Zaiya Opens Cafe Zest in Midtown East, With Full Restaurant Coming Soon


Finally some big time, super duper exciting news for Midtown Lunch’ers on the East side (yes, I just typed the words super duper.)  Cafe Zaiya (41st btw. Mad+5th), winner of Best Japanese Take Out in the Midtown Lunch Readers Poll, has opened “Cafe Zest by Zaiya” in the space formerly occupied by the 47th St. Japanese Convenience Store (on 47th St. btw.  Lex+3rd.)  A slightly upscale version of Cafe Zaiya, Cafe Zest sports an almost identical line up of goods, with a nicer (albeit much smaller) dining area in the back.  Sandwiches, bento boxes, rice balls, and a full dessert bar towards the back- plus they’re selling pre-packaged goods from Nonoca, a new restaurant concept opening in August (but more on that in a bit.)

Since the convenience store closed in January, I’ve been closely monitoring the progress, wondering what would end up in the space (and worrying it would suck.)  Now that Cafe Zest has opened, I can pretty much say that we couldn’t have done any better than this.  And I have even told you the best news.  That, plus your first look inside the new Cafe Zest, after the jump…  


On Monday and Tuesday of next week (July 21 & 22nd) all food will be 50% off to celebrate their grand opening. Here’s a look inside:



DSC09692As for the space upstairs, which was formally occupied by the Japanese restaurant Amakusa, the owners of Cafe Zaiya have taken that space as well and will be opening Nonoca in August, a Japanese restaurant featuring all organic ingredients.  If you want to get an idea of the kind of food they’ll be serving, they are currently selling a few things as take out items downstairs- including a pork and potato Japanese stew, a chicken steak with pasta dish (seen on the right) and an udon noodle salad (which has been selling out very quickly- despite the place being open less than a week.)

All of this comes just 7 months after they opened the Zaiya Cafe on the 2nd floor of the Kinokuniya Bookstore on 6th Ave. btw. 40+41st. I can’t wait to see what they do next!  (Thanks to Lunch’er Nancy for the tip.)


  • Woot! More asian bakeries are welcome to midtown! :o)

  • that’s some exciting news!

  • I was thrilled to find this very clean and spacious new bento place (with cookies!) The bentos look like the same ones as Cafe Zaiya, but possibly more expensive–bulgogi $8. I haven’t been to Zaiya in a while, have their prices gone up that much? I had the fish sandwich, I think it was $4.75. Really good–a nice piece of fried fish, lettuce, grape tomatoes, and tartar sauce with thinly sliced red onion. Very tasty. It seems very authentic–where else can you find a potato salad sandwich? The cookies are really reasonable and delicious–the sesame cookies are addictive!

  • Sweet Love!!! I think this is the best news I’ve gotten all week. Thank you Zach for filling my friday morning with sunshine.

  • Yes! I was so upset when the Japanese convenience store closed down. I guess it’s always darkest before the East-Side Midtown Lunch dawn.

  • yessssssss! that is right around the corner from me!!! thank ye east side gods.

  • I just came from there. It’s good because they have the “drink bar” you find at the kinokuniya branch- iced soy coffee without going to starbucks, woot! It can’t possibly compare to the wonder that is Zaiya on 41st, but it’s still worth the trip.

  • The problem, of course, is that this is close to Oms/B. Now there are two destination Japanese joints over there… Oh! To choose!

  • @Crackhead: No competition. Cafe Zest in a heartbeat. Oms/B is tiny, always packed, their selection seems to run out quickly AND it’s all rice-based treats. At Zaiya, and hopefully at Zest, there’s a ton more variety. Can’t wait to check it out.

  • I waited on line for a while today, but that’s definetly excusable because of the 50% sale because of the grand openning. Very clean and nice atmosphere. They have a good selection of nice drinks with low calories( mostly Ito-En stuff but they had an interesting Lychee Soda I didn’t try). I had the $8 salmon bento box. The salmon was good and so was the rice with what i believe was a bit of jasmine spice, but the potato was bland and the salad totally tasteless. Good food for the 50% sale but I would not pay full price on a regular day. I’m sure the original Cafe Zaiya is better but I have not had the opportunity to go there considering the distance from me as well as the wait I have heard about. The place is worth a try.

  • Walked over at 12 today, and man – the line was horrendous. For the usual folk who have just an hour lunch, it’s def’ not going to work out. We thought the 12pm lunch would be less crowded as 1pm is the more favored lunch slot – but we thought wrong. Apparently, Zaiya fans have all heard about Zest already. The line outside the door was about 70 deep at 12:15ish. There goes my plan for stocking up on ITO teas! (a blogger off another site stating even the bottled beverages were 50% off yesterday!)

  • I work half a block from here, so joy of joys, the food is good! Here’s what I’ve tried so far:
    Chicken curry — chicken cutlet over rice, served with curry on the side. The curry is one of the best, because it had shredded chicken in it! You can eat just the curry spooned over the rice! (about 6 bucks)
    The spicy chicken sandwich – chicken cutlet inside their brioche-like roll, with really spicy mayo – yum and a steal at $4.25. Equally good is the fish sandwich, with fish filet instead of the chicken.
    The nonuca (sp?) salad which comes with lettuce, corn, cucumber, panko crumbs and japanese noodles (large opaque thick, square shape if you cut a cross section) plus a miso based salad dressing
    The sesame cookies are yummy, the choc chip cookies overbaked, the an doughnut good but the bean paste filling tasted a little sour. I find that the entries/sandwiches are well priced, but the cookies are overpriced. You can usually snag a table in the back for a quick bite, or even better, snag a stool in the bar area up front where it is cooler (back room has a glass roof, too hot at noontime sometimes). THank you Zach for this find!

  • I think Cafe Zest changed owners recently. I don’t think they’re owned by Cafe Zaiya people anymore.

    The new management is NOT GOOD.

    I no longer see the friendly Japanses cashiers. There are MUCH LESS food selection. Hot soups don’t exist anymore.

    Now, there is a mean-looking middle-aged Japanese woman at the cashier. I don’t like her at all, she’s rude to non-Japanese people. I ordered noodle soup on Feb 24, the kitchen service was extremely slow. What they CALL noodle SOUP hardly contain soup at all.

    I almost went into Cafe Zest on Feb 27, but as I was about to open the entrance door, I saw the same middle-aged Japanese cashier. I just walked right out. And then I went to another Japanese place down the block for lunch.

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