Adventures in Eating & Cooking
I went with my dad to the 42nd St. Mid-Manhattan Library the other day, and we stopped by Cafe Zaiya for a late lunch/early dinner.
We split a yakisoba bento (lunch set with cold fried noodles). Since the yakisoba had probably been sitting at the counter for a few hours, I wasn’t surprised that the pieces of fried chicken and giant shumai (meat wrapped in dumpling skin) were on the cold and soggy side. However, the noodles retained their flavor and tasted pretty good cold (as yakisoba is supposed to). Still, I recommend you get Zaiya’s bentos fresh at lunchtime (hot, fresh, and delicious!), though I must warn you it will also be pretty crowded at noon too.
I also bought a salmon onigiri for myself, because I must get onigiri everytime I go to Zaiya (which has more to do with my personal love for onigiri than anything). But alas, Zaiya makes delicious fresh onigiri even later in the day. In fact, I saw one of the workers bring out a whole new batch of onigiri as I was still choosing.
Aside from the delicious sticky fluffy rice of the and the crisp nori (seaweed) it’s safely nestled in, I love how there are instructions on how to remove the plastic packaging. (The first few times I ate onigiri here, I often ripped up the nori or dropped a piece of rice, but now I like to say I”m a pro!) I also love how the salmon is soft and fresh.
My dad and I also split a beef croquette and a vegetable croquette. They were both crispy on the outside and full of mashed potato goodness on the inside. My dad thought they tasted the same, but I thought the vegetable croquette had more flavor. The beef croquette was just potato with bits of meat inside. They were pretty good, but a bit on the cold and dry side. Honestly, the croquettes next door at Chiyoda Sushi tastes better (and is usually warmer…) but is more expensive.
Overall, my dad and I were content since altogether the meal cost us about $9 (like most Asian dads, my dad is pretty frugal). I wish we came earlier though, because a lot of the food was cold and not as fresh.
Grade: B (though I’ve been to Cafe Zaiya before, and usually I’d give it B+/A-)
Conclusion: Love the prices! Love the onigiri! Yakisoba tastes pretty authentic, croquettes are mediocre, Chiyoda’s croquettes are better. Best time to come here is around 11 am while everything’s fresh and before it gets too crowded. And though I haven’t mentioned it in this post, this Cafe Zaiya also has a bakery and a Beard Papa’s, which sells amazing cream puffs!