Ichibuns - Japanese Burgers and more in London
Date: Monday 29th January 2018 [15:58] | Posted By: Joe
The restaurant scene in London is vibrant. No matter what you like to eat, there's a restaurant that caters for you. Japanese cuisine is no different. There are all kinds of Japanese places to eat, from cheap and cheerful Japanese home-style cooking to the decadent, creative and experimental nuvo cuisine.
Recently we discovered Ichibuns, a Japanese inspired restaurant like no other. Influenced by Hokkaido cuisine, it's a Japanese Rock and Roll American diner from the creative minds of Robin Leigh (who is best known for the legendary Nobu and Busaba Eathai) and Endo Kazutoshi (of Zuma).
On hearing about this we didn't really know what to expect. On visiting it was clear that Ichibuns is something a bit special.
The first thing that hits you is the design, which is a love letter to Japanese popular culture. When you walk in, the faces of popular shonen manga character stare down at you from the entrance. There are pages of manga all over the ceiling and Pachinko machines on the wall. You start looking and there's all sorts of interesting Japanese memorabilia like Oni (demon) masks on the walls, and adverts from old times. The staircase wall is made of whole telephone book sized weekly editions of manga. The eclectic style works because it isn't a restaurant designed by someone trying to copy Japanese concepts, it was designed by Noriyoshi Muramatsu of Tokyo’s Studio Glitt.
After eating there we wanted to know more about this place. It's like a portal into Japan. We don't normally do articles on restaurants, but were intrigued and eager to know more about this place. So we got in touch with Brendan Fong, Executive Chef at Ichibuns to find out more.
Was it tricky creating a fusion menu combing Japanese and American Concepts?
We have laid back attitude when it comes to the limits of cuisines. I wanted to do something different that drew upon the best of both Japanese and American cooking. The fusion of both cuisines can seem complicated but really it’s just food that people want to eat!
A lot of the concepts seem to be very original like the Wagyu Cheeseburger Harumaki. Were they ideas that just came naturally? Or did you have to do a lot of experimentation?
To be honest, everybody always wants something fried. It's just that familiar flavour of the pickles with mustard and that raw onion kick, which is exactly reminiscent of a cheeseburger, plus the crispiness of a spring roll, that works.
Are you a fan of anime and manga yourself?
It’s hard not to be – the ceiling on the ground floor of ICHIBUNS is lined with various anime characters, and downstairs, the ceilings are covered in old Manga comics. There’s Japanese ephemera everywhere.
Are any of the other staff into anime and manga?
What's your favourite thing on the menu?
I have just changed the whole menu getting rid of the ramen and replacing it with Udon which is one of my all time favourites . The Udon selection is really next level – we use a fragrant soy and dashi broth made using Hokkaido konbu and pour it onto our handmade udon noodles. The udon is served al dente with gives more texture to the dish and makes sure the noodles do not overcook when they are submerged in the broth. I’m really proud of the new menu we’ve curated and I have to say my favourite udon dish is the Wagyu Niku; Wagyu beef, onion, poached egg in soy sauce and dashi broth. The vegetable tempura ramen is also delicious and vegan!
Was it difficult getting the balance right? You've got a selection of Udon dishes and also some burgers with a unique twist for someone looking for something substantial.
There is so much variety on the menu at ICHIBUNS and we’re always adding to it and evolving – it was pretty difficult to be able to cater to different tastes but i think we are currently in a good spot where people can come in and have something healthy, substantial or just straight-up indulgent!
Is the Vanilla Miso shake the most genki and sugary thing on the menu?!
Probably! there is just something about pairing miso and vanilla together that just works. The miso adds a slight savoury and umami note to the vanilla that just makes it so addictive that eben i can't stop drinking it!
Was it difficult finding a company to do the interior design?
The restaurant was designed by Noriyoshi Muramatsu of Tokyo’s Studio Glitt, who are also behind London restaurant group Roka and Zuma. It made sense to use Studio Glitt because they understood how to bring the team’s Tokyo rock-and-roll design concept to life.
Was Studio Glitt the natural choice?
Stepping inside ICHIBUNS, you become immersed in inspired by 50s and 60s Japanese subcultures inspired by the quintessential American diner. This is what we knew an innovative designer like Studio Glitt would be able to produce for us, like no one else could.
Are there any details in particular with the interior design you're impressed with?
The lower ground floor bar features a wall lined in Japanese pachinko machines (much like the pin ball machines found in Japan) and another lined in Japanese craft beer cans. These are probably the coolest aspects of in terms of the design of the restaurant.
What do you want people to take away from their experience at dining at ICHIBUNS?
Our goal with ICHIBUNS was to be a restaurant experience like no other; ICHIBUNS was founded on the principles of providing the best quality produce at affordable prices alongside an unmissable restaurant experience, so that’s what we hope people take away from it!
What's your favourite cocktail?
I love the Yuzu & Grapefruit Collins cocktail, and the ginger Moscow mule I really enjoy refreshing cocktails especially when eating a burger! plus, I’m a big fan of Japanese twists on classics!
Thanks for telling us more about Ichibuns Brendan.
Ichibuns is located on 22 Wardour Street Soho, London W1D 6QQ. It's in China Town near Leicester Square.
Otaku News would like to thank Brendan Fong and the team at Ichibuns for helping us make this article possible.