Ichibuns is a three-floored 90 cover restaurant concepted by Robin Leigh, a Nobu alumina and is backed by the folks from Ping Pong allegedly. The restaurant makes its noise heard with burgers of all sorts with patties made of Australian Wagyu and local grass fed cuts. You can wash it all down with cocktails, mocktails, shakes and udon if you fancy a slurp, or sushi if none of the above works. It’s a place for dirt bag teenagers who’ve grown up and like a bit of refinement in their junk food. The venue is bold and uncompromising – it’s a riot of wall to wall Japanese paraphernalia, mostly reclaimed advertising signage that once graced the Tokyo streets or so it seems. It’s compelling clutter. Downstairs is more loungey with its brightly coloured multi-patterned sofa chairs and is filled with memorabilia such as a wall of cassette playing stereos, Japanese juke boxes and a protruding old isuzu van. Upstairs is more of the same but less insane.
We start with a bottle of Kirin £4.50 as it’s the afternoon and our gardening leave warrants it.
I opted for the “special fish burger” £11, a poppy seed pelted brioche bun is slathered with sauce on both sides with two slices of American cheese for good measure. I feel dirty even writing that. The star was the steaming hot, pearly white flakes of fish with a crunchy panko armour and there’s julienne red cabbage that gives it’s bite and momentarily makes you feel healthy for 10 seconds.
I decided it was a good idea to swap half my fish burger in exchange for half of my dining buddy’s chicken karage burger £10.50. It was a messier affair with bits of Japanese slaw forced to make friends with my forearms, tomato debris and unknown slices of cheese also joined in the fun. The chicken thigh within is juicy and armed with another thick crust of panko armour that gives a reassuring crunch.
We also went for their summer rolls £4 from the “bites” section of the menu which looked like caterpillar cocoons ready to emerge as butterflies – the place makes my imagination run wild. What we got were translucent rice wrappers with whole shiso leaves, red cabbage, carrots, cucumber and a plastic pot of sesame dipping sauce – it was all served on plastic covered cardboard a la Dinerama. Come on guys think of the environment and use plates like everyone else.
When the wagyu maki £5 came, I wasn’t sure if I should sneer at it or just wolf it down so it’s out-of-sight out-of-mind. Hear me out, as wagyu is celebrated for it’s marbling and the quality is led by the intramuscular fat content. For all we know the stuff in this maki is canned tuna as it sure as hell resembles it, but it actually taste like beefy tuna. On second glance at the menu it says “slow cooked wagyu”. Which probably means that we were eating a mysterious part of the animal that butcher didn’t want shoved through the mincer. My bad, I should have paid more notice.
Better were the snow crab maki £5 with avocado, masago, cucumber with a spicy mayo dip served in a plastic pot again with palate cleansing ginger still in its plastic wrapper. This time I definitely sneered at the restaurant’s use of plastic.
When did I go? Nov 17
The damage: Expect to pay £25/30per head with a drink
The good: The place is a kooky-hewn Japanese diner pulled right out of a manga script. The decor is a fun night alone, let alone the food. Speaking of which, it wasn’t bad but better could be had elsewhere. Let’s take the chicken thigh burgers at Coq Fighter as a prime example and 3 minutes away you can have half decent sushi at Dozo on Old Compton Street. I’d dodge the maki and chow down on the burgers next time.
The bad: Don’t get me started on the plastics and tinned Wagyu again.
Would I go again? Not happened yet
Address: 22 Wardour St, London W1D 6QQ