Ichiban: Good food, lousy drunks


Bibim bap in a sizzling stone pot.

This past weekend, The Pilot had his choice of where to go for dinner and he chose Ichiban in the West End of Hartford for some Korean food. Now, I’ve never been much for Korean but even less so after an unfortunate incident of food poisoning in NYC after a Korean BBQ experience. But, we have a deal and I’m not going to back out on that.

It wasn’t too full when we got there–early for a weekend dinner around 6:30 p.m. The first thing we noticed at our table (waaayyy in the back, by the bathroom and fish coolers) was that on the plastic frame for the drinks was a smooshed, dead fly. Some patron must have killed the pest and just left it. When we gave it over to our waiter, he didn’t bat an eyelash.

The Pilot ordered the Kimchee Geegae, which is a spicy cabbage stew with pork and other goodness. It’s was pretty damn delicious, with lots of layers of flavors and its own little flame to keep it hot…extremely hot. It came with rice as well, which made it a ton of food. I went with the Stone Pot Bibim-Bap which, if you’ve never had it, is amazing. It looks pretty, but unexciting, with beef and veggies on top of rice. There’s also a raw egg, which you mix in and it cooks from the heat. Add some hot sauce and you’re golden. There are non-stone pot options, but the stone pot crisps up the rice to a delicious crunch, not unlike soccarat in paella.

Best of all is the array of side dishes that come with your meal. Kimchee, pickled cucumber, dried fish, other tasty greens, flavorful tofu…all were quite delicious. What was even more impressive is that we asked for more kimchee and then checked to see if we were given an up charge, and we were not.

The drunks...faces blurred for anonymity.

The drunks…faces blurred for anonymity.

Now, we’ve covered the good food, which means it’s time for the drunks. At first there were just two. From across the restaurant we could hear this loud man’s voice that had no business being the volume it was. Then, it got worse as he made a big deal of having to move tables because “the whole crew was coming down.” He and his hipster too-many-food-restrictions girlfriend plopped down nearby and she immediately began to halfway mount him. Oooohh….dinner theater!

Now, while such things usually amuse me, this was a quiet restaurant with a few unremarkable pairs enjoying dinner. At 6:30 p.m. Once the rest of the “crew” arrived, it was all you could hear. There was shouting, slurred regaling of drunken exploits, arrogant complaints about everyone and everything, calls for more drinks and just general annoying-ness. The original drunk, “Boris”, was the worst. Perhaps if the subjects they were discussing didn’t put them in arrogant douchebag zone, or if they hadn’t been full-on adults and were just dumb 21-year-olds, it would have been different, but I doubt it. It didn’t quite ruin our meal, but it certainly didn’t enhance it.

The service itself was okay–nothing spectacular, but to be fair, the drunks were pretty loudly demanding. Overall, I’d give it two salt shakers…the dead fly gets the other half of the salt shaker. (The drunks get no shakers because there’s nothing salty about being that sloppy that early in the evening and in public.)