Japanese cuisine at Pasadena’s Ichima Sushi is very varied – Pasadena Star News

At lunchtime on a recent weekend afternoon, I went to see what was brewing at an affable neighborhood Old School American cafe — and found, well, not much.

I walked in and was told they had no more food…except for a long cooked chicken stew that was slowly bubbling in a tray on a steam table. The long cooked stew could have been delicious – I’m a big fan of chicken cooked until it’s melted into its primary molecules. This is the food I grew up on. But… it wasn’t quite right at the moment.

And so, I did what I’ve done many times before. I started driving, knowing that sooner or later I would come across something that hit the old spot. And I did, when I arrived at Foothill & Rosemead Marketplace. Where right in front of the Bowlero sports center, not far from the branches of Kabuki and Mako Bowl, and near a See’s Candy, is Ichima-Sushi.

At lunchtime on that particular weekend afternoon, it was packed with families, rummaging through combinations of very reasonably priced bento boxes and indulging in an encyclopedic collection of exotic-classic sushi rolls. , signature, baked, fresh and tempura specials.

Despite all those rolls – 91 by my count! — Ichima has a nice old-school vibe, like a Japanese restaurant from the days before Nobu, Katsuya, and Sushi Roku. This is the land of teriyaki — chicken, beef and salmon. Cutlets — chicken and pork. Katsu curry — pork, chicken, cheese, and jalapeño cheese. From yakisoba and sesame chicken.

And since it was lunchtime, when bento combinations are a particular bargain, the temptation was more than I could resist. When he arrived, I felt like I had stepped back in time, to a world before Wagyu and Toro. It was the Japanese food I grew up eating, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

The basic bento box includes miso soup, a mound of white rice, a savory green salad topped with a tangy miso dressing, mixed tempura vegetables, pickled ginger, and an orange segment. This is to start. And then, on top of that, you have a choice of one or two dishes, taken from a list that includes teriyaki chicken, teriyaki beef, teriyaki salmon, chicken cutlet, pork cutlet , California roll, spicy tuna, spicy albacore, spicy salmon roll and vegetable roll. For a few extra dollars, you can turn one of the items into four pieces of sushi and/or four pieces of sashimi.

  • Spicy Tuna Rolls at Ichima Sushi (Photo by Merrill Shindler)

  • Ichima Sushi is a sushi and Japanese cuisine store, with...

    Ichima Sushi is a sushi and Japanese food store, with many stalls and tables, and an extensive menu with dozens of dishes, including combo meals at very reasonable prices. (Photo by Merrill Shindler)

For lunch, the cost of the bento is $13.95 with one item or $16.95 with two items. For dinner, the price increases by $3 – an anytime bargain. While the single-item bento is an option, the two-item box is hard to resist. The temptation is strong. But also the temptation of the multitude of rolls, exotic or not, as well as the various izakaya-style appetizers.

My passion is for spicy tuna on crispy rice, shishito peppers, gyoza, garlic edamame, salmon carpaccio – I react to them the same way I do to really really crispy fries with garlic mayonnaise. ‘garlic. I just can’t stop eating them.

Nor can I put aside my fascination – not just with the curious mix of ingredients in modernist sushi rolls – but also the logistics of naming them. Consider what we find at Ichima, in the midst of classic bento boxes:

There’s a role called Jessica Alba, a beautiful actress and co-founder of non-toxic product Honest Company, that made her a billionaire. His roll is made with spicy tuna and avocado, with jalapeño, seared yellowfin sashimi and a special sauce. Maybe she’s a regular, and she’s a favorite. Or maybe not. I do not really know.

The Marilyn Mon-Roll is spicy albacore, spicy scallops and spicy tuna wrapped in rice paper. The Toot C Roll is spicy crabmeat, tempura shrimp, marinated beef and crispy onions. The Angry Hulk Roll is largely the same, but with shrimp and guacamole instead of beef. There is no monkey or crown in the Monkey Crown Roll. And no lava in the Lava Lamp Roll.

The unfortunately called Heart Attack Roll is a fried jalapeño with spicy tuna, crabmeat and cream cheese. I don’t like cream cheese in my sushi rolls any more than I like pineapple on my pizza. But I feel like mine is a minority opinion.

One of the best things about Ichima is that it offers such a lively selection of nostalgic Japanese dishes and modernist creations. You can eat like I did – dishes from the era – or you can go wild with a meal of Tiger Rolls, Crunch Rolls, Caterpillar Rolls or Dynamite Rolls. You can also walk to See for dessert or Baskin-Robbins. Or… you can go bowling. This is the country of choices, of options. Everything is good…except, maybe, for the cream cheese.

Merrill Shindler is a freelance food critic based in Los Angeles. Email [email protected]


  • Evaluation: 2.5 stars
  • Address: 325 N. Rosemead Blvd., Pasadena
  • Information: 626-351-0560; www.ichimasushi.com
  • Kitchen: Sushi mall and Japanese cuisine emporium, with many stalls and tables, and an extensive menu of dozens of dishes, including combo meals at very reasonable prices.
  • Beverages: Tea and soft drinks, beer, wine and sake
  • When: Lunch and dinner, daily
  • Reservations: Useful
  • Prices: About $24 per person
  • On the menu: 16 small dishes ($3.95 – $11.95), 22 sushi rolls ($5.50 – $9.95), 12 “Signature Menu” dishes ($18.95 – $25.50), 24 “fresh rolls” ($12.95 – $17.95), 9 baked rolls ($7.50 – $16.50), 24 special tempura rolls ($9.95 – $16.95) , 24 sushi ($4.50 – $8.95), 9 salads ($4.95 – $20.95), 4 Katsu curry specials ($17.95 – $23.95), 9 noodle dishes ($9.95-$17.95), bento combinations ($13.95-$16.95 for lunch, $16.95-$19.95 for dinner)
  • Credit card: CM, V
  • What do the stars mean: 4 (World class! Worth the trip from anywhere!), 3 (Most excellent, if not outstanding. Worth the trip from anywhere in Southern California.), 2 (A great place to go for a meal. Worth the trip from anywhere in the neighborhood.) 1 (If you’re hungry and it’s nearby, but don’t get stuck in traffic.) 0 (Honestly not worth it describe.)

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