Oct. 12, 2019 — While Florence is home to more than two dozen restaurants offering a plethora of flavors and ethnic specialties, there was one style of cuisine that Ichiban Chinese Restaurant & Lounge owner Richard Zhen felt was missing.
“In larger towns like Portland and Seattle, Szechuan-style food is getting very popular,” said Zhen, who decided to introduce the more complex flavor palate to his Florence guests — and the Ichiban menu — last month. “We started by running the dishes as lunch specials so that people could try them out. That way, our customers got to help choose what items we were going to have on our new menu.”
Until then, Ichiban’s offerings were primarily traditional Chinese dishes, along with sushi and bento. The restaurant’s new menu, while still keeping some of Florence’s favorites, highlights the more distinctive Szechuan-style of cooking.
“It takes more work to prepare because of what goes in, and how it is made,” said Zhen.
Szechuan, a style of Chinese cuisine originating in the Szechuan Province, is known for its very bold flavors. The style’s signature pungency and spiciness is anchored in the liberal use of garlic and chili peppers — and, of course, the unique flavor of Szechuan peppercorn, which has an intense and fragrant, citrus-like taste.
In the weeks leading up to the menu change, Zhen began transitioning what had previously been basic Chinese-style pork, vegetable, beef and seafood dishes to the more distinctive and flavorful Szechuan style of cooking, spicing up favorites such as Kung Pao Chicken, Chow Suey, Mongolian beef and chicken, and also changing all of the restaurant’s Chow Mein dishes to include a soft noodle rather than the previous fried noodles.
In addition, Chow Suey is now the more traditional style featuring the distinctive texture of dry noodles.
Ichiban has also introduced new items, like Chung King Spicy Chicken, a hot and spicy dish featuring succulent chicken marinated in spicy soy and garlic sauce. Another newly featured offering is Salty Pepper Squid or Prawns, Mandarin Beef and a host of new lunch specials, appetizers and dinner combinations.
Zhen admits he wasn’t sure how his regular customers would feel about the change at first, but felt they would come to enjoy the more complex flavors — and he was right.
“Our regular guests really like the new Szechuan style, and new guests like it too,” Zhen said of the change.
More than 30 menu items were either added or re-styled, while also maintaining the restaurant’s traditional bento items, soups and signature sushi items Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. As before, there is no MSG in any recipes and food is fried in 100 percent vegetable oil.
Zhen said the change was hard work but well worth bringing the Szechuan-style of cuisine to Florence’s foodies.
“Feedback has been very good, which makes it worth it,” said Zhen.
Ichiban Restaurant & Lounge, 1179 Highway 101 in Florence, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For more information or to make a reservation, call 541-997-8868 or visit www.ichiban-restaurant.com.