Yushi Bento Bar Brings Style Over Substance to Midtown
After doing this site for over a year, I have become the go to guy for lunch recommedations at my work. And while I’m usually pretty good for a decent suggestion, there is one request that has, and will always stump me. “Where can I get something healthy?” I’ve been to a ton of places in Midtown, and they all have one thing in common. None of them are healthy. (Look at my flickr page for proof. It’s not a pretty sight.)
What can I say? Fat guys don’t eat healthy food. If we did, we wouldn’t be fat anymore, and then we couldn’t make jokes about how fat we are for the amusement of people who read our websites. Plus, you’re not going to trust a skinny guy to tell you where good food is. I guess I wouldn’t mind eating healthy, if it tasted good- and they gave you more of it. Healthy food is always less filling. Maybe if they had healthy food, in an all you can eat buffet form, I’d be down with it.
What did you just say? Buffet form would automatically make it unhealthy? Oh. Well, that sucks.
It’s just unhealthy food tastes so much better. Well, Yushi is trying to change that. It’s a new “Bento Bar” that opened up on 47th btw. Park & Lex, serving healthy bento boxes. You know I love a good bento, so last week I headed over to check it out.
What they’ve got, healthy bento porn and the +/- after the jump…After looking at the menu, Yushi almost got disqualified from Midtown Lunch status based on price alone. 4 of their sushi bentos are over $10.95, and 2 of their 5 non sushi bentos were $9.95, putting them just on the cusp (over if you consider tax). But, they had two soups, and 3 bentos under $8, and 3 bentos that were $9, so it could work. And I can’t turn down the opportunity to try new Asian food, so here it is.
With prices like this I knew there was a good chance that Yushi was going to be one of those over-priced, over styled, Midtown’ish kind of places, where you don’t get nearly enough food, but pay through the nose for it. And I wasn’t disappointed. Clearly it is style over substance, and they want you to feel like you are paying for quality, rather than quantity… so if that’s not your thing, you will probably want to avoid Yushi.
Ignoring the prices, and the small’ish portions, everything did look delicious. If you’re into sushi, the sushi and sashimi bentos were beautifully presented, and all come with greens or the Yushi noodle salad- but the best looking bentos were the no sushi boxes that featured perfectly seared tuna, salmon or beef tenderloin, all beautifully raw in the middle. I ended up going with the Prime Tataki and Soba, a beef carpaccio like dish served with greens, edamame and the Yushi Noodle salad.
That’s where things started to go a little wrong. I took a few bites, and it tasted like nothing. There was absolutely no flavor. The beef was cooked perfectly (seared a tiny bit on the outside, and totally raw on the inside), but it wasn’t really seasoned, and the soba noodle salad was abolutely flavorless. It was then I realized they forgot to give me the shallot and pepper dressing. Once I poured that over everything, the dish tasted a lot better.
In fact they had a lot of dressings which seemed to be where all of the dishes get their flavor. They’ve got a great jalepeno one, a pickled ginger one, thai chili, coriander and a sesame ponzu dressing. Make sure you don’t get cheated out of yours. At $9.95 I’m torn to say I loved my lunch. But, it didn’t taste bad, and it’s easily the cheapest beef carpaccio you are going to get for lunch in Midtown.
My wife, who was shocked by how expensive everything was, could not bring herself to buy one of the overpriced & underfilled bentos. She opted for the Homemade Dumpling Udon, which at $7 was one of the relative bargains of Yushi. It ended up being very tasty, with a miso style broth packed with udon noodles and these big vegetable dumplings- the whole thing peppered with pumpkin seeds. Sure, the noodles were a little on the mushy side, and the dumplings were overcooked, but the broth was tasty, and it was one of the few things on the menu where you felt as if you were getting your money’s worth.
Despite everything tasting good, we were pretty down on the place overall, because in the end my wife and I are more about value than style. If someone is doing something unique, like Oms/b, I don’t mind paying for it, but for bento boxes- there are too many great places in Midtown, that are way cheaper and you get more food. In fairness to Yushi though, the ingredients are top notch, the presentation is beautiful and they clearly are trying to make quick and healthy food that is beautiful. I didn’t notice it while we were there, but all the bentos have the calories listed, and they are healthy, and less fattening than anything I normally eat for lunch.
Yushi is a classic example of a place that some people are going to love and some people are going to hate- and it has nothing to do with the food. It is the perfect place for a +/- because your enjoyment of Yushi will depend entirely on what you are looking for in a Midtown Lunch. If you are looking for healthy, but made with quality ingredients in a stylish way, you will love Yushi. It also helps if money is not an issue. If you are looking for a cheap, authentic Japanese lunch where you are getting the most for your money, then Yushi is not the place for you. You are better off sticking to one of the places on 41st St.
For me, I will probably not be back to Yushi. Unless I win the lottery, and simultaneously decide I don’t want to be fat anymore.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place will say about it)
- Beautiful, hand crafted Japanese style food
- The quality of the meat and fish is so much higher than that of any take out Japanese place in Midtown
- I love raw beef, and this is the only place to get it for under $10, and take out from a place that I would trust eating raw beef from
- All the seared bentos are perfeclty cooked
- I want to lose weight, and everything has very little calories
- I like my sushi rolls served in sleek plastic tubes that look like they are going to be shot through one of those drive through bank teller machines
- I am all about portion control, and don’t need to eat like a fat pig at lunchtime
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place will say about it)
- Too expensive, and not enough food
- There are much better places to get Japanese Noodle soups
- There are much better places to get Japanese Bento Boxes
- I prefer authentic Japanese bento boxes. These are hip, overpriced Midtown bento boxes
- I don’t care about portion control, and want to eat like a fat pig at lunchtime.
Yushi, 245 Park Ave. (But it’s actually on 47th St. closer to Lexington), 212-687-1900
To see full size photos, check out the Midtown Lunch Flickr Photo Page.