Long a staple on Second Avenue in Nashville, about five years ago Ichiban’s owner, Makoto Fujiwara, purchased the old Moose Lodge on Broad Street and moved the popular eatery to Murfreesboro. Its former home in Nashville had burned and the move was a new beginning. Then COVID-19 came along, followed by the current worker shortage, and Fujiwara made the decision to close on June 30, 2022 with no current plans to reopen.
When the restaurant moved locations, it brought many of its former regulars with it and also developed a new local following. Known for its authentic Japanese food, it also drew Japanese expatriates from all around Middle Tennessee. Stories of a booming opening night can still be found on yelp.com.
Many raved about the sushi bar. They carried lots of popular rolls, as well as some of their own creations, like the Sushi Pizza. Everything was fresh and delicious, while being reasonably priced. They even had a sushi menu for kids. Onigiri was also on the menu, something not usually served locally. A Japanese street food, it is made with plain or lightly salted white rice stuffed with various salty or bitter fillings and rolled in nori to be easily carried while walking in the city.
Others came for their flavorful noodle dishes, including udon, soba and ramen. Past diners raved about the Spicy Miso Ramen. The Tonkotsu Ramen was described by one Yelp reviewer as tasting like Laotian tom khem lol, also known as pork belly stew.
There were plenty of appetizers, including the popular Skewered Pork Belly and the traditional fried squid tentacles. Traditional sake, Japanese beer and plum wines were also on the menu.
One repeat diner called the bar and private dining areas “the best kept secret.” The private dining areas could be reserved for small events and group dinners.
“I recall first going to Ichiban when they were located in downtown Nashville,” said another reviewer. “It was a rainy day and it was a welcome sight. I was surprised when I heard that they moved to Murfreesboro. It has become one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in Tennessee. The food is authentic and the atmosphere is relaxing. After a long day of work, a nice Kirin Ichiban and karaage [were] most welcome.”
After purchasing the building in 2017, it took a year to renovate it into the restaurant. Although the restaurant is closing, the building has been leased from Fujiwara and his partner Becky Kounlavong for use as an event venue.
Ichiban will be missed by many, and past diners hope that one day the partners will open another restaurant. While the partners are sad to close, they both still love running restaurants and have not denied that if the right opportunity comes along they may open a small place somewhere, sometime in the future.