Day 2 Worse Than Day 1 at Cafe Zest

Pandemonium at Cafe Zest

Yesterday Lunch’er Max sent me this photo from the line at Cafe Zest (on 47th btw. Lex+3rd), the new Japanese place opened by the owners Cafe Zaiya (on 41st btw. Mad+5th.) For their grand opening celebration they decided to offer everything for 50% off, yesterday and today, from Noon to 3pm. As you can see from the photo, yesterday got pretty bad, and they had run out of most everything but vegetarian bento boxes and white bread sandwiches by 1:45. Apparently today, it’s even worse. From the comments:

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 review from somebody who stuck it out, after the jump… 

The wait was worth it for the an pan…and boy, was there a wait. Here’s the Breakdown:

The Salmon Shio Bento: the salmon was kind of dry, but the eggplant side was excellent. The Salmon Teryaki Bento would most likely be a better bet.

The Riceballs:
Tuna: Nice. The mayo wasn’t over loaded and balanced the tuna well, but the rice itself should have had a bit more salt.
Salmon: Bland.
Kobu: Yummy! Yay seaweed in a riceball! Nicely seasoned and stuffed. No skimping on the filling.

The Bread:
An pan: Just how it should be—delicious. Moist, sweet & an excellent combination of flavor and texture.

Mellon pan: While I’m not sure that it tasted as much like a melon as it should, it was still sweet & tasty. The texture was a bit harder than that of the an pan, but it suited the bread, and wasn’t so hard that it crumbled when you bit in to it…just pleasantly crisp.

Green Tea Muffin: (I know it has a real name, I just wish I remembered it) The texture was nice and moist, with the red beans adding a nice flavor. The green tea taste was a bit more overpowering and a bit less refined than I had hoped, but overall a good snack.

Yakisoba pan: Very authentic. If you’re used to the American version of yakisoba (i.e.: mostly oil with a dash of soy sauce) you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by this one. It’s nicely flavored, and the bread holds on to the yakisoba well, so you most likely won’t find yourself covered in noodles or sauce. This would make an excellent lunch for those on the go.

As with any of these things, you always have to ask yourself “how much is my time worth.” Prediction for tomorrow: no line.

Got your own report from the scene?  Post it in the comments below…


  • I went to this afternoon at 1:15 and there was a short line to get in. When I left there was no line at all!

  • Yay! My review was noticed =^.^= Hope it was helpful. The wait was more than hellish today, but I’m sure as soon as the sale is over it’ll calm down a bit…just give it a week or two…..I hope….

  • Nice photo eh!
    My lunch crew was back @ Zest today @ 11:55 am. We walked in – no line.
    When we exited about 10 min later the line was 40 people long. It’s all in the timing folks!!

    Not sure the chicken sandwich will go in the rotation though — it’s too asiany.

  • I went there the last two days. I can’t pass up paying less then $5.00 for a quality meal. Yesterday I had the Bulgogi Bento… The beef was a little tough and dry… but tasty. The rice was, well, rice. The eggplant side was really good. I had no idea what the small black stringy stuff was, but it was edible. The salad was ok. For $4.67 w/ tax, it can’t be beat. I would never pay $8.00 for it though. And I didn’t finish all the rice so again, $8.00 would be a bit much for me.

    Today, I figured I’d save more money and get a simple sandwich. I show up and I see tons of rice balls flying off the rack and back on. So off the bat, i had to try one since they were less than a dollar. Almost went with two or three until I saw fried fish sandwiches fresh made in front of me. I walked out with a fish sandwich, spicy tuna rice ball, and a itoen iced tea for $4.80… Amazing. The sandwich was really good. The rice ball was new for me, and I enjoyed it completely. The tea also was really good for my first time. All in all, GREAT food for the prices the last two days. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will find myself buying lunch here again. For the price, I’d rather try to find something that’s made to order… and for the rice balls, i guess I might as well try Ohms/b now… so yea… Cafe Zest, it was fun while it lasted.

  • Wow, someone got the Yakisoba pan?

    I’ve always been slightly transfixed and slightly disgusted at it and too scared to try it. I mean, who stuffs a hot dog bun with noodles?

  • To the person who went to get ITO EN Teas, you can order them online too:

  • yesterday was the best, picked up 2 pieces of delicious mango mousse for 3.75 :)

  • The chicken donburi was only okay, but the beef donburi was delicious, thinly sliced beef perfectly seasoned. And for people who love red bean desserts–the green tea pianomo roll was to die for. I stood in line apparently at the longest wait time, but it was worth it. I’ll definetely go back.

  • I went there on the first day and it wasn’t that crowded but that maybe because I went a little before 3PM.

    @ Jackie, if you did do that mini review; just wanted to point out that Melon Pan is not suppose to taste like melon. It is a type of sweet cookie-like topped bread. One of the things I brought there was well, it was not bad. Pretty tastey.

    I haven’t been able to try all those bentos but if you have room for dessert, should really try those Almond Cookies! They melt in your mouth!~

  • that’s my friend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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