Avenida Brasil, 454
Lunch – Tue-Sun 12:30-15h
Dinner – Tue-Thu 19:30-23h & 19:30-1h
Tel: 226 186 111
The name fits like a glove, Ichiban means “number 1” in Japanese.
The chef behind this restaurant, Masaki Onishi, is native to Japan, and can thus bring a touch of genuinely and tradition to a cuisine here often hybridized with western trends (fusion).
Located right on the shoreline, this restaurant puts us in the right spirit to appreciate the marine delicacies that await us. Once entering, the mood is quiet and well approached, the discretion and sobriety of the decor bring comfort without confrontation. All the space is prepared to bring a sense of tranquility and intimacy, allowing us to focus on the food and our company.
When facing the menu, it is with interest that we see such a surprising, yet mostly unknown, variety of Japanese dishes. Yes, there’s a lot more than sushi to the menu, and that’s a good thing. Another appealing feature is the wide selection of fish, that goes beyond the usual suspects that are salmon, tuna, and sea bass.
In the times we have dined at Ichiban, we have been fortunate to try a few delights, both on the lunch menu (which is excellent value for money) as well as at dinner. We’ll describe here on what happened to us at a special dinner. We began with a miso soup, delicate and fragrant, and an excellent way to open the appetite for a feast. To further develop the meal, and as we were in a festive mood, we selected several moriawase (which is a combination platter, chosen by the chef) of tempuras, sushi, sashimi and nigiri. The scene that happened afterward can only be recalled in books that speak of medieval feasts that lasted for days. And only at the arrival of the dishes did we understand what we had gotten ourselves into.
The tempuras surprised us, due to the pertinent use of vegetables, shrimp and fish, cased inside a fabulous batter and fried to crunchy perfection. However, the sushi, sashimi, and nigiri won the night. The sashimi was presented to us in a sumptuous display, with orientalist motifs, and a giant triggerfish head staring us right in the face. We did not consider the head intimidating, yet quite on the contrary, as a tribute to the fish and its so evident freshness. But tasting the food took us once more into a long lost place at the bottom of the sea. For starters, the variety of fish was impressive and included a few lesser seen fish (in sushi), such as john dory, brill, and triggerfish. The freshness and texture, as well as the masterfulness of the cuts, elevated the fish to glory. I can actually say that at that moment I feared I’d never enjoy cooked fish again. The sushi was transparent in the mastery of its preparation, with sober yet surprising combinations, which respected and threw the spotlights onto the fish and algae, which does not often happen in restaurants of this nature. The nigiri held their place on the podium, as we were presented 10 different pieces, all generously covered in fish and elevated by a well cooked and molded rice, that did not superimpose, but partnered. And as all that starts well may also end well, the desserts are also delicious and are a safe bet. The staff is of irreprehensible efficiency and is kind and helpful when explaining the wonders that arrive at the table.
All in all, Ichiban is an absolutely mandatory stopping point for all Japanese food lovers who live in and visit Porto.