Zaiya Gets Slapped With a C From DOH

Cafe Zaiya (on 41st btw. 5+Mad) has never really struck me as an “unsanitary” place, yet it always seemed like their practice of storing food out in the open might get the attention of the DOH.  That day may have finally come as the Japanese eatery now has a C hanging in the window. We’ve been afraid for awhile that the DOH would ruin everything we loved about Zaiya, but there was only one major difference I noticed on a recent trip.

The sushi has been moved to the beverage fridge in the rear right hand corner of the store. That fridge looks a bit more enclosed than where the sushi used to be. I heard that the onigiri was refrigerated at one point (a major fear of mine since it’s never as good when it’s refrigerated), but they were back out in the open when I was there. And all the donburi and bento boxes were also still out in the open… thankfully.

It seems that Zaiya has had one inspection since the one that earned them a C and that they were able to sneak back into B territory. Perhaps that letter in the window will be changing soon – unless that requires them to refrigerate the onigiri, in which case I say stick with the C. Totally worth it.


  • C for culinary delights?

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    My friend said it was very very unsanitary in the kitchen. She passed by it when she went to use their restroom. This was about eight months ago. She loved the place, but after seeing the kitchen she has never gone again.

  • Meh. I think it comes down to leaving the sushi out….the sushi that has such a high turnover it gets left out.

    • Yea, the temperature of their rice balls too. The fish onigiri (spicy salmon? tuna?) is warm when I grab them. LOL.

      Damn. I was contemplating getting lunch from them soon. Eh, not like they ever made me sick and their pastries are decent. Maybe now, I won’t have to fight the crowd to get my food or go there late. Haha.

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    This is one of those…how could people possibly like it places? The food is just horrible.

    • This is one of those…how could anyone not have the same tastes as me? Your opinion is irrelevant.

    • obviously, you have never been there

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        Used to go there with coworkers for lunch. I just didn’t see the appeal at all–the “chicken sandwiches” in the bento boxes that I was told were “awesome” were just pathetic. Like three-day old KFC, if it had been dropped on the ground a bunch of times.

        I really don’t see how being a “noob” applies here at all? If you’ve never posted on Midtown Lunch before, it means you’ve never been to a restaurant? You can’t taste food? You can’t have an opinion? Really silly logic.

        The reason I’m suddenly posting is that I’m really annoyed by the blatant “Internet” food bias that seems to have trickled into Midtown Lunch and similar blogs. Went to El Rey Del Sabor after all the hype–it sucked. Went to Sophie’s Cuban after all the hype–it REALLY sucked. A tipping point was reading the year-end review, in which the editor somehow felt that because Five Guys was a “chain not from NY,” it couldn’t possibly be better than Shake Shack (I actually like SS and am not saying Five Guys is better…but refusing to accept the fact that some chains can have good food? Pathetic)

        Then, seeing anyone view Zaiya as something other than a sh*t-hole forced me to chime in.

      • Just making sure you didn’t come on here to just hate on choices other people make for no reason. You have a right to your opinion…even if it’s the wrong one. :P

        I can’t say I love all foods at Cafe Zaiya. It’s cheap food and provides a decent lunch option for the neighborhood. If you don’t want to eat here, nobody is forcing you to. Same with El Rey Del Sabor or Sophie’s. They already have a consistent fanbase. They don’t need you or myself. I’m not really a fan of either of those places but that’s because I don’t prefer their food.

    • A noob member spewing hate on their food? Yea, must be legit. STFU and get your own business (if you’re a competitor in the area.)

  • You get what you deserve in life….. usually.

  • “C” is average right? :)

    I don’t see why the grade matters. If Shake Shack got a “C”, would it keep the masses from flocking? If you trust Zaiya, you’ll likely continue eating regardless of their grade.

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    There seem to be two different ML attitudes. There are those who are unafraid to eat at places that *appear* to be unsanitary, and there are those who are unafraid to eat at places that *are* unsanitary.

    Considering how rare a C grade is, I can only assume that C=gross. And for those of you who would like to believe that Zaiya got the C for some ticky-tack technical violations, don’t read the following quote from DOH:

    “Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.” This was true at 4 of the last 5 inspections.

    I guess there are some people who are not disgusted by mouse poop in the kitchen.

    One last bit: Yes, the sushi has high turnover during lunch, but because of the huge volume that Zaiya does, they have to start stocking a lot of stuff a couple hours in advance. While I’m not a big fan of refrigerated rice, I’m even less a fan of unrefrigerated raw fish. At least this is something they were able to fix easily.

  • Cafe Zaiya was PACKED today like it usually is.
    I guess mouse poop is fine to the loyal customers as long as their prices do not sky-rocket and food quality gets poorer.

    Also, the C is on the 2nd door coming in so it really isn’t that noticeable…

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