As a culinary instructor, I am often asked about my favorite cuisines and restaurants. Recently, a student asked me if I liked Chinese food. I replied I wasn’t sure if I have ever tasted authentic Chinese as I have never been to China and from what I have read what we have come to know as Chinese is really a watered down American version. I believe I would respond differently now, having experienced the food at ICHIBAN Szechuan. It has been said, that one who doesn’t experience Szechaun food has never reached China.
This is not the traditional Chinese American take out that we have all experienced. No fried egg rolls or fortune cookies on this menu but they have a huge selection to choose from including specialties like Rabbit w/ Pickled Pepper and the more exotic Dry Braised Duck Tongue. If you suffer from food fear and lean toward the more traditional, you will find offerings of Spicy Crispy Shrimp or Kung Pao Chicken. In addition there is a long list of vegetarian dishes, soups and rice/noodle dishes.
My husband takes great pride in his food adventures so after I had lunch here with a friend, I shared the menu with him. He was extremely excited to try the duck tongue which he and I had the opportunity to sample yesterday. It tasted fine but it took some work getting around the bone and cartilege. I probably would not order it again but I have to say the fiery sauce it was cooked in was really delicious and the presentation, in its own little hot pot was delightful.
Included on the menu are a number of Thai inspired dishes like Pad Thai and Red and Green Curries w/ your choice of meats, shrimp or tofu. I tried the Pad Thai and it was very flavorful with peppers and large pieces of chicken. I learned from my first experience to request turning down the heat and prepare it medium hot. That of course is a matter of your indivual palate. A must have dish and maybe my favorite so far is the Spicy String Beans. They were cooked crisp tender and were laced with garlic and chilies. The portions, even the lunch items for $7.50 each, are ample, so plan on sharing.
Having eaten here twice, I would recommend this restaurant for those who like to tease their tastebuds with exciting flavors and new and exotic foods and spices. As mentioned, there are choices for the more timid as well, so do not be afraid! The facilty is large and can easily accomodate sizeable groups. It is painted in varied shades of green and purple which makes it very inviting and the menu is written in Chinese w/ English subtitles which gives it a feel of authenticity. The service is personal and friendly, the staff , very knowlegable about the food and willing to answer any questions you may have. They were especially excited for us to order the Duck Tongue and seemed very pleased that we actually ate it. There full menu is available on their website http://www.ichibanmadison.com. Check it out next time you are on a lunch or dinner quest in Madison, Wisconsin.