The Boston Phoenix
January 22 - 29, 1998

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Ichi-bun Café

Snacks to lose your head over

On the Cheap by Theresa Regli

Legend has it that in the ancient Far East, human heads were offered to emperors as homage. Eventually that practice came to be seen as barbaric, and a practical and far more appetizing substitute was developed: the round, stuffed, and eminently palatable ichi-bun.

It's a pastry so good an entire café in Arlington has been named after it. The steamed buns at Ichi-bun Café, which come in large ($2.50 to $3.40) and small ($1.50 to $1.95), are very filling -- despite being closer in size to a human fist than a human head. Available in flavors that include pork and shiitake mushroom, teriyaki turkey, vegetable, miso chicken, chili shrimp, and even chocolate and cinnamon-raisin, the pure-white, spongy buns -- similar to oversize Chinese pork buns -- are perhaps the oddest-looking portable food item north of the Charles River. Enjoy an ichi-bun in this spare, unassuming café with any of the delicious cold and hot teas available (50 cents to $1.30), including the soothing oolong and green varieties.

Ichi-bun Café, located at 473 Mass Ave, in Arlington Center, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday and Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (781) 641-7030.

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