Aji Ichi's Success Revealed - Consistent Quality Affordably-Priced
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Aji Ichi Japanese Restaurant has come of age in its relatively new Blue Lagoon Plaza location, next to Wagaya 88. Aji Ichi's owner, Keiko Tsuraga, has operated this popular restaurant at several locations for over 23 years and her efforts have made the name Aji Ichi synonymous with quality and affordability - two critical factors in customer satisfaction. I would further define the "quality" benchmark to include food quality and service quality. This new location is the third operating unit with additional locations in Upper Tumon across from Nissan Motors and a fast-food outlet in the GPO Food Court. This new restaurant is the most spacious and decorative, and its ambiance with high ceilings and tasteful Japanese art work makes this an appealing and comfortable eatery.
For this review, I ate lunch on two different occasions, trying the Sushi Box ($11.25) on my first visit, and a selection of a la carte menu items, including Spicy Tofu ($3.50), Edamame ($2.75), the Aji Ichi Roll ($4), and the Katsu-don Set ($8) on my subsequent visit. The Sushi Box is one of Aji Ichi's best overall samplings of their food, short of having one of their ramen or noodle dishes. The Sushi Box includes three pieces of Sushi (maguro, ika, and ebi); three pieces of California Roll made with imitation crab, real avocado, nori and sprinkled with tobiko; Chicken Karaage; Shrimp Tempura; Maguro Sashimi; Cucumber Pickles; Miso Soup, and Rice. California rolls and tempura are immensely popular with local residents. The California roll is actually an "inside-out" sushi roll, and quite popular around the world. Ironically, it's not very popular in Japan essentially because the Japanese are accustomed to and prefer the nori on the outside of the typical sushi roll. People who weren't used to eating dried seaweed seemed to have a hard time biting into them, so the California Roll was created and put the nori on the inside. That's a piece of food trivia I'd not known about until recently.
The Aji Ichi Roll, in comparison, is prepared traditionally, and in my opinion, has a much better taste, flavor, and texture experience, and that's not taking away from the goodness of their California roll. They've got a nice hot piece of panko fried shrimp inside along with fresh chunks of avocado and cucumber laced with a spicy filling akin to an aioli. The nori is crisp outside and each bite just seems to explode in your mouth with fresh flavors. It's a dish I could eat over and over again.
The Spicy Tofu was an unexpected surprise, since I anticipated a strong kimchee base flavor and received a light, refreshing spicy marinara-like sauce that had cabbage and other vegetables atop a cold tofu block. This dish has a lot of things working for it like sliced spring onions and what may have been tomato...just a lot of fresh flavors that weren't fermented. I was asked by my server if I wanted my Edamame served hot or cold...I thought cold would be best. These are always an easy snack with high nutritional value, since they are an excellent source of protein.
My final dish was one of my favorite donburi type dishes...Katsudon. This has a breaded pork cutlet (tonkatsu) sliced and covered by a simmered blend of onions, daishi soup stock, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar, along with beaten eggs that get slightly steamed before settling the blend over a bowl of steamed white rice. I've loved this dish for as many years as I can remember, having it first in the mid-60's when we were stationed in Japan.
Aji Ichi has Lunch Specials Monday through Friday that are served from 11:30am-2:30pm (they are open for lunch daily but the specials are only offered during the week). These specials, which are served with refillable iced tea, are:
Mondays - Pork Ginger & Fried Rice ($7.25)
Tuesdays - Bento Box ($7.75)
Wednesdays - Fried Noodles and Gyoza ($7.75)
Thursdays - Tempura & Sashimi ($7.75)
Fridays - Beef Teriyaki and Fried Rice ($7.25)
Aji Ichi also has a wide variety of Set Menus all priced at $9.50 including Sashimi Set, Tempura Set, the famous Pork Ginger Set and Seafood Mix Set plus several other choices all of which include Rice & Miso Soup. You can also get a Unagi Box and Unagi Special for $13.50. Since Aji Ichi is a great place for family dining, they offer a Kid's Meal for $5.25.
Aji Ichi's first claim to fame in the early days was its selection of noodles from Ramen to Soba which they still serve. Many is the night you could drop by Aji Ichi and see people from all walks of life finding nourishment and comfort from a bowl of noodles at Aji Ichi. These noodles remain as popular as ever even though they have expanded the menu.
A limited number of sushi and sashimi items are on the menu, more to provide diversity to the other traditional Japanese dishes than to compete with a sushi bar. There is a small bar serving spirits and beer, where diners can also eat. The cooks at Aji Ichi are experienced at preparing the dishes that comprise the menu. One of the cooks, Brian Conducto, used to work at Utage and at the short-lived Aji Hey Restaurant, under the renowned guidance of Chef Kanda. Aji Ichi's Dinner Hours are from 5:30-10pm daily. Take-out orders are welcome and can be made by calling 646-6444.
I encourage you to try Aji Ichi Japanese Restaurant. I think you'll find the same great food and service that I received..after all, it's one of Aji Ichi's trademarks!