Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cafe Zaiya, again

I was craving something different for lunch one day. Plus, I ran out of my lunch for that week. Then I realized that I haven't been to Cafe Zaiya in a very long time. It's time for another visit and something different this time. I decided to go a little earlier to beat the rush. I wasn't sure of what to get so I wanted more time and space to roam. The place was crowded already by the time I got there (11:50am) but it was manageable. It has definitely been much more crowded on my past visits. It seems that they changed the place around. The Beard Papa was no longer there. And the cash registers moved to it's spot. It actually created more space for people to walk around. It was a good move. I ended up picking up 3 things: an onigiri, a sandwich, and some fish over rice. Normally, this would be too much food but I was really hungry. I almost didn't pick a onigiri due to my decision of something different but they had spicy shrimp tempura ($2.25). I've never tried it before. I had to taste it. First, the packaging is really clever. It looks whole but the seaweed is actually separated from the rice to prevent sogginess. I loved it! The seaweed was crisp. The rice was still warm and not dry. The shrimp tempura was crispy. There was a little spiciness inside. Though, personally, I would have liked more spiciness. Otherwise, this was a really good deal. I also picked up a Whiting Fish sandwich ($3.75) due to a good review by Kathy from A Passion for Food. I follow her blog every day and trust her judgment. But one bite into this thing, and I knew it wasn't good. Several things bothered me. First, the bread was stale. And the bread to fish ratio wasn't there. Second, the fish was very dry. The sandwich gave me two thin pieces of fish that were fried too long. Even the over abundance of tarter sauce couldn't save this sandwich. Lastly, I picked up a container of Chirashizushi on a whim. I was actually standing in line to pay. I was right next to the refrigerated area. I looked down and saw this box of fresh fish over rice. It enticed me. Even a quick glance of the price ($9.75) didn't deter me. Even though on normal days that would. And I am very glad I picked it up. The fish in it was very fresh. There was some salmon, shrimp, roe, squid, eel, mackerel, egg, tuna, and yellowtail. It also had a lump of wasabi, pickled radishes, and soy sauce on the side. Underneath was an abundance of rice. I finished this dish to the last grain of rice. My favorite part was the seaweed beneath the fish to keep the rice from getting soggy. I also enjoyed the roe. It was salty and briny. They popped in my mouth and let me taste their fishy juices. Another successful meal from Cafe Zaiya. Though, I don't think I'll ever get that fish sandwich again. I'll stick to Kim Aunt's Kitchen Cart for that.

Cafe Zaiya 18 East 41 Street New York, NY 10036 (212) 779-0600

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