Ichiban Japanese Steak House is celebrating its fifth year in a row as the Chattanooga Times Free Press People’s Choice Award winner for “Best of the Best” Japanese Steak House.
“This is our fifth year in a row getting Best of the Best and we have our customers to thank for that,” says Hain Kim, manager of the Hixson location. “A large majority of our customers are regulars and we appreciate them. We would like to thank them for continuing their patronage here and voting for us year after year. That says we’re doing something right.”
Kim says the regular customers, who have been dining at Ichiban and voting for the restaurant over the years, often say it is a family-oriented, comfortable and just downright fun place to dine. With the economy still rocky and families approaching the Christmas shopping season, dining out has become more of a special event for many and a chance to share quality time as a family.
“I think for families it’s not just about dining together here, it is about sharing an experience together,” Kim says. “Especially for our younger clientele, it gives them something different, because here they see their meal go from raw ingredients to being cooked before their eyes.”
The head chef is responsible for selecting all the meats, which are hand-cut in-house before being cooked to perfection on the grill in the dining room. Eating with others at the hibachi tables, whether they are friends or strangers, often encourages guests to try new dishes beyond the traditional hibachi-style steak, chicken and shrimp.
Kim says it’s often the case that one person sees another guest at their table get a roll of fresh sushi or a tempura appetizer and think it looks good enough to order for themselves. “At other restaurants you don’t know what the food looks like before it comes out on your plate, but what you see at the grill is pretty much the kitchen,” Kim says. “We bring the kitchen to the table, so you see it from the beginning. We can’t get away with just putting anything out there, because customers can see and attest for the quality of the food right in front of them.”
As the holidays approach, Kim is already accepting reservations for office parties, family gatherings and other celebrations where guests want the chance to chat with the chefs, eat their favorite Japanese hibachi recipes and mingle with family and friends. The largest room in the restaurant can hold up to 40 diners and has four grills and four dedicated chefs for groups of that size.
“It’s like at Thanksgiving when people are in the kitchen hovering where the food is being prepared and chatting and mingling,” Kim says. “Here you get that same feeling, but you don’t have to do any of the cooking. I feel hibachi dining, rather than meals at traditional restaurants, is a more memorable experience.”