Though Archuleta and his wife, Erin, are first-time restaurateurs, they have plenty of experience as owners of both ICHI Lucky Cat Deli at 331 Cortland Marketplace and ICHI Catering, plus the Monday night happy hour at Bender's.The chef cut his teeth at Tokyo Go Go under Kiyoshi Hayakawa (now owner of Koo), whom Archuleta refers to as "Sensei."
Ichi's fish is fresh, generously portioned, and impeccably cut. We started with yellowtail ($5.25), firm and assertive, and local albacore tuna ($4.75), meltingly rich and smooth. Next, a Sriracha-spiked mayonnaise added pleasant but not jarring heat to a spicy scallop roll ($5.75). Thankfully, we were still able to taste the rest of our food. A pair of glistening shrimp was juicy and sweet; their accompanying heads expertly fried and a little gamy, just how we like it. Our final bite from the sushi bar was an exemplary order of briny, flanlike sea urchin roe, harvested in the waters off of Fort Bragg.Because of limited kitchen space and the lack of an exhaust system, Archuleta prepares three of his hot plates sous vide, finishing them in a small convection oven or deep-fryer. Yuzu chicken wings ($9.50) were actually marinated in kobosu (a Japanese citrus), burnt sake, and soy before being sealed and placed in their warm bath. Then they were rolled in potato starch before a trip to the fryer. The result: wings unlike any we'd tasted. The starchy exterior eventually covered our fingers and lips, giving way to moist, mildly fruity bites of meat followed by a lightweight punch of spice.
Pork tenderloin ($10), also prepped sous vide, was pan-seared in the convection oven ― Archuleta brilliant workaround for burners. The pork was sliced thin and served over a large puddle of citrus-shallot mustard. Though tasty, it was a dish more Heidelberg beer hall than Mission sushi bar. We found ourselves secretly hoping for a side of spaetzle.
With food this good after only three nights, we're excited to see where ICHI stands in a few months. Archuleta so clearly adores his profession and his perch, finally, behind his own sushi bar. His Sensei would be proud.
ICHI Sushi: 3369 Mission (at Godeus), 525-4750.