I was looking for Japanese restaurants other than Sakagura and Soba Totto in Midtown for a new lunch option as every time I go these midtown Japanese restaurants, I usually see either colleagues or someone I know from the expatriate Japanese community. Also given that Sakagura and Soba Totto are widely recognized among midtown lunch seekers (and generally crowded), I wanted to find a hidden place with more of a quiet environment. Azusa was just that ― a hidden gem that perfectly fits my need ― and is located just two blocks from Grand Central Terminal.
The entrance and the bar area remind me of a Japanese ryotei in downtown in Tokyo. A ryotei is a type of luxurious traditional Japanese restaurant, and they are typically a place where high-level business or political meetings may occur discreetly. In fact, Azusa is the perfect example of a ryotei; it is not too large in size compared to other Japanese restaurants in the area ― which is perfect for a quiet setting ― and there is even a tatami room in the back where you can enjoy a completely private setting if needed.
Azusa has an amazing selection of seasonal sushi and offers a ’specials’ menu all of the time. I visited during the noon rush hour and had the daily special: bento box with rolls, salmon teriyaki, tori karaage (fried chicken), green salad, miso soup, pickles, and a small fruit cup for $17. Very reasonable price considering the both the quality and quantity of food I received. The meal arrived very quickly and the service was equally impressive. The friendly server continually refilled my hot green tea and water unprompted. Definitely a place I will visit again for lunch and perhaps dinner next time.
Price: $14-17 for lunch special
Dress code: Smart casual
Noise level: Quiet
Dining alone: Yes, a nice bar/counter is available