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Restaurants, Japanese Chinatown
2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

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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.


Address: 24 Wardour Street
Transport: Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £70.
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