SJ and I enjoyed our Gyoza and cucumber salad. The cucumber salad was rather good, with a spoonful of canned crab thrown on top. Presentation as a whole, was sadly lacking for the salad, but the Gyoza came presented reasonably well, with a bit of salad on the side and soya sauce for dipping. The Gyoza and cucumber salad was indeed the highlight of the evening, but this we did not know until later. In an effort to try everything, I was invited to try Taylor's Chicken Liver that her 10 year old palate seems to like. Sadly, you can dress up a liver anyway you want, but it still has that pate texture that we can’t handle. by this point we was starting to feel slightly rushed, as while I was busy reaching over to try the Liver, my cucumber salad was abducted by the man clearing the plates. I wonder if they teach the servers to be ninja’s, because he was damn quiet and damn quick...I almost didn’t see him leave!

Now we can admit we are fussy when it comes to preparing food and not mixing things that have touched raw meat (mainly chicken) with anything, so please take this with a grain of salt...the cook surely did,,,except it was more like a spoon full...but we will get to that soon enough. So here it goes, the cook turned the raw chicken over with the same spatula he was cooking our fried rice. I am sure he has done it a million times, but wow, that’s a little scary from a salmonella perspective. Again, I am very picky (read Monica from Friends) with respect to chicken and cooked food/vegetables.

In any event, the cook, in one of his handful of entertaining "feats", took the rice bowls he filled and flipped them over to us and presented them on our plates. The remaining bit was generously divided amongst those who did not order fried rice, to give them an example of what it tasted like. The rice however, was salty, mushy, and overcooked. And while this made it easier to eat with chop sticks, it was not impressive to the taste buds. I could really go on and on about how horrid our experience was here, the food...all of it was over cooked and salty. Burnt "baby" lobster, rubber chicken, and the filet tasted remarkably like liver....I am serious, I don’t know if they store them together in the kitchen, but even SJ confirmed my opinion. The Shrimp, at $35/plate plus extras, was not cleaned or de-veined. One of my BIGGEST pet peeves is paying a lot for quality, not getting it, and then noticing that they didn’t de-vein the shrimp. Do I really want to eat shrimp filled with poop? If I was paying $5/plate, I would expect that, but at $35 I think it is justified to have expected more.

As a whole, this was VERY disappointing. To recap: feeling crowed and rushed, horrible music, salty over cooked food and to top it off, the cook, who did...ummmm...maybe two entertaining things during the course of the meal, definitely indicates a "no-return" rating for Ichiban. For a place that is "renowned" for the entertaining cooking experience, he definitely didn’t deliver. A few flips and bangs of the salt and pepper shakers at the end of the meal is not worth the $175 spent. To put it mildly, his personality was completely "missing in action". So our unanimous vote (including Taylor)...go elsewhere. This place is tacky, outdated and obviously very tired..There are soooo many better places to eat, so keep your money and eat somewhere else.

Location Visited: 189 Carlton Street, Winnipeg Manitoba


Ambiance: 70's Lounge
Presentation: Average
Price: $35/serving (excessive)
Service: Average
Value: Below Average

Ichi Ban Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

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