Ichiban: Good food, courtesy gone!
By Ridhi Chhabra
All photos by Ridhi Chhabra; Copyright: Right Impact Media Inc.
The Japanese word Ichiban translates into 'number 1' in English. It is an oriental restaurant that stands out in the Mecca for food lovers - Pandara Road in central Delhi. The restaurant started around 1995 by ex-Taj Hotel's chef Phuntsok. Thus, he brought with him the culinary expertise at affordable prices. Another outstanding aspect of Ichiban is that it is the sole oriental restaurant amongst the entirely Indian and Mughlai eateries in the row.
Each time I visit this restaurant, it is mainly to satisfy my craving for the finest Tom-Yum soup that has a wonderful hint of lemon grass and cilantro; I also get struck with the new interior each time. Even though Ichiban is at the centre of the market, there is not a speck of Indian or Mughlai aroma inside and that makes the eating experience at Ichiban truly memorable and compliments the fine food that it has been serving for almost the last twenty years.
In its initial days, when my father reviewed the restaurant for the first time for Hindustan Times, he recalls that the owner Phuntsok doubled as a cashier and server and his wife was the usher and waitress. The service was extremely courteous and effective. The scenario is quite different now with a cashier sitting at the computer and a few waiters and waitresses welcoming and serving but without smile and gusto of Mr. and Mrs. Phuntsok.
The menu has always fascinated me with highlighted specialty offerings of Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes. I loved the crispy sauté spinach and greens in oyster sauce that tasted so good that we ordered it again. Aromatic chicken filled dumplings were just the perfect size and texture.
The chowmein and fried rice were non greasy, but the winner, as always, was Kung Pao Chicken in thick garlic gravy that was savored by all as the taste lingered on. It is unmistakably the best chicken gravy that Ichiban offers. Ichiban has never disappointed my family, in fact, it has always incited us for a re-visit and to relish the pleasant gastronomy experience.