Given Arkansas's relative distance from the coast and its land locked status, it's probably easy for many naysayers to brush off and Arkansan claims at fresh sushi...unless someone starts doing catfish sushi, and let's all pray that never happens. It's probably a fair criticism, but there are a handful of respectable Japanese establishments that should be supported if you're looking to get your raw fish fix—the West Little Rock staple, Igibon is certainly one of them.
Tucked away, rather inconspicuously, in the Marketplace Shopping Center in WLR, it's easy for anyone tearing down Rodney Parham Rd. to quickly pass by the place. But lunchtime diners, those seeking a quick, cheap, exceptional meal need look no further than Igibon. Take a gander at one of the greatest bargains in Little Rock—the lunch special bento box.
I'm a big supporter of the bento—I enjoy the variety it affords and it typically gives you a sizable amount of food for a reasonable price. At Igibon, the formula is fairly standard—don't go expecting any unheard of inclusions, but the contents are mostly well-done, warranting many a return visit for lunch.
They start you off with the standard miso soup and house salad. Unfortunately, this is probably the weakest portion of the experience. The miso is sadly a little watered down and bland. I find it's helped with a dash of soy sauce, making it a touch tastier...but don't get me wrong, I still slurp down the entire bowl. The house salad is almost entirely chopped iceberg smothered in a thousand island-like dressing—again, palatable but nothing overly inspiring.
The box starts to pick up from there, luckily. There are a number of "entree" options on the bento list, but if you'd like to keep things on the cheap, you can't go wrong with the teriyaki chicken. A heap of tender grilled white meat is dressed in a thick, sweet sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds—it's probably a far cry from authenticity, but it's tasty and a sizable portion for your buck. A scoop of regular steamed rice or fried rice accompany—I prefer to keep things simple and go with the plain steamed; it mixes well with the chicken and lets the teriyaki be the star. There's a small pile of tempura battered veggies, and diners are treated to a good variety on the plate: carrot, orange squash, zucchini, and onion. Each vegetable is tender and soft and coated in a light, crispy batter and comes with a small bowl of mildly sweetened and salty sauce for dipping. Moving on, you're treated to a couple pieces of California roll with crab and avocado—it's a little light on crab meat, but not terribly deficient. Lastly, a fried "crab puff" finds its way on the plate—easily one of the best items in the bento box. It's a small package of fried phyllo that comes out hot and crispy, with a cool, creamy blend of crab and cream cheese within—you'll probably be wanting about a dozen more of them after sampling just the one.
How much is this little treasure trove going to cost you? Only $5.95! You can't even get a Big Mac Combo meal nowadays for less than that. Lunch specials run daily from 11 am to 2:30 pm, don't pass them up. Perhaps one of the greatest testaments to Igibon's quality comes from my dear fellow Eat Arkansas conspirator, Michael Roberts. He actually proposed to his wife at Igibon, and the food was so good (and the sake so strong) that she actually said yes.
Get yourself to Igibon for lunch today—it's quick, cheap, and highly enjoyable and will help you plow your way through the rest of your workday better than any other meal I know of.
Igibon is located at 11121 N Rodney Parham Rd Ste 13A, Little Rock.