Ichiz slips in like that elusive summer breeze: cool, refreshing, unexpected.
This sleek sake bar and lounge fits neatly into downtown Huntington, where no imbiber is ever frustrated searching for a place to drink. Ichiz has a very precise niche for that, fueled by 22 sakes, the vinous rice brews; five shochu, a potent distilled beverage akin to vodka and as distinctive as Scotch; nine beers, and a solo plum wine.
Before you join in with a rousing "Kanpai!," there are other reasons to visit, too.
The sharp-looking newcomer also should attract you for its short list of Japanese and New American dishes. The series of small plates goes from elevated bar chow to sushi rolls to more refined riffs. Have a meal of shared snacks and appetizers. Ichiro Yamagishi knows the way. He's the former chef-owner at Sushi Ichi in East Setauket.
Ichiz definitely has the lounge look in the front, with tables for two and a little sitting area. The area is clad mostly in black and white, with textured tilework and of-the-moment design. Even the tricolor wood floor gets your attention.
If you're more than a duet and not interested in the couch, you'll have to dine in the back room, which can accommodate a few foursomes. That space transcends the idea of privacy. It's almost as if you're in another restaurant.
Sip a cold sake, maybe the dry, light Jumai Dai-Ginjyo Kitaya Kansansui or the richer Tokubetsu Junmai Akita Homare, each a mouthful.
And order the silky, thinly sliced, steamed sea bass with ginger, soy and pesto. Or the velvety, three-tier tuna tower with spicy fish, avocado and asparagus.
Ichiz prepares a satisfying, playful bruschetta made with fresh tuna, avocado and tomato. Fried calamari takes an Asian turn with sweet chili sauce and crushed peanuts. Oysters veer west, sauteed in garlic and butter.
Oysters on the half shell are briny and sweet. Filet-mignon sliders make a curious appearance in the Ichiz repertoire, but they're tasty, ready for a slick of wasabi mayo.
Less successful: dull baby shrimp-and-avocado salad in a creamy mayonnaise, the overorchestrated, deep-fried "Godzilla" roll with wasabi sauce, and jalapeño poppers with spicy tuna, a bar snack manqué.
Grilled yellowtail collar, sent out with a snappy ponzu sauce, improves things. Likewise, the herb-marinated salmon with "Champagne flavored cream cheese." That enriched, side-show schmear doesn't get in the way. The napa cabbage salad with daikon, edamame, and shrimp in a miso vinaigrette also works.
A professional crème brûlée and a modest chocolate mousse shouldn't dissuade you from visiting Ben & Jerry's, directly across, on the south side of Main Street. Cool, too.