Yagura is My Current Favorite Place for Value Grub

Yagura (41st btw. Mad+5th) is the most unassuming Japanese grocer in the 41st street trinity tetrad, once called the “ugly duckling” of the group by Donny. It’s true, there is no fancy sign to herald its existence. In fact, I had to double check with the staff that it was, in fact, Yagura. It’s a favorite in my office for its value.

And I agree with my coworkers. This is the kind of place I would go every single day if the onus wasn’t upon me to write about lunches in Midtown. Sure, the place doesn’t look quite as fancy as the other grocers, and the customer service is definitely lacking. But that’s part of what I love about it. Recently I’ve been into the bowls (donburi, or don for short) from the picture menu.

The beef don (Gyudon) is beef with onion over rice with some strips of pickled, salty ginger. The ginger works very well with the slightly sweet flavor of the thinly sliced beef. There are enough juices from the beef to make the rice most enough to eat alone. There is a very large portion of meat for the price — with tax it’s $6.52.

The oyakadon serves up two generations of chicken in one bowl. It’s an omelet with dark chicken pieces, onion, and a few slices of bright yellow pickled turnip. And you have to appreciate the plastic green grass on the side! The omelet was quite salty and tasty, and the chicken was very tender. There was a little less meat than in the beef, but the overall egg+chicken volume was about the same.

And I’m not sure why French cream puffs (Shu Cream in Japan or as Yagura Calls them, Chou a la creme) became so popular in Japan… does anyone know the history? I can see why they are so popular, these things are really fucking amazing. The custard/cream inside is beautfully thick and a little cold — like a rich whipped cream. The somewhat crispy but soft puff is covered in powdered sugar. The dessert is rich but not overwhelmingly sweet. They also serve a pastry with red bean.

Who has eaten at Yagura, and what do you recommend?

Yagura Japanese Grocery, 24 E 41st St. (btw. Mad+5th), 212-679-3777

13 Comments

  • Not much to its history. Trends come and go. I recall the Japanese craze for cream puffs started over a decade ago with Beard Papa. I remember there used to be a Beard Papa inside Cafe Zaiya and that seemed to be about the height of the cream puff’s popularity in NYC.

    My coworker loves the ramen at Yagura.

    • I had udon at Yagura once. I wasn’t impressed by the broth, but I’ve never really been one for udon broth to begin with.

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    Been Rocking Yagura since the late 90′s. Solid as shit 41st street market. I’ve had every udon there – always solid. I’ve had their sushi a few times – never anything bad. They always run a discount on Asahi 12 packs at the register. Cheapest in NYC!

  • worthy post here. a classic lowkey spot that’s been there for years and years. i’m happy they started the cream puffs there, they’re amazing!!! this place is overall great bang for the buck.

  • Try the tonkatsu Curry with Rice.

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    Their chicken katsudon is the bomb – thy use an entire breaded chicken thigh, so maybe you get more meat than the plain oyakadon . I remember when it used to be 5.93 (w/ tax). This was before their fancy “renovation” bumped prices.

    Also, I may or may not have had 3 of those cream puffs in one sitting.

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    I have always said their Curry is one of the best I’ve had in the city and cheapest too. Better than Gogo. Try it with chicken katsu.

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    @jenjfen Who cares how the decor is? Don’t most (or all) of the decent markets in Chinatowns look awful but stock quite a lot of good stuff?

    @deanlo There was a Beard Papa on Broadway by Astor Place too. Wish it was still there. Ah well. There’s a choux place by the UN anyway.

    I’d always get takana rice and tofu for lunch, usually with a can of green tea and maybe some karaage (with lemon).

    • I love Choux Factory! Especially the peppermint and blueberry flavors. Their tea cakes are also quite nice, if a little rich.

  • I had many an udon soup here on a cold winter’s day when at one time, they had to leave the door open because there were so many people online.

    Service was quick, though.

  • Is Beard Papa out of business entirely, or only certain locations?

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