Since I started my blog, I dine at Japanese restaurants at least 3 times a week. The places I have introduced here are restaurants where not only did I like their food, but also some other aspect such as location, service, or atmosphere. Zaiya is a place I visit on a regular basis, so I was not sure if I should include it here on my blog. It isn’t a special place to me per se, but rather a comfortable, friendly, and casual place that is part of my regular routine. It’s like an old friend with whom you can chat for hours or just be yourself with.
I decided to write about Zaiya when I noticed that it was highlighted on ny.eater.com with “15 Tasty Snacks for $2 and Under Around NYC”. Read more: http://ny.eater.com/maps/cheap-snacks-nyc-vanessas-grays-papaya-lam-zhou. And given the frequency in which I visit Zaiya, I felt I had credibility to share my experience, too.
Kombu (seaweed and salted plum) and salted salmon onigiri were introduced in the article, but there are various tasty casual foods available in there. The lunch combo is my favorite. One can select two proteins (Karaage, ebi-chili – shrimp with chilly sauce, Meatball, sweet and sour chicken, and others) that are accompanied by rice and vegetables. I have tried them all and have never been disappointed. I also like their dessert selections. Although I have lived in the U.S. for 8 years, I have not gotten used to the “sweetness” of American desserts; I typically look for Japanese options when I am in the mood for something sweet.
Price: Very reasonable
Neighborhood: Midtown, @Kinokuniya, and East Village
Dress code: Casual
As mentioned before, I try to dine at local Japanese restaurants when I visit other U.S. cities. I have introduced Nagomi and Tamari in Washington, and a blog reader suggested Yuzu in the close-in suburb of Bethesda across the street from the Bethesda Station on the Metro’s Red Line/one station North of the Washington city limits. According to their website, Yuzu is an authentic Japanese restaurant dedicated to serving fresh, seasonal and traditional Japanese dishes. The chef is Yoshi Ota and has created a menu that would likely please any taste.
My guest and I ordered more than five appetizer dishes (the corn tempura is an absolute must!) and were impressed with the flavor and quality of each. For the main entrée I ordered “Chef’s Chirashi” — traditional chirashi deconstructed with a small chirashi of mixed toppings on bed of sushi rice alongside a plate of premium sashimi. I could not believe this was available for $35 given both the quality and quantity! My friend ordered the beef yakiniku and was equally impressed with the meat’s flavor and tenderness.
In my opinion Yuzu is a gem located a few minutes outside of DC that is well worth a cab or train ride (nearby parking is also available). In my experience with other Japanese restaurants around the world, Yuzu offers an outstanding experience at very reasonable prices. And I will definitely include this restaurant in my list of favorites in the nation’s capital.
Price: $100 for our selection including tip and drinks
Neighborhood: Bethesda, Washington DC area
Dress code: Casual
Dining alone: Yes – bar and counters are available
When I was looking for a casual Japanese Yakitori place for a Happy Hour gathering with friends, I discovered that Teriyaki Boy opened earlier this year on 45th Street between First and Second Avenues. I had heard that Teriyaki Boy was a great and inexpensive lunch option in the Midtown area back when it used to be on 48th and 7th Avenues till few years ago.
The new Teriyaki Boy is open for both lunch and dinner. For lunch, it is mostly take-out selections of chicken, salmon, steak, or vegetables – all including rice and a small salad. Prices start at $8.50, and they offer combination options (half chicken and half salmon for example). The portion size is very filling and satisfying – an overall excellent value if you are looking for a great lunch option. I have been five times already!
In the evenings the layout changes and becomes a standing yakitori bar. If you are craving yakitori as I was, I would say this is the go-to place for you. One’s appetite is tempted (or stimulated!) as soon as you enter and smell the charcoal grill. Traditional yakitori such as Momo, Tsukune and Negima are offered and all were equally delicious.
Price: $8.50 and up for lunch box, $3-5 per yakitori dinnertime.
Neighborhood: Midtown East
Dress code: Casual
Dining alone: Comfortable, standing bar in evenings