Ichiban, which opened in 1989 and has been one of downtown Orlando’s older restaurant success stories, is closed for renovations. Usually when we see that notice on the door of a restaurant it means the place is closed for good. In the case of Ichiban, it really is undergoing renovations. But it’s also closed for good.
The owners of Ichiban have partnered with the folks who own Frank & Steins Eatery & Pub and the recently reviewed Dive Bar. The space is being redone to be more loungey to attract the younger downtown bar goers. But, I’m told, it will have an upscale feel.
It will still feature sushi and other Japanese foods, but when the restaurant reopens, in late April or early May, its name will be Shakia (shahk-EYE-a), which may or may not mean high society. Why change the name at all? As one of the current owners pointed out, “there’s an Ichiban in just about every city in the country,” so if they hope to have other locations, another name would be necessary.
I first reviewed Ichiban in 1989 when it opened. It brought sushi to downtown Orlando, a rarity back then. It also had a few teppanyaki tables for the people who couldn’t separate the notion of Japanese food from the Benihana concept. Those tables, which may have contributed to the restaurant’s overwhelming greasy smell, were soon removed. Eventually, the quality of Ichiban improved and it started to be more worthy of its name, which means number one.
I’ll have more on Shakia when it opens.