Sunday, September 26, 2010
About a week ago I went for lunch at the Corner Grinder on Franklin Ave (see below). I was hungry yesterday afternoon and I was also feeling a bit guilty that I had chosen to review the Corner Grinder and not Franklin Giant Grinders. Now, there really isn't much (if any) difference between the two, other than location (Franklin Giant is at Franklin Ave and Brown Street and the Corner Grinder is at Franklin Ave and Elliot Street) and the fact that Franklin Giant is open on Sundays, but I prefer Franklin Giant and I am a big believer in loyalty. So, I decided to kill two birds (or at least chicken cutlets) with one stone and go to lunch at Franklin Giant.
Like the Corner Grinder, Franklin Giant serves up "whole" and "half" grinders, and just like the Corner Grinder, the Franklin Giant "half" grinder is more than sufficient for a single meal. Franklin Giant also serves pizza, and like the Corner Grinder you can also get pasta, though the Corner Grinder has more menu options (why, however, anyone would order pasta at a grinder shop is beyond me).
I decided to have a half capicolla with peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes. Capicolla should be spicy and it was; very spicy. As were the peppers. Offset by the cold of the lettuce and tomatoes, however, they were perfect. I have had a bunch of different things from Franklin Giant and it has all been delicious. And, just like at the Corner Grinder, you can get your grinder slathered in sauce and garnished with hot peppers. Delicious.
If there is one real difference between the Corner Grinder and Franklin Giant it is that the Corner Grinder seems to have more old-school South End, Italian-American customers. Sometimes when you go there, you can really get a sense of what Franklin Ave was like 35 or 40 years ago.
On the other hand, Franklin Giant seems to have the more diverse customer base and it is not uncommon to see rich and poor; blacks, whites, and Hispanics; Italian-Americans and everyone else; and urban and suburban all crowded around the counter waiting for their orders. Indeed, in a city known for tribalism and divisions, Franklin Giant is one of the few institutions that seems to be able to unify people, if for no other reason than their common love of hearty food. Perhaps if we could just get Franklin Giant to put together one of their party plates (no sausage, salami, or capicolla!) and send it over to the Middle East, the Arabs and Israelis could sit down over veal cutlets and hammer something out.
Anyway, like the Corner Grinder, Franklin Giant does not have a website. Here are some links to directions, reviews, and the menu -http://www.yelp.com/biz/franklin-giant-sandwich-shop-inc-hartford; http://www.menuchest.com/connecticut/hartford/franklin-giant-grinder-&-pizza-shop/143/; http://www.menupix.com/menudirectory/menu.php?id=720067
Last Tuesday I had to be in New Jersey on business. It was a long drive to and from, but it gave me the opportunity to have lunch at one of my (and my wife's) favorite Italian restaurants; Casa Bella, in Denville, NJ.
My wife and I discovered CB about 5 years ago. We were heading west on I-80 on a Friday night in the summer, which wasn't particularly smart because I-80 is the highway you take out of New York City to go to the Poconos. Needless to say, the traffic was pretty bad and we found ourselves in stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper traffic. At 7:30 PM on a hot Friday, that is not much fun, especially when you are trying to get to southern Pennsylvania.
We were both very hungry and we needed gas, so we got off the 1st exit after the junction with I-278. After driving a bit in either direction on US Highway 46 we saw CB. We both agreed that a roadside Italian restaurant in central/western New Jersey was probably going to be incredibly mediocre, but it was also possible that it could be a hidden gem, because (as my wife put it, with just a hint of her famous sarcasm) "Italians can cook, you know." Since we don't eat at chains except in the most dire of emergencies and we saw nothing more promising, we decided we'd give it a shot.
That decision turned out to be a very good one, as we had an excellent meal. So good, in fact, that every time we are driving south of NYC, we try to plan the trip so we can have a meal at CB.
CB is an old, old school Italian restaurant. The waiters (there are no waitresses) wear crisp white shirts, ties (or bow ties) and vests (dark green, dark red or black). Many of them speak with thick accents. They are all very professional and far more "fine dining" than "family restaurant" in terms of their level of knowledge and the quality of service they provide.
That said, the interior of CB is pretty ordinary, though all the chairs have green leather seats, and the tables are covered in very nice white linen tablecloths. The cutlery is old-fashioned but very nice, and every table setting is accompanied by a perfectly folded white linen napkin.
The menu at CB is pretty traditional, but it is extensive and there are multiple pasta, veal, beef, chicken, and seafood entrees and a variety of appetizers and desserts. There are separate menus for lunch (11:30am to 4pm) and dinner (after 4pm). CB also has a wine list, but since we go there when we are on the road, that is pretty much out of the question for us.
On this trip, after my complimentary bruschetta (which is nice and crisp) I started with the fresh (actually very fresh) mozzarella with roasted peppers and sun dried tomatoes in a balsamic vinegerette ($7.25). The heat of the roasted peppers contrasted very well with the mozzarella.
My wife and I have tried most of the appetizers on the menu. Particularly memorable are the prosciutto e melone; i.e. imported prosciutto with slices of melon ($7.95) and the zuppa di cozze ($8.25): i.e. steamed mussels in wine, olive oil, garlic and red sauce (there is also an alternative white sauce). We also had the fungi farciti ($7.95), or mushroom caps, stuffed with crab meat. It was pretty darn good.
For lunch I decided to have the saltimbocca alla romana; i.e. the veal saltimbocca($15.50). I've had it once before and it was as delicious this time as it was last time. The meal consists of several very thin slices of veal in a thick marsala and mushroom based sauce, which has an excellent flavor that compliments (but does not overpower) the veal. It was excellent.
Between us, we have probably had at least a dozen different entrees and they all have been very, very good. I think my favorite was the Costata di vitello alla fiorentina ($27.95). The description on the menu says it all; "Thick, plump sauteed veal chop, with prosciutto, shallots and brown sauce." It might be the best Italian meal I have ever had, and it is definitely among my top 10 or 12 meals of all time. The only downside (if you can call it that) is that it is a very rich and filling meal. In fact, the first time I had it I wanted to take a 4 hour nap afterwards (I was on my way to an important meeting when I went this week, so a 4 hour nap, or feeling like I wanted one, was out of the question).
For desert I had the tirami su ($6.50) which I've had once before. It was good, though not as good as the last time I had it.
After our first meal at CB we wondered how such a great little restaurant could make it work on a pretty barren stretch of an old US Highway. We later learned (pretty much by being there at lunchtime and right after work) that there are some large office parks in nearby Parsippany and many people who work there go to CB for lunch, happy hour, and/or an early dinner. Also, the few times we have been there later in the dinner service, we have always seen what appear to be a lot of locals in the bar (which is on your right as you enter CB) and in the dining room.
CB is a very good restaurant. So good, in fact, that it is hard to characterize. It is much, much better than your average Italian restaurant and the food is as good as you are likely to find outside of Little Italy, Arthur Avenue, or the North End of Boston. The atmosphere, menu, and prices, however, aren't what you'd find in a fine dining establishment.
Probably the best way to put it is that CB is a really, really good old-fashioned Italian restaurant. You may or may not ever find yourself at the junction of I-80 and I-278 at lunch or dinner time. If you do, however, take the trip Casa Bella. It's just a few minutes west and you will not be disappointed.
Here is a link to Casa Bella's website - http://casabella46.com/
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Friday turned out to be my ode to the South End. After lunch at the Corner Grinder (see below), I went for dinner with my neighbor (who came with me to the Primavera Pub) to the First & Last Tavern on Maple Ave. I have been going to the F&L since I came to Hartford in 1994, but I especially like going with my neighbor because he grew up just a few blocks away. Needless to say, he's a regular.
In fact, one of the great things about the F&L in Hartford is the large number of regulars who have been going there for 30, 40, or even 50 years. Almost all are originally from Hartford and though most now live in Wethersfield, Newington, Rocky Hill, or West Hartford, they still make a weekly (or at least monthly) pilgrammage. In fact, some nights you get the sense that everyone in the place knows everyone else. Now, that's a neighborhood restuarant.
The F&L has been around since 1938. With the closure of the Municipal Cafe (1929) on Main Street a couple of years ago, the F&L has to be the oldest restaurant in the city, if not the area. Until 1983 the F&L was operated by the DiMillos. Since then, it has been owned and operated by the DePasquales.
Until just before I moved to Hartford, the F&L was a tiny little spot that consisted of the area to the left of the "&" symbol in the picture above. The menu was simple - 14 (numbered "1" through "14") entrees, built around, shells, spaghetti, sausage and peppers, meatballs, and your basic grinders, and you sat in one of about 8 or 9 old-fashioned wooden booths or at the small bar. The expansion of the F&L allowed for a full dining room, expanded menu options, and pizza.
It is not fair to compare the F&L to a fine dining establishment because that is not what it is, or what it tries to be. What we are talking about is a family-type neighborhood restaurant and the food measures up perfectly well to that standard (actually very well).
When I go to the F&L I usually have a 10 1/2 (spaghetti with 1 meatball and 1 sausage; spaghetti with meatballs is #10 on the menu and spaghetti with sausage is #11). Because I was with my neighbor the regular, however, we had several different things and I am not sure that everything we had is actually on the menu the way it was served to us (I have absolutely no idea what it all cost as he picked up the tab in consideration for my having bought drinks and appetizers earlier last week at Salute). Then again, the F&L (at least the one in Hartford) is exactly the type of place where you can substitute and mix and match without drawing the ire of the kitchen and the disapproval of the wait-staff, so I would bet you could duplicate our dinner if you wanted to.
We started with meatballs and sausages in sauce with a basket of bread. F&L has a bakery across the street (where there is a nice parking lot to supplement the tiny lot behind the restaurant) and they bake all their bread, so it is pretty much always quite fresh and delicious. F&L also makes all their own pasta sauce (which is also available in good-sized jars). It is not as good as my wife's gravy (which is what many Italian-Americans call pasta sauce) but nothing is, except maybe my mother-in-law's. Still, it is tasty. The meatballs and sausages were (as always) good-sized, hot, and delicious.
I also had some little neck clams from the raw bar. They were not ocean-fresh (we are 40 miles inland, after all) but they were still good and did still have a faint taste of the Atlantic (or at least Long Island Sound).
We often have an order of hot peppers and/or roasted peppers, but having been at the Corner Grinder just a few hours earlier I had had my fill of peppers for the day, especially because the F&L's peppers pack plenty of heat (they are not watered down for the bland palettes of the mass market).
For dinner I had a small (12") anchovy pizza and my neighbor had a small bacon pizza. F&L serves authentic thin-crust pizza. It may not be as good as Frank Pepe's Original Neapolitan Pizza in New Haven, but what is? Still, it is the best thin crust pizza in the area by a good margin.
The anchovy pizza came with plenty of anchovies and also had ground peppers and spices sprinkled on top. It was delicious. The bacon pizza is sprinkled with crispy chunks of bacon. It is probably ridiculously unhealthy, but it was delicious as well.
For desert we each had a hot fudge sundae made with vanilla Haägen Dazs. It is the perfect way to top off a night of rich, spicy Italian food.
One of the things that makes the F&L a great place to visit are the many old pictures of Hartford which are on prominent display. There are quite a few in the "new" dining room area, but there are many more in the "old" part of the restaurant. When you look at those pictures you get a real sense of what Hartford was once like, and if you are sitting in the "old" part of the restaurant (which although clean and well-kept, looks pretty much exactly as it must have looked when the F&L opened) you can imagine yourself back in the 1940's or 50's, ordering a 7 or a 9 1/2 (or something).
The service at the F&L is about what you'd hope for at a neighborhood family-type restaurant; friendly and hardworking.
If you go to the F&L in Hartford on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, you are going to have to wait, so you need to be prepared for that. You can usually wait at the bar, however.
The F&L has a bunch of different locations outside of Hartford and I have been to the ones in Avon and Middletown. The food is the same but the experience is not. The F&L is one of Hartford's enduring institutions and if you really want to experience it, you have to go to the source.Here is the link the F&L's website - http://www.firstandlasttavern.com/hartford/index.htm
On Friday, my Italian-American co-worker who came with me to the Primavera Pub and another co-worker decided to go for lunch. We were going to go to East Hartford for pho, but the other co-worker caused to be just a few minutes behind schedule, putting us at the back of a very long line at Pho 501. After jumping on the Charter Oak Bridge, we decided that we'd hit Franklin Ave. If I'd been driving, we would have gone to Franklin Giant, but since my Italian-American co-worker was behind the wheel, we ended up at the Corner Grinder (there really isn't a whole lot of difference between the two, but people, including me, have their favorite).
The Corner Grinder has been around for a long time (I don't know anyone who knows exactly how long) and it is a very popular spot, both for those who grew up in the South End (many of whom make regular pilgrimages back), as well as for everyone that loves hearty grinders stuffed with all sorts of Italian-American specialties. Now, there is nothing fancy about the Corner Grinder (the inside is pretty consistent with the outside) and it certainly isn't fine dining, but very few places in this part of Connecticut can match the quality and quantity the Corner Grinder serves up.
The first thing you need to understand about the Corner Grinder is that the grinders are BIG. They come in both "half" and "whole" servings and the half-grinder is more than enough for me, which is saying something.
The second thing you need to know is that this is down home, Italian American street food (as Anthony Bourdain would call it). There are no fluffy sandwiches served by some kid with a gotee named Trevor, or girl with her tongue pierced name Sky, like you'd get at some overpriced fake Euro coffee shop. You know what I am talking about, something like avocado, goat cheese, and prosciutto on a faux crustini. No, you're going to have a guy whose name is probably Sal, or Johnny, or Buddy, serving up salami, cappicolla, cutlets, meatballs and all sorts of other hearty stuff, loaded on a grinder roll, garnished (if you can call it that) with peppers, and slathered with homemade sauce. Delicious.
For lunch, my Italian-American co-worker went with the half-steak grinder, which looked really good. My co-worker that caused us to be late got a half-meatball grinder, which also looked good. I went the whole way and had a half-chicken cutlet, with peppers, cheese, and sauce. Outstanding. There really isn't much else to say.
Seriously, the Corner Grinder is a great grinder shop; no more, no less. The next time you are in the South End (except on Sunday, when it's closed) treat yourself to a half-Salami. You won't be sorry.
The Corner Grinder doesn't have a website, but here some links to reviews, maps, and the menu (it's pretty much your standard grinder shop, so cutlets, 42 kinds of smoked meats and pretty much no vegetables other than peppers and eggplant are on the menu) - http://www.yelp.com/biz/corner-grinder-shop-hartford; http://www.activediner.com/Corner-Grinder-Shop/restaurant/Hartford/CT/US/profile/24477; http://www.menupix.com/menudirectory/menu.php?id=720108
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Yesterday, of course, was September 11. Unlike the past eight September 11's since the 9/11, it was not really a day of somber memorials and sober reflection, so much as a day filled with argument and controversy over the role of Islam in our political and cultural life.
It was thus perhaps ironic that my wife and I decided to go to the Anatolia restaurant in Waterbury for lunch (it was also an absolute coincidence as we were planning to go there last weekend but something came up). For those that don't know, for several centuries the Muslim Turks were the bane of Christian Europe, ending the Byzantine Empire in 1453, overrunning Greece, the Balkans, and most of Hungary in the 15th and 16th centuries, besieging Malta in 1565, and literally reaching the gates of Vienna in 1529 and again in 1683. Yet, Turkey now is a member of NATO, one of our strongest allies in the Muslim world, and it is perhaps the most westernized of all Muslim nations besides Albania, Kosovo, and Bosnia (themselves legacies of several hundred years of Turkish dominance in the Balkans).
Yesterday, however, was for us not a day of politics, or for history, but for food; delicious Turkish food. We have been to the Anatolia a few times before with very good results and yesterday was no different.
Not surprisingly, Turkish food bears a great resemblance to the type of food you'd associate with Middle Eastern or Lebanese cooking, and there are also a lot of common elements with Greek cuisine, notwithstanding the longstanding tense (often worse) relations between the two countries. That said, it does have a style and flavor all its own.
One of the key elements in Turkish cuisine is sumac, a spice derived from a number of different but related red flowering plants (the word sumac being derived from Medieval French, Latin, Arabic, and Syrian words for "red"). You'll find sumac in Turkish, Iranian, and Arab, and other Middle Eastern cuisines and it adds a lemony taste to the foods it garnishes. Several of Anatolia's dishes have sumac in them and every table has sumac which you can sprinkle on to your food.
Yesterday we started with an order of Dolma ($7.50), or stuffed leaves, and the large cold mixed appetizer plate ($15.95), which is an Anatolia special, and almost a meal in and of itself. The Dolma were fantastic (my wife said the best she'd ever had). They were stuffed with seasoned rice and a thin paste that tasted like it had been made from dates. The sweetness of the dates, contrasted with the rice and leaves very well, and the mixture of textures was an added plus.
The mixed appetizer plate is one of the best appetizers you will have anywhere in Connecticut. It consists of a very large plate covered with a different number of dishes; humas, baba ghanoush (mashed, seasoned eggplant), kisir (cracked wheat, tomatoes, scallions, parsley and sumac); ispanak (spinach, garlic, and onions with yogurt); shaksuka (or meneman, consisting of eggs, tomatoes, onions, green pepper and spices); antep ezine (onions, red and green peppers, garlic, walnut, and spices); and haydari (a yogurt dip flavored with walnut).
The plate also comes with a generous portion of crispy bread which appeared to be ekmegi, which is a wheat based bread glazed with yogurt and sesame seeds. The bread is used to dip, and to spread the various dishes, and its texture and consistency offsets the different dishes very well.
It really is hard to describe how good this plate is, because there are so many different flavors and textures, but it really is quite fantastic and the portions are more than generous. It is also a great way to sample a bunch of different traditional Turkish dishes, so that alone would make it worth a try.
For dinner I had the iskander kabab ($14.95) which is seasoned lamb and veal in a tomato sauce with yogurt over fried bread. You also get about 1/4 of a roasted tomato, which makes a nice garnish. The different textures alone make it a fun dish (crunch bread, chewy meat, and smooth yogurt and tomato sauce) and the different flavors are great (especially because the fried bread soaks up the different favors). In fact, my wife and I have had a few different entrees and we both agree that this is the best on the menu (I can't take credit for a better menu choice this week. My wife suggested I have the iskander kabab because we both knew how good it is and she agreed to try the manti because we've never had that before).
My wife decided to try the manti ($12.95) which is a traditional turkish pasta consisting of tiny (smaller than a dime) dumplings with lamb, with garlic, sumac, and red pepper, served with a tomato sauce and yogurt. Her dinner was very good, but it was extremely rich because manti is cooked in butter, a lot of butter. In fact, if you are not used to (or don't like) very rich foods, the manti may not be for you. Still, it was very tasty and a solid choice.
To drink, my wife opted for club soda, but I had an authentic Turkish apricot juice ($2.00). It was super sweet and delicious, but probably not for people that don't like very sweet foods and drinks.
For desert, I had the stutlac, or rice pudding ($4.75), which was a solid choice, but not particularly exciting. My wife had the sekerpare ($4.75) a pastry made from semolina flour, almonds, sugar, and eggs. The consistency is like those old stella doro cookies, but the taste is much, much better, though it is a pretty subtle desert that doesn't smash you over the head with sweetness or flavor.
My wife also had Turkish tea ($1.50) while I had Turkish coffee ($2.50). If you have never had Turkish coffee you ought to try it, especially if you like strong coffee. That said, Turkish coffee is very, very strong stuff (about twice as strong as what we would consider espresso) and served very, very hot so beware, it is for sipping, not for drinking and certainly not for gulping.
Ironically, like Ichiban last week, Anatolia is in what used to be a Friendly Ice Cream, so it is another good example of how small businesses can thrive in an urban environment when chains can't (or won't). The place is clean, neat, and well organized and the staff is friendly and very hard-working (I think most people would consider it understaffed, but the service doesn't suffer a bit).
I am not expert in Turkish food, so I can't say for sure how authentic the cooking is, but I know Anatolia is owned by a Turk (Mahsun Yigit) who does all the cooking, there is a TV in the back of restaurant toward the kitchen which always seems to be playing a soccer match from what appears to be the Turkish professional league, and I have always seen at least one group of Turks eating whenever I have been in Anatolia (including a large extended family of about a dozen yesterday), so my guess is, it is pretty darn authentic. I do know for sure, however, that it is a very good little restaurant and that my wife and I will keep going there.
Bottom line - Anatolia is another good ethnic restaurant that is reasonably priced that won't stretch your wallet but which will stretch your palette, even if a lot of the food has elements which are pretty familiar. Those are all good things, so check it out.
Anatolia doesn't have a website, but here are links to directions and reviews, including a reasonably favorable review from the New York Times - http://www.yelp.com/biz/anatolia-restaurant-waterbury; http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/491314; http://www.rep-am.com/articles/2008/01/24/lifestyle/guide_to_dining/311568.txt; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/nyregion/17dinect.html
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Before I moved to Hartford in 1994 I had never had sushi. Two lady friends introduced me to it by taking me to Ichiban. After learning how to use chopsticks, I never looked back.
In those days, Ichiban was in Bushnell Plaza in a space formerly occupied by an Irish sort of bar called Shenanigans. Although Bushnell Plaza is pretty sterile, the space was actually interesting because the owners of Shenanigans had assembled inside an old diner car, which made for a perfect sushi bar (table seating was around what would have been the outside of the diner car).
At that time, I was living in Bushnell on the Park, so having a sushi place right across the way was great, especially because at that time the owner of Ichiban (Sam Oh) was living in the same building as me. I got to be very friendly with him and his staff and many times I would go there on Sunday afternoon and be the only Westerner in the place.
I was heartbroken when Ichiban left Downtown and moved to its present location on Farmington Avenue in the West End (pictured above) around 1998 (I vaguely remember someone buying the diner car and taking it to Rhode Island). It was a great move for the business, as Ichiban has been very successful in its new location and attracted a whole new clientele of West Hartford residents willing to hop over the city line, but apparently not willing to make the trip Downtown and scavenge for parking.
It is also a great example of how small businesses can thrive in cities even when chains aren't willing to invest. Ichiban is in what used to be a Friendly's Ice Cream that closed. Oh bought it, gutted it, and refurbished it. The chain is gone, but the location is more successful today than ever.
I haven't gone to Ichiban nearly as much as I used to when it was Downtown (sake and driving definitely do not mix) but I haven't been disappointed any time I have gone. My wife and try to get there as much as we can and yesterday we decided it was time to make the trip.
At the outset, it's important to note that Ichiban isn't a classic sushi bar because it is also a sit-down Korean restaurant. I have very limited exposure to Korean food and I haven't had too much from the non-sushi part of Ichiban's menu, so I really can't comment.
On the other hand, I have had the sushi more than enough times to say that for my money, it is the best place around.
Yesterday, my wife and I started with an order of sliced codfish ($5.50) pan fried in an egg batter (which is yellow and light, as opposed to a flour based batter, which is brown and heavier). My wife though it was pretty good, but I really liked it. We both loved our order of kani (crab) shumai ($5.50). The flavor was amazing.
We then had some squid salad ($4.95 each). The squid was nice and fresh, which made it chewy and a sprinkling of sesame seeds gave it some texture. The squid is served with pickled ginger (or gari, as it is called) which makes it a great palette cleanser.
Our dinner was built around a dragon roll, which was about 8 pieces of fried shrimp and avocado with a teriyaki glaze over which were sprinkled sesame seeds ($8.95). Sushi is not just about taste, it is also about texture, and the crunchiness of the fried shrimp and the softness of the avocado work really well together. Also, the sweetness of teriyaki sauce offsets the shrimp and the avocado quite well.
We also had a spicy tuna roll. It is a solid choice and pretty reasonably priced ($4.50/8 pcs). We also had the unagi (freshwater eel) which is glazed in teriyaki sauce ($4.50/2pcs). Eel is a lot more chewy than fish and when mixed with the teriyaki sauce it is a taste and texture altogether different than most sushi, so it is a great contrast.
We also had my favorite, saba (mackerel) ($3.50/2 pcs). Mackerel has a strong and very distinct taste when eaten raw, and it has an unusual texture (it's more oily than say tuna or yellow tail). Again, it is a nice contrast to more basic choices.
Finally, we had a special order made for us, wasabi tobiko. Wasabi is the green stuff that comes with your sushi that you mix with soy sauce. It is in the same family as cabbage, horseradish, and mustard, and gives off heat like hot mustard that you sense more in your nose than on your tongue. Tobiko, of course, is flying fish roe (i.e. eggs). Wasabi tobiko involves marinating the roe until it is infused with wasabi, taking on the green color of the wasabi. It is then served in rice paper.
If you don't like spicy or hot foods, then this isn't for you. But if you do, or you like to at least try new things, try this. Eating roe is like eating tiny little beads, but when they are infused with wasabi they literally explode with flavor as you chew. The heat is bearable, but pretty intense and it will definitely clear your sinuses. Our serving was wonderful.
Ichiban has the usual variety of sushi on the a la carte menu, and there are a bunch of different lunch and dinner specials. We didn't have anything to drink, but Ichiban's has a full selection of sake (hot and cold) and plenty of beer, including Japanese favorites Sapporo and Kirin. I think they also serve plum wine, but I can't remember for sure.
People are very picky about their sushi. It is expensive and it is raw fish, so you want to be sure you are getting a good, fresh cut. I also have been to enough sushi bars and restaurants to know that being a regular has its privileges (depending on who is working at Ichiban my wife and I can get a wonderful hand roll or two specially created for us). That said, Ichiban is a very good place, the prices are pretty reasonable, and I have a ton of good memories from all my trips.
Here is a link to Ichiban's website - http://www.ichibanhartford.com/index.html