One of Portland’s whimsical restaurant treasures reopens for dine-in tomorrow. Sushi Ichiban, on Northwest Broadway, will reopen Sunday, Aug. 1, from 3 to 9 pm.
Restaurant manager Noriyuki Sugiyama tells Willamette Week that everything tomorrow will be as it was—although they’ve had to raise the price of most items by 50 cents. “The train will still be there for customers to grab the sushi they want,” Sugiyama says.
The little parlor’s main claim to fame—even under its previous incarnation as Sushi Takahashi One—has always been its approach to conveyor-belt sushi.
Instead of a moving walkway-style track to carry plates past seated customers for their perusal, Sushi Ichiban sends their rolls around a circular chef counter via a toy train. Hovering chefs placed new sushi plates directly onto toy flatbed cars, drawn by a small, chugging train engine.
As with conveyor-belt sushi, customers grab whatever they like from the train and a server adds up their plates at the end of the meal to calculate the bill.
It’s a charming setup and a solid fixture on the list of places you take out-of-towners so they can see something cool and Portland-y. But there wasn’t any way to take the toy train set outside when everything shut down, so Ichiban has been on to-go service since last year.
Teriyaki tofu and breaded pork cutlets recently joined the long-standing menu, but don’t forget the steamed pork hum bao—little white clouds of dough you’ll see in a case on the sushi station.
We also recommend the Plager Roll: fried asparagus wrapped in white rice, topped with spicy mayo. A slight variation, the Golden Plager, comes with a layer of tobiko around the white rice.
The rolls are named “Plager” because the chef who brought them to Sushi Ichiban plagiarized the recipe from a place they’d worked before. But who that chef was and where they borrowed the simple recipe from has been lost to time.