Rio & You Serves Up Traditional Japanese Fare, Makes Up Prices as it Goes

Rio & You, a Japanese spot just out of bounds on west 45th street that has been in the neighborhood for a number of years, was mentioned in the comments of the Mark Bittman post a few weeks ago. I’d never eaten there, because the lunch specials are expensive, but the other day on my way to Schmackary’s I stopped to look at the menu outside and saw a number of regular dishes seemingly in budget. Ramen (or, “Larmen,” as it is written on the menu)? Udon? Donburi? Well, if you insist!

Rio & You is run by a lovely Japanese woman, and every staff person I saw was also Japanese. Although there weren’t many people dining on the two occasions I stopped in for lunch, both times the clientele was entirely Japanese as well, which I took as a very good sign.

Of course, in my quest to replace Katsuhama for my go-to ML oyako don, I had to try the one from Rio & You. I thought my meal was going to be in budget according to the menu outside, but the oyako don ended up costing me $10.50 plus tax. My meal came with a small salad and a coffee cup half-filled with miso soup … but still, more expensive than I thought. Only mildly annoyed, I grabbed a to-go menu on my way out for next time.

It included a larger amount of veggie variety than I expected: nappa cabbage, a darker green that I can’t place, onion, carrot, scallion, dark meat chicken and egg over rice. Fortunately, the egg was nice and soft. It was topped w/ seaweed, which was a nice touch, but unfortunately the price will force me to continue my search for a new perfect Midtown oyako don.

I was prepared for my second visit. After studying the to-go menu, I knew I was going for one of their $8 ramen dishes, and as you should do with ramen, I was going to eat at the restaurant instead of ordering takeout. Unfortunately, the lunch menu they handed me had completely different prices than both the menu outside and the takeout menu I had been studying. Ramen was $11. I ended up ordering zaru soba, on the menu for $10.

The noodles, topped with nori, came with the traditional accompaniments: sliced scallions, wasabi and soba tsuyu (a cold dipping sauce) on traditional lacquer ware. The owner also brought over a bottle of shichimi (a blend of seven Japanese spices that includes red pepper) for optional heat. Everything was very traditional and expertly prepared. I put my scallions, a smidgen of wasabi and a sprinkle of shichimi in my dipping sauce and slurped away. Upon first glance a portion of zaru soba doesn’t appear to be a lot of food, but actually I was perfectly full at the end of my meal. I requested the check and was once again surprised at the bill: $11, plus a dollar for tax. Not a Midtown Lunch after all.

So, Midtown Lunchers, I am conflicted. Rio & You is a wonderful Japanese restaurant on 45th street that I would absolutely return to for a traditional Japanese meal. However, I cannot in good faith recommend it as a Midtown Lunch, because I have no idea what you’ll be charged for your food but sadly have a feeling it’ll be over budget.

Rio & You, 328 West 45th Street (btw. 8+9), 212-307-1617


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