Ichi Ichi Ku Japanese: Love at First Bite
Address: 119 Park Street, South Yarra, VIC
Phone: (03) 9820 9119
Open: Monday to Sunday, 7am until 11pm
I’m in love with a restaurant. Not the kind of fleeting crush that accompanies the latest specialty coffee shop or single-item dude food concept, but the sort of loyal attachment Melburnians have to The European, or Northside vegans have to Veggie Bar on Brunswick Street. Her name is Ichi Ichi Ku, and she had me at “irasshaimase”.
Ichi Ichi Ku Izakaya sprung up on Park Street in South Yarra about three months ago, and for some reason only locals seem to frequent it. In November last year, Epicure reported that Ichi Ni in Saint Kilda (at the Espy) would expand. Ichi Ichi Ku is the first of these expansions, and if their predictions are correct, there should be another in the works on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, at the Old Colonial Inn. Can you blame a girl for hoping?
According to the reliable, expert-fuelled source glamour.com, there are several signs that determine whether or not you are in (genuine) love.
1. Getting mad at them.
I got mad at the sushi menu. How on earth was I supposed to choose what I wanted when I could see all of it being prepared fresh in the kitchen and whizzing past me like a temptress? In the end I let my boyfriend choose what he’d tried, tested and given the tick of approval. The spicy, inside-out tuna roll saw to it that my anger transformed into audible pleasure. Glistening, deep pink sashimi punctured with a cucumber spear was wrapped in seaweed then rice, layered with thin slices of avocado and generously doused in sweet brown sauce. A glob of subtly spicy mayonnaise and a sprinkling of chilli oil imparted the perfect kick. (Apologies for the crappy photo, got too excited and only took one on my phone!)
2. Getting mad at others.
I got mad at all the other diners in the restaurant. Internally, I might add. How is it that they’d been eating here regularly for over three months and this was the first I’ve heard of Ichi Ichi Ku? How dare they sit in the cozy space, all timber and imported Japanese wallpaper without me? How could they drink sake from the softly lit bottles lined up on timber shelving above the counter? How insulting of them to enjoy the kitsch interior in my absence—the light boxes, decorative material light fittings and stools covered in collaged Japanese newspapers.
3. Letting them see you cry.
Thankfully, it was dark, so my sparkling eyes were safe for the time being. It was the Famous Ichi Ni sushi roll that did it. Thick brown rice maki could barely contain the sweet lobster, nestled next to creamy avocado and cucumber. A slice of barely-scorched salmon blanketed each dreamy piece. Every mouthful—from the savoury start, to the sweetness of Japanese mayo, and finally a smoky hit from the salmon—was a delight.
4. Feeling insecure.
I needed to know it wasn’t a daydream. “How good is this place,” I repeated for the forth time. It was technically a statement but I needed reassurance. The response confirmed it was up there with the best. But it wasn’t enough. “What do you think?” I asked through mouthfuls of Ebi Mayo, deep-fried tiger prawns with crisp exteriors and plump, juicy flesh, saturated in wasabi mayo. “You have the last one,” I offered sweetly. He did. Lesson learnt.
5. Looking unkempt.
I was a little worse for wear, this being our second dinner and all. The first was a disappointing meal at The Emerson in Commercial Road. I needed a mood-lifter, and Ichi Ichi Ku was the solution. I wore a t-shirt and jeans, my go-to comfy clothes, and had managed to get kewpie mayo all up the sleeve of my blazer. I moaned through mouthfuls and spilled soy sauce. I tried and failed to eat sushi maki in multiple bites, the two halves holding onto each other for dear life with a string of seaweed. It wasn’t pretty, but man it was good.
6. Getting sick.
Apparently you need to fall ill in front of your significant other for it to be true love, probably so they can see you at your worst and be comforted that it’s only uphill from there. After our takeaway matcha tiramisu, which was all kinds of creamy delightful, I felt pretty ill. It might have had something to do with the fact we ate two dinners. But given a second chance, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
7. Being affectionate to others.
Craving affection from others is supposedly normal when you’re in ‘true love’. You just need to make sure you give ‘the one’ more attention. Whether Ichi Ichi Ku likes it or not, I’m going to continue to see other restaurants, even other Japanese restaurants. But I have no problem giving Ichi Ichi Ku extra, extra attention. With its cutesy staff, chiseled sushi rolls and menu variety (from breakfast bento boxes to a comprehensive crêpe list), I can assure you what Ichi Ichi Ku and I have is no fling.
Note: some of the above photos have been taken from the Ichi Ichi Ku Facebook page.