NICEVILLE — The holiday eating season begins with Halloween candy and concludes with Super Bowl chips and dips. In between we seem to eat a lot of heavy, traditional meals. With guests expected this season, I decided to explore lighter fare options.
I met my older son, Andrew Dooley, and his friend, Elaine Carr, at Asian Ichiban restaurant in Niceville as a food reconnaissance mission.
When I suggested Asian Ichiban to Andrew, he knew immediately that Elaine would be an excellent addition to our quest; she is more than just a foodie. Elaine knows Asian cuisine far better than anyone I’ve met. She took me through the steps of an Asian Ichiban specialty: the hot pot.
“This is the only place in the area that has hot pot,” Elaine said, noting that this dish forces the diners to slow down and enjoy each other’s conversation.
While hot pot is a specialty, Asian Ichiban serves a variety of traditional Asian foods that start with appetizers and covers sushi, curries and seafood options. We ordered an appetizer of yakitori chicken on a stick, with the dish featuring three servings.
“It’s a soy-ginger base,” Elaine said of the seasoning. “It looks like it’s dusted with a light pepper.”
Our conversation moved on to sushi, and our server told us that the Asian Ichiban sushi master is truly among the best in the area. He goes by K.K.
We asked for an adjustment to the roll, opting for the soy paper over seaweed wrap only because I have never taken to the taste of seaweed wrap. The sweet potato is subtle, and the eel sauce on top added an excellent combination of sweet and salty.
For his entree, Andrew tried something that isn’t hot pot, selecting a combo meal of teriyaki chicken, fried rice and miso soup. The chicken comes served on a hot plate, with Elaine noting that it’s an Asian version of fajitas. The dish was served so quickly after preparation that we could see the heat vapor rising from the combination of meat, peppers and onions.
Andrew enjoyed the meat, and he noted the peppers and onions didn’t overpower the dish.
Elaine and I both selected hot pot.
“If you look behind you,” she said, directing my attention. “That’s their sauce bar. You mix your own sauce.” The sauces can be used for dipping or adding to any dish.
Hot pot options include a choice of broth, a meat and vegetables. The idea is that you add what you wish to the boiling broth, transfer it to a bowl, and then enjoy the meal.
Elaine said it becomes communal as family and friends suggest and trade the choices.
I ordered beer duck as my meat choice, and it has its own specific broth. The duck is precooked, and it offers that game flavor over farm-raised. Elaine selected beef as her meat, which is served thin-sliced and raw. We decide how much we want to cook the ingredients, then we transfer it to a bowl and enjoy the soup mixture.
For people who want hot pot, there are specific tables designed for the dish. The hot pot tables feature heating units, but there are ordinary tables available for non-hot pot diners.
The dining area does feature a bar and a few big-screen TVs. I quickly lost interest in the Sunday afternoon football games as our small party became engrossed in conversation.
We dined on a Sunday afternoon. Few people were dining at that time, but our service was still prompt and helpful. The staff accommodated my food allergies, and their recommendations made for an enjoyable meal.
A FINAL TASTE
Located in the Crossing Shopping Center, Niceville, Asian Ichiban offers a dining experience with reasonable pricing on well-prepared and flavorful foods.
Source: Thanks https://www.nwfdailynews.com/entertainment/20191212/eating-out-asian-ichiban-flavorful-way-to-eat-lighter