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Ichibuns

Restaurants, Japanese Chinatown
2 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(7user reviews)

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

A three-floor Japanese joint specialising in wagyu buns and ramen.

Love a quirky interior? Head to Ichibuns. The three-floor site once home to Chinatown institution HK Diner is now a riot of Japanese technicolour. It’s open until 2am on weekends, and parts of it definitely feel more like a nightclub than a restaurant. In the basement, for instance, it was really dark and really loud, with a DJ on the decks. It also had wall-to-wall retro memorabilia of the best kind. There’s an entire bank of old stereos (you know, the kind that played cassettes). A wall of Japanese jukeboxes. A ceiling papered with curled-up pages of Manga comics. It’s all batshit crazy, but in a good way.

What’s not good is the food. The harumaki (deep-fried spring rolls) were excessively greasy, the chicken karaage bone dry. The king crab ramen was obscenely salty and came with just one paltry claw. For £11. Wagyu burgers are a signature, but the one I tried – a panko-crusted version with Japanese pickle and curry ketchup – was bizarrely sweet (though first prize for being unbearably sugary went to the ‘sakura blossom’ cherry milkshake). A chocolate and hazelnut milkshake (they replaced the first for free) was better: syrupy but crowd-pleasing. And cocktails come in those plastic containers with peel-off lids, like the jelly you used to get in your lunchbox. These, again, were too sweet (seriously, what is it with the sugar levels here, are they on commission from the capital’s dentists?) but they’re fairly fun.

Only the snow crab maki – a failsafe combo of crab mayo, avocado, cucumber and capelin roe – got the full thumbs up. And staff couldn’t have been friendlier. So: good looks, nice people. Design fans: go for maki and a milkshake (maybe), then go home.

By: Tania Ballantine

Posted:

Details

Address: 24 Wardour Street
Piccadilly
London
W1D 6QH
Transport: Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £70.
Contact:
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Users say (7)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

3.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|8
1 person listening
tastemaker

My friend and I randomly went here while walking through Chinatown and I couldnt be happier.

We could see the chef cook all the food, which was the highest quality. My recommendations are the hamburger spring rolls and mochi ice cream.

Also I personally judge a restaurant on the toilets, and this place is an experience.

Tastemaker

Had the much talked about Hokkaido burger made with australian wagyu beef, shitake and truffle, and really, how can something go wrong with this flavour combo? Masterfully grilled to be juicy and served in a soft bun in a Japanese pop art environment. They are open until late, and also offer a variety of ramen and other curious things like the burger spring roll. Not the cheapest burger in town, but as tasty as it gets!

Tastemaker

Ask any Londoner and they’ll tell you that the bottom end of Wardour St is not generally a place you want to find yourself. Littered with all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets and heady with the sugary scent of nearby cultural landmark M&M’s World, it’s not the part of London I’d normally associate with cool, new food but recent opening Ichibuns may make me eat my words.


If, like me, you’ve never been to Japan, then I imagine stepping inside here is like a sensory overloaded snapshot of what the centre of Tokyo might be if it had a brief, torrid, snogging-in-the-back-row affair with the heartland of Americana diner culture. It’s way cool, with an 80’s flavoured techno-pop soundtrack and it’s certainly not short of things to keep you entertained visually as you wait for food. Sat downstairs, we had walls of arcade games, plastic dollies behind metal mesh, the front half of a van surrounded by the oversized stereo speakers you had when you were 15 and a ceiling covered with black & white Japanese comic pages all vying for our attention.


The menu offers a slightly curious mix of ramen, burgers, sushi & hard shakes as well as beers, whiskeys & juices. FYI, the sour cherry with orange & lemon is perfectly sharp and cuts through the richness of the meat & bread with ease. The food here is neither classic Japanese or American – crunchy cheeseburger spring rolls are absolutely filthy in the very best way – but there’s something about the fusion on offer that’s grabbed local attention already; it was packed when we left late on a Saturday afternoon.


Salmon bites in a panko breadcrumb crust were hot, crispy and packed full of plump pink flakes and earlier intentions of sampling the wagyu beef ramen were firmly halted in their tracks when I spotted shiny-brioche-domed burgers lined up on the kitchen pass like a particularly juicy little army.


Looking for all the world like a classed up Big Mac that’s had a liberal helping of the Juno filter applied, the Ichiban was a damn good burger. A slightly gluttonous 180g wagyu beef patty arrived under a thick, guilty-pleasure blanket of the finest American plastic cheese and was dressed with a few classic accessories; gherkin, tomato, onion and lettuce as well as a smoky BBQ sauce. A branded bun held everything together by a triumphant (if slightly overwhelmed) Ichibuns flag and every bite was as gorgeously messy & delicious as it should have been with perfectly cooked beef, crunchy vegetables and THAT soft cheese gathering everything together in one big, shiny, yellow hug.


While the wagyu was absolute bang for your buck, the chicken was sadly more of a damp squib. Did it help that moments after we ordered it our waitress loudly discussed with the bartenders the fact that the chicken had been ‘banging’ a couple of days before but was now back to the old style and not very good? No. It did not.


Falling apart – not because it was exceptionally tender but because it was thigh meat and the batter wasn’t strong enough to hold it together – and lacking in any real flavour, it wasn’t the worst chicken burger I’ve ever eaten but that's hardly a badge of honour. The batter had no real structure or taste, I’m not sure I could tell you what makes the Japanese coleslaw in the burger any different to the cabbage-carrot-onion threesome that every other country employs and if Ichibuns seriously wanna play in the fried chicken game here in London – where we take our battered birds very seriously – then I’d suggest they head to Butchies and check out how it should be done.


There’s a lot to like about this place including the wacky décor, the perky, bubbly, bubblegummed hostess at the main door and a visit to the bathroom which, ladies, is a must if you’re fed up of hovering over frosty seats. They’ve not been open long and while I’d suggest there are a few things that need tweaking menu wise, I’ll be back to slurp that ramen, knock back a sesame-peanut shake and face-plant the green tea profiteroles without any hesitation.

tastemaker

Visited here last week with 2 friends and we were seated promptly upstairs by some lovely staff. Our waitress too was wonderfully friendly.

The cocktails were fun, and came sealed plastic cups (like bubble tea) and the food was really delicious.

We ordered a big selection to taste and share everything including the delicious sushi, fish burger, crab rolls, and the chicken pieces. All of it was so tasty and really fun to share and try all the different things.

We only had about 50 mins as we were off to a show but this was plenty of time to sit and enjoy the speedily delivered food and to try out the bizarre toilets (heated seats!!).

All in all, a really fun and yummy experience and I'll be going back to try the burgers as they were also highly recommended!

tastemaker

It’s never easy when an establishment first opens up, especially when it’s super busy with the staff really under the pump. Despite the chaos, a few of the staff managed to keep a smile on their faces and keep it friendly. The atmosphere was positively boisterous for a Tuesday night. The interior is definitely a lot of fun with comic book pages decorating the ceiling, pachinko machines and even the front of a small truck where the DJ spins their decks; however I can’t say that I was all that impressed with the food. The snow crab maki rolls and the wagyu cheeseburger harumaki (fried) both meet expectations; however my companions ramen was fairly mediocre and my burger was rather soggy. The mochi was again, as expected; and the Cocowhip ice cream with cocoa nibs and honeycomb was a lot better, and great for those who are vegan and gluten-free. Next time I’d pass on the ramen and give the burgers another go along with their Ichi shakes as they do sound wonderful.


Tip: upstairs is a little less crowded and would be more comfortable in terms of seating; however they only take bookings for larger groups.


Good For: large groups, quick meal, cheap and cheerful, something different, catch up with friends

tastemaker

Ichibuns is a Japanese burger joint in Chinatown. Its quirky wooden decor was better than anything I've seen in an English burger joint!

We ordered the crab sushi and the soya 'spring rolls' to share with some edameme. The sushi and the spring rolls were delicious. I'm glad we took the waiters recommendation to try the rolls as they were a restaurant speciality.

For mains I ordered the ramen which was good and my friend ordered a burger. Both dishes were pleasant.

Overall the service was swift and it wasn't too expensive. Only downside was that all dishes were served in takeaway containers and I didn't think this went with the overall ambience of the restaurant. I know it was a burger joint but I think they could have had proper dishes.

Tastemaker

Another fun concept from the restaurant wiz Alan Yau in the heart of Chinatown serving Japanese inspired dishes and burgers. The decoration, the menu, the DJ set on the weekends make it a place for a fun night to hang out with friends. Everything is served in takeway cups; even the cocktails. Go for the fun.

tastemaker

I just went here for lunch with some work colleagues and couldn't recommend it more. Really nice atmosphere, cool decor and nice relaxed vibe. 

We were all mainly drawn to the restaurant by the promise of the cheesburger spring rolls that we had spotted and drooled over on Facebook. I had the veggie version (shared with a colleague) for starter and I have to say it was delicious BUT i'm glad I shared as it was rather rich and a tad greasy (delicious all the same). 


For main I had the fish burger. I was slightly hesitant as I worried it would be spicy but it was perfectly manageable (spice fans will be pleased to know that there is a bumper bottle of siracha for you on every table). The fish fingers were actually salmon fingers covered in panko which were delicious and accompanied by curry ketchup, spicy mayo, gherkins, pickled ginger and a soft brioche bun. A real win.


A couple of our party had the ramen and were a little less enthusiastic, saying the broth was rather sweet - just something to be aware of. 


Overall I thought it was great and would definitely go back. It's well priced and the cocktail list looks excellent for evening fun. 


Side note: I have it on good authority that the toilets are an experience all of their own - self flushing, heated seats and a...ahem...drying option. 

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