Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cafe Zaiya

I heard of this place from Zach of Midtown Lunch. It's a Japanese place that serves lots of different things. You can get sandwiches, or rice bowls (donburi), stuffed rice balls (onigiri), cream puffs (bread papa), pastries (savory or sweet), noodles bowls (udon), bento boxes, snacks, sushi, and etc. However, the great selection leads to ridiculous crowds. Every time I have gone, it has been packed with people coming in and out. And there are several lines that you need to navigate. Each section has it's own line. So be prepared to stand if you like different things. It might be worth it to bring a friend to stand on different lines with you. But alas, I go alone. It doesn't matter to me because I'm very fond of the middle section of prepared hot lunches. Today, I got the broiled eel over rice bowl ($6.95) and the spicy tuna rice ball ($1.75). The eel is tender with a slight sweetness to the sauce. It's delicious and they give you plenty. The sauce runs into the white rice and it's great. They add a little pickled vegetable to the bowl which I don't really care for. Sometimes you may find small bones in the eel. It's okay. You can eat it. This is the second time I've gotten this dish and I'll get it over and over again. The spicy tuna onigiri is more of a snack. I really could have gone without this but I really wanted it. First, the salmon is cooked. I've never encountered a raw onigiri. In fact, I don't know if it's supposed to be raw at all considering you travel with this in your pack as a snack. I think originally it was stuffed with pickled vegetables. It's the whole preserving thing. Anyhow, the spicy tuna wasn't very spicy at all. It was very tame. But it tasted good none the less. It had a good tuna stuffing to rice ratio. I'm a rice lover so I don't mind if there's rice. Though, I can see how some people might complain. Oh, and they separately wrapped the seaweed (nori) so that it wouldn't get soggy. Ingenious! When nori gets soggy, it gets chewy. Not fun. Oh and the first time I made the mistake of refrigerating this for later. Yeah, the rice got hard and the tuna was dry. Bad. They have several locations: 2 in Midtown, and 1 in the East Village. The one on E41 Street is constantly packed with Japanese people, both working there and buying food. It's a great place to find Asian fast food. I wish they had hot noodle bowls to order. But I think that would make the place run slower. And who needs an even more packed crowd? But I'll definitely continue going there for their food. Another great pick, Zach. Cafe Zaiya 18 E41 Street New York, NY 10017 (212) 779-0600 www.zaiyany.com

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