- 2040 W. Orange Grove Road, Ste. 180, Tucson, AZ, 85704
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
- Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (Sun. closed)
What we ordered: one tonkatsu ramen ($7.20), one tofu don ($6.30) and a soft drink to share ($1.60) for a total of $15.10, well under our Cheap Eats goal of $20 for two people.
Comments: It’s no surprise the food at Ikkyu is transcendent. The restaurant itself is named after a 15th-century monk who found enlightenment in the extravagances of life: drinking, eating and, above all, having sex. (With prostitutes and a blind singer who was half his age too.) A renowned poet, people also called him Crazy Cloud.
Taking after its master, the modern Ikkyu is brothel for food: a place to purchase exotic and great pleasures of the tongue, to delight in sensations normally absent from public life. The other rice bowl places with their gummy teriyaki chicken and greasy yakisoba, they’re the street corner compared to this.
Food: Ikkyu’s basic menu of bento boxes, steaming meats and sushi rolls showcases the highest level of care. It’s hard to get stuff this good in a sit-down restaurant, never mind a cheap fast-food place in a strip mall by a Chinese supermarket. On a recent Friday night, the entire shop was packed with young families of four and women with small children waiting for the hustling employees to set their order of ginger pork or inari sweet tofu pockets on the counter. On Fridays and Saturdays, owner Hiro Fujimoto cooks up a noodle shop delicacy: homemade ramen with a meaty broth and succulent slices of pork.
Ikkyu’s ramen is centuries away from the familiar supermarket varieties: cooked all day, the chicken and pork broth is full and flavorful rather than thin and salty, with a slight creaminess and a little bite. Floating inside are those wonderful white fish cakes (which, if you’ve never had them, don’t actually taste like fish, but like a dense meaty patty), thick-sliced bamboo shoots and scallions for a little crispness. The noodles themselves aren’t homemade, but they're still slippery and satisfying. If you’re here on a weekend, this is your number one choice.
We decided to mix it up and try the cold tofu don, a summery, light rice bowl of epic proportions. Caution: If you’re not an easy-going eater or a Japanophile, stay away from this one. If you are, the tofu is a comprehensive tour of the taste buds. Cold, slurpy blocks of supple bean curd pair with the sharp prick of fresh ginger, airy bonito flakes, slithery strings of seaweed, tangy scallions and crisp, toasted sesame seeds, all on top of some hearty, perfectly cooked sushi rice to soak up the flavors. It was pretty much amazing—but, naturally, my uninitiated dining partner didn’t like it.
X-factor: You might recognize the cooking: The owners of Ikkyu formerly ran the Samurai rice bowl place on Oracle Road until two years ago, when they moved up north.
Service: order at the counter
Bottom line: Aside from the food, Ikkyu has a relaxed but hip and colorful atmosphere, with framed Hokusai and Hiroshige prints adorning the walls and some flashy Japanese tapestries floating over the counter. We just can’t get enough of this place. The employees are nice, the food is excellent and the price is low. We only like to imagine that if he’d eaten here, Crazy Cloud would have been crazy proud.