Oyakodonpalooza 2: Cafe Zaiya Vs Sakagura
On a not too cold day, I decided to walk to Cafe Zaiya for some deep fried curry bread goodness. While looking around the store, hoping to buy more than just curry bread, I noticed in the refrigerated shelves there were few ready-made bowls of oyakodon ($5.49). Some of you may know that I’m on a mission to find some delicious oyakodons in Midtown. So far my favorite is the version from Udon West on 46th Street btw. Lex+3rd (with it’s perfectly cooked scrambled eggs and big chunks of dark meat) while Sapporo on 49th St., btw. 6th & 7th coming in a close second. For research sake, I decided to get one.
Then a few days later, a few of us in the office decided to get lunch. Not sure where to eat, a coworker suggested Sakagura (43rd St btw 2nd + 3rd). I had heard about this basement sake bar many years ago but in my head sake bars equal small plates of foods, so I never bothered to look at the menu. Most of the items on the lunch menu were way over the ML price range except for the appetizers and the plain (hot and cold) soba noodles ($9). Then I saw it, in the rice bowl section, an oyakodon for $11.50. It seems like a head to head battle seemed in order.
First thing I noticed about Sakagura was that it was quite roomy. I imagined it to be dark (since it’s in the basement of an office building) with a few seats at the bar and few tables. Sakagura was the total opposite. The bar stretched from one end of the restaurant to the other end and it was very bright. I knew what I wanted to get already but I looked through the menu anyways. I spotted a lunch special where for a buck more you can add a bowl of their plain (hot or cold) soba to any of their rice bowls. I’m already paying $11.50 for a bowl of rice, so why not add a dollar for a bowl of soba?
I felt slightly disappointed when I saw how small the bowl of oyakodon was. I think they (or I hope they did) shrunk it because I got the bowl of soba with the meal. Though that wasn’t much of a comfort. I was hungry, give me a big bowl of rice!
Despite the size of the bowl, this was a bowl of delicious egg and chicken over rice. The egg was runny, light and fluffy. The pieces of chicken (smaller than I expected) were perfectly seasoned and tender. The whole time I was eating it, I couldn’t help but feel comforted. As for the bowl of hot soba, the broth was quite good and tasted clean but the soba noodles themselves were a little bit too soft. Just ok, but all in all the entire meal was a great winter’s day lunch.
Surprisingly the bowl from Cafe Zaiya felt room temperature-ish, which I thought was a good thing since I did not want to take it back to work to microwave it. The eggs were pretty much cooked to well done and the chunks of chicken were a bit dry as well. Taste wise, it tasted like a standard oyakodon. I wasn’t expecting much especially for something that was intended to be cheap, quick and sitting on the shelf for an unknown amount of time. It did do it’s job at satisfying my craving.
Two very different bowls of oyakodon (price, quality of ingredients, sitdown/on-the-go, freshness) from opposite ends of the dining spectrum. Sakagura, a high end sit down sake bar, served a very delicate and perfectly made bowl of oyakodon. While the egg was still runny (probably the most runny of all oyakodons I’ve had so far), I found the pieces of chicken to be too small. There’s also the fact that the price was over the ML price range. I say, if you’re in the mood for a once-in-a-while fancy lunch, then go splurge a little at Sakagura. All my coworkers enjoyed their lunch very much and I wouldn’t say no if someone suggested going here once more.
As for Cafe Zaiya, I suppose it sort of satisfied my cravings, but next time I’m in the area I’ll probably just go to Yagura.
Cafe Zaiya, 18 E. 41st St. (btw. 5th & Madison) 212-779-0600
Sakagura, 211 E. 43rd St. B1F (btw. 2nd & 3rd) 212-953-7253