Yagura… the final piece of the 41st Street Trinity

I think 41st St. btw. Madison & 5th might be my favorite block of Midtown.  It’s no secret that I love Asian food, and this particular block is home to three of the best cheap and quick Japanese lunches in the city.  Even though they all serve Japanese fast food, they are all very different- each with its own niche, and price range.  Moderate, Cheap and Cheaper.

I’ve written about the “moderate” Chiyoda Sushi, which serves very creative little Japanese dishes as well as the regular assortment of bento boxes, pre-packaged sushi, and a small selection of rice balls.  It is the most expensive of the three places, and usually not too packed (although they certainly do a healthy business).

Cafe Zaiya, on the other hand, is a mad house.  In the middle in price as well as location on the street, they have a much larger selection of pre-packaged rice balls, bento boxes, and pastries (including Beard Papas!, the cream filled puff pastry).  It’s slightly cheaper than Chiyoda, and there is a larger selection, making it the most popular of the three.

Finally there’s Yagura, the bastard child of 41st Street.  Unmarked (the sign is propped up sideways against the wall inside the door) and with no windows, Yagura is actually a pretty sweet Japanese grocery store, that happens to sell soups and bento boxes out of a window in the front.  It’s not as bustling as Zaiya, or as nice as Chiyoda- but it’s got one thing that they don’t.  The food comes out freshly heated up.

What I got, and the +/- after the jump…

On Tuesday, I was super pissed after walking all the way down to Go Go Curry, just to find it closed.  Craving Katsu with curry sauce, I decided to walk down to 41st, and try the one place in the trinity that I haven’t written about.  Can you guess what I ordered?  Of course you can… Fried Chicken Cutlet w/ Curry ($5.50).



The chicken was crispy, and the curry was tasty (sweet with a very slight kick).  What more could you ask for?  It came with white rice, and pickled ginger (that’s the red stuff).  It’s perfect if you don’t want to pay Chiyoda prices, want to avoid the crowds at Zaiya, and prefer your food to come out warm.

If you’re not into the fried cutlets, they have 6 soup options with Udon or Soba, 5 different rice bowls (donburi), Tempura, Teriyaki, Yakisoba (Stir Fried Noodle Dish), and of course the curry.  The food comes out pretty quick, so I’m sure it’s not made to order- but it’s better than the pre-packaged bento boxes.  The quality of the meat is not going to always be the best, but at prices like this it’s hard to be bothered!

THE + (What people who like this place would say)

  • It’s cheap
  • It’s quick
  • It’s easy
  • It’s not pre-packaged

THE – (what people who don’t like this place would say)

  • The food quality is a notch lower than Zaiya & Chiyoda
  • The place looks dirty

Yagura Japanese Grocery, 24 E 41st St. (btw. Mad+5th), 212-679-3777


  • i work a block away and go here far more than the other japanese options nearby. shrimp don is addictive (and I am sure, very unhealthy).

  • I love Yagura! The sushi and prepared stuff isn’t terribly attractive to me, however, the stuff in the grocery store is of impeccable quality! For $15, you can buy dried seaweed ($2), sushi rice ($1.50), and sashimi grade fish ($4), pickled veggies ($3) and tobiko ($4) and an UCC coffee ($2). Not to mention all of the japanese instant ramen and desserts and other yummy stuff!

    Forget the prepared food and make yourself a handroll!

  • Note that Yagura does a japanese buffet thing around 4 or 5….I think by the pound….

    Zaiya has the best rice balls though, with that nifty plastic wrapper that keeps the seaweek crispy, and possibly the best croissant in the area.

  • I went @ lunch. It was good, but a schlepp from my office. Had the shrimp don. Very cheap but if I could do it over, I think I would order the teryiyaki. The don was too egg-y.

  • The rice bowls are always eggy-that’s what makes them great. I recently had Zaiya’s oyako-don (it was the day’s special) and it paled in comparison.

    Glad you finally gave some love to the OG of the Midtown Japanese Deli Corridor (MJDC). The grocery is truly great and the food always bangin.

  • “I think 41st St. btw. Madison & 5th might be my favorite block of Midtown.”

    I couldn’t agree more… FYI, those red pickles aren’t ginger. It’s pickled daikon (radish).


    Really?  I could have swore it looked and tasted like ginger… usually pickled daikon is cut a lot thicker, isn’t it?  (Like the yellow ones that you get at Kushi Q.)  -zach

  • I love Yagura! True that the food quality isn’t the best, but it’s decent, and you can’t beat the price. I’ve found that the pork is a bit better on average than the chicken. I wish I still worked in that area… I’m craving curry now after reading that!

  • I saw the curry with chicken picture through flickr and I knew it was Yagura!! They definitely have great curry and it’s so cheap and fast…perfect for lunch at Bryant Park!

  • i started salivating as soon as i spotted the chicken curry pic. i used to get it 3/5 days when i worked in midtown. the chicken/pork is pipin hot & perfectly breaded…i do wish it was a bigger portion. yagura’s other star meal is the udon soup for the same price…beef & chicken are both delish. sometimes they have a special $3.95 for meatless udon soup.

    gosh, i miss yagura! their food is better than cafe zaiya.

  • You should try the Yagura dinner buffet! I went with a friend once, both of us starving, and ended up spending only $12 for the two of us, with oodles and oodles of food. Not terribly healthy – a lot of friend stuff like katsu or croquettes or tempura pumpkin (mmm, tempura pumpkin), but incredibly delicious and totally worth it.

    Not sure what time dinner starts, we went around 6. I’ve also been by around 7.

  • I love Yagura. What a treasure. Their curries are awesome. The udon/soba is so cheap and tasty.

    But, this week, I decided to take Ubu Walker’s advice and I have been making two sushi rolls and a few bite-sized rice balls for under $5.

    I bought vinegar, soy sauce, a package or roasted sesame seeds, wasabi, and nori. Now each day I just go in and buy some sashimi meat and rice. You can get spicy tuna for two rolls for about $2 and rice for $1.50. or enough plain tuna for two rolls for about $4.

    Put a little vinegar on your hands and then roll a couple rice balls. Add about two tablespoons of vinegar to the remaining rice. Spread half the rice on a piece of nori covering about 1/3 to 1/2 of the nori. Sprinkle sesame seeds (you could add a little wasabi here as well). Add the meat and roll up. Use a little water on your finger tip (or your tongue) to seal the roll. And you can just dip the whole thing in some soy sauce.


  • sorry but they tried to charge me 10cents for extra soy sauce, that’s ridiculous.

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    And one of the only places around where you can find wakame udon. They just don’t sell it in NJ.

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