With Second Location Kushi Q Ends Up Right Where it Belongs… In a Mall Food Court
As much I love meat on a stick, I admit I haven’t been back to Kushi Q (on 3rd Ave. btw. 45+46th) since they first opened almost 3 years ago. I liked it enough, for a fast food-under $10 yakitori spot, but it’s always tough for me to revisit a place. What can I say? Midtown lunch is a tough a gig. :-)
But when I heard they had opened a new location in the CitiGroup Center basement food court (on 53rd btw. Lex+3rd), I figured it was a good excuse for some fast food meat on a stick action… and it turns out they’ve made some positive changes in two years (go figure!)
My biggest complaint on the first visit was that 3 skewers isn’t enough food. Well, I don’t know when they made this change but they now offer 5 skewer combo meals, which can be under $10 depending on what you order. If you want all chicken, it’s only $8.80 (and comes with a soup and salad or rice) or you can spend $10.20 and choose any 5 sticks you want (not counting the shrimp.) I know it breaks the rules by 20 cents… but whatever. Fat man want five sticks.
Nothing crazy… from bottom to top, I went with fried chicken, beef, chicken, Japanese style berkshire sausage (aka mini hot dog!), and fried gyoza. The chicken was less dry than I remember from my first visit, but I’m sure it’s a crapshoot every time you visit depending on who is working the grill. Beef was good, and how could the fried chicken be bad? They dip every stick into sweet teriyaki glaze that is tasty, and not too sweet. The “Berkshire sausage” looked and tasted just like a mini hot dog, which could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how much you like hot dogs. (I like it, natch.) As for the fried dumplings, they were fried- so clealy they weren’t terrible. But they didn’t have much flavor. Truthfully I was just curious what fried dumplings on a stick looked like. The combo comes with a miso soup (which tows a very very fine line between decent and dishwater… although leans slightly more towards dishwater) and rice or salad, but they’ll give you half and half if you ask. With the five skewers, rice and salad it is now a completely filling Midtown Lunch.
Not everybody is down though. Lunch’er “Andrew” went last week and filed this report in the comments:
I went today for lunch, and it was not awful but it was disappointing. The wait was long even though there were only a couple of orders in front of me. It looked to me like perhaps their grill was not hot enough, but also that they had not kept loading the grill up with raw stuff as the cooked stuff came off. As I stood there they finally loaded up the grill with lots more skewers although I don’t know who they were planning to sell those to because there was no one behind me.
I wouldn’t have minded the wait if the result had not been some pretty bland chicken. The meat seemed like ok meat, not dry, but it just needed some seasoning. They give it a dip in some sauce before it goes in your box, and the sauce has some flavor to it but there just wasn’t enough sauce on their to rescue the dish. I’m curious to go back and try the salmon or pork but I won’t bother with the chicken again.
The bento box comes with salad, which was fine, and miso soup, which was the worst version of miso I have ever had – it reminded me of the dishwater that seemed to be dripping off the disgusting dumplings I once tried from the Rickshaw cart. I didn’t think it was worth $10 for five skewers of bland chicken and some salad and some dishwater soup. When I go back I will try ala carte.
The key to Kushi Q is expectations. If you’re looking for a quality yakitori lunch, Yakitori Totto’s newish $10 lunch special is as good as it gets (on 55th btw. B’way+8th). Expect the same from Kushi Q and you are going to be pretty disappointed. But for fast food, I’m totally down.
They’ve also added two new menu items… curry rice and steamed lotus bun sandwiches. I”m definitely interested in going back to try both. They’ve been selling out of the sandwiches before lunch, but I suspect they’ll adjust to accommodate demand.
The +/- is pretty much the same as it was 2 1/2 years ago… but boils down to this. Go in with really high expectations, and you’ll find plenty you could critique. But if you love mall food court cuisine (which I do), you could do a lot worse than this tasty Japanese meat on a stick chain.
Kushi Q (Two Locations)
- 723 3rd. St. (btw. 45+46th), 212-682-5238
- 153 E. 53rd St. Atrium Level (btw. Lex+3rd)