Elmsford's Ichi Riki Restaurant Offers Just Japanese And Forgets The “Fusion”

To explore traditional Japanese cuisine fully, skip the fusion and go old-school at Ichi Riki in Elmsford.

Last time I went to one of our many Asian fusion restaurants for Japanese food, the menu’s lack of depth became sadly apparent. Where’s the ohitashi, the hiyayakko, and grated mountain yam? They would have to wait for another day. It’s times like these that we appreciate the old-school Japanese restaurants that have stood the test of time in Westchester, as the Japanese population ballooned through the 1980s (with an influx of expats concentrated around Scarsdale and Hartsdale) and shrank through the 1990s (after the economic bubble burst). Such is the case with Ichi Riki, an Elmsford staple for 28 years. Amid a largely Japanese clientele, in a private tatami room (for larger parties), one can delve into the menu (including a special Japanese/English one) with the gusto normally reserved for new restaurants.

The interior of Ichi Riki.

I confess previous ignorance of chawanmushi, a savory egg custard cradled in a teacup (“chawan,” is teacup, “mushi,” is steamed)—a highlight of my omakase lunch and just the thing on a brisk day. Lift the little lid to reveal a mosaic of fish cake and shiitake; scoop in to find bits of chicken, shrimp, and a sunken ginkgo nut as the warm, flan-like custard releases its subtle broth. My dining companion passed on the chawanmushi and crab croquettes with a molten filling—he’s not big into custardy things—but readily sampled the melt-in-your mouth sashimi and sushi I was served. His combo of beef yakisoba and gyoza was above average, and the “tofu steak” with vegetable sauce was hearty and tasty. I look forward to trying the nabeyaki udon, one of my favorite dishes, on a future visit; the restaurant won a Best of Westchester for udon noodles in 2006.

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Beef yakisoba and gyoza; chawanmushi.

How often does one expect to be wowed by sushi rolls, of all ubiquitously available items? It takes an artist to make them worthy of a trip, and we have one here in sushi chef Johnny Liu. The Christmas Roll is decked out with an assortment of colored tobiko, and tempura flakes give a tasty little crunch to spicy salmon and avocado with mango and tuna. The Chef’s Special Roll is in its own holiday-themed a pink soy wrapper: shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, and avocado plated with a three-sauce starburst of spicy mayo, wasabi mayo, and honey soy sauce. A few desserts are made in-house: banana roll cake (topped with green tea ice cream and red bean paste) and sweet red bean jelly with whole chestnuts.

Chef’s special rolls with a pink soy-based wrapping;  colored tobiko creates a festive Christmas Roll lineup.

Vegetarians can safely dig into Ichi Riki’s tofu “steak;” sashimi and sushi are other options for those looking for a red-meat-less meal.

Ichi Riki
1 E Main St
Elmsford
​(914) 592-2220; ichirikisushi.com

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