Not just for sushi lovers, Sapporo Ichiban is a taste of the Orient in the middle of South East London.
Sapporo Ichiban is a small, unimposing restaurant tucked away off the main High Street in Catford. Inside it’s brightly coloured and well lit, with the food preparation area immediately to your right. The whole restaurant is quite narrow, with small tables lined up by the wall on the left and towards the back a raised seating area made up of sunken tables, great for an authentic dining experience. The restaurant is decorated with an array of Oriental (not specifically Japanese) artefacts, including small statues of graceful women and ornamental plants. Most impressive of all is a huge kimono hung on the back wall, a gentle reminder that it is, indeed, a Japanese establishment.
The venue is very popular with groups and couples. Music is played quietly in the background and the hum of people chatting makes for a relaxing atmosphere. Staff are dressed in appropriate traditional Japanese costumes, as are the chefs. Service can be slow, however, especially when it’s busy, so expect to have to remind your waitress to check on your order or bring you more drinks.
Sapporo Ichiban offers a variety of Oriental dishes as well as freshly made sushi, so should suit most appetites. If you want to try a bit of everything, go for the buffet menu (approx £12 per person), which offers a selection of starters, mains and sushi dishes which must be ordered eight at a time - beware of the wastage charge that is imposed on items ordered but not eaten. Starters and mains range from £4 to £8, with sushi dishes starting from £2 for six pieces. The showboat sushi platter consists of a mixture of mixed sushi and sashimi. Great if you like variety, but a bit on the expensive side for £20.
The tempura sushi and salmon skin rolls are a must-try dish. All sushi is prepared freshly to order and arrives beautifully presented and perfectly formed. Salmon skin is slightly warm and nice and salty, coated in perfectly seasoned sticky rice and seaweed. Tempura sushi rolls add a crunchy twist to the norm. Chicken katsu pieces are moist in the middle and well seasoned. The pickled salad is crunchy and sweet with a tangy aftertaste. Teriyaki chicken is sweet and sticky with crunchy skin, delicious with steamed rice or noodles. The chicken curry is a bit of a disappointment, however, the only thing on the menu that tastes manufactured and not at all authentic.
Off the main menu, the beef don with rice is very tender with a thick sweet and sticky sauce which complements the meat very well. The mixed tempura platter includes prawns, sweet potato and other vegetables in a very light batter. It’s fresh and not greasy, a definite plus where tempura is concerned.
The drink selection is not huge but most tastes are catered for with a variety of soft drinks, beers and wines.
The Last Word
Sapporo Ichiban is a great place to catch up with friends and family or for a casual dinner with a partner. It’s a relaxed venue, with great food at a very reasonable price.