Cafe Zaiya Introduces New Summer Menu Items

Variety has always been the greatest strength of Cafe Zaiya, the popular Japanese lunch spot and bakery on 41st (btw. 5th and Madison). On a recent trip, I noticed their offerings have gotten even more varied with the introduction of some new Summer lunch items, including cold noodles. See their new menu and get a look at one of the new dishes after the jump.

The first Summer item is the Healthy Summer Udon Noodle ($6.99), which has udon, celery, lettuce, carrot, shiso leaf, onion, chicken breast and Japanese radish. Next up is a Beef Shabu Shabu Salad ($5.99) with lettuce, beef, red onion, cherry tomatoes, Chinese radish and soy sauce dressing. And finally there is the Cold Green Tea Soba Noodle with Assorted Tempura ($6.99) features shrimp tempura, assorted vegetable tempura, shiso leaf, seaweed and wasabi.

I tried the soba noodles with tempura because, well, it included shrimp tempura. There are two sizable shrimp and the vegetable tempura was two pieces of carrot, one piece of green pepper and one piece of eggplant. The dish was pretty heavy but I later realized that the soy sauce dressing accounted to a large percentage of that weight.

The big problem with this meal is that the noodles and tempura do not react well to sitting out until someone decides to buy them. I’m not sure how long the one I ended up with had been sitting out, but it was probably a while since both the noodles and tempura were mushy. The tempura all tasted fine, and I’d have happily eaten some more of the shrimp, but if you’re looking for crisp, crunchy tempura, you’re probably not going to find it here (you also probably shouldn’t be looking at Zaiya’s pre-made meals in the first place). I mixed the noodles with the wasabi and seaweed and then dunked them in the dressing, which basically tasted like watered down soy sauce (fine by me). I expected the meal to be reasonably filling due to the presence of noodles, but I was definitely happy I still had room under the $10 limit for a rice ball because without it I’d have been hungry again pretty quick. Like I said, a lot of the weight was due to the dressing.

I think if you get this thing as soon as it comes out, the tempura and noodles probably won’t be as mushy as mine were. But either way, I doubt you’re going to mistake this for something made fresh. If you’re desperate to try something different at Zaiya (and you’ve already had everything else), or you really want a cold lunch that isn’t just a sandwich or salad, the soba noodles might be worth giving a shot. I’m inclined to stick with my many old standbys at Zaiya though, and just grab some green tea ice cream if I need to cool down.

Cafe Zaiya, 18 E. 41st St. (btw. 5th+Mad.), 212-779-0600

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