One of the best things about New York is that you can go on a culinary taste tour around the world without leaving the city. You can dine on dumplings in Chinatown, slurp up linguine in Little Italy, and scarf down bulgogi in Koreatown. But on East 41st Street between 5th and Madison Avenues in Manhattan are a trio of Japanese restaurants that pack as much culinary punch in one small block as do the entire neighborhoods of Chinatown, Little Italy, and Koreatown. These restaurants are sure to take your taste buds on a virtual trip to Japan:
You don't go to Yagura for the atmosphere (read: it's nonexistent) or the service (read: it's nonexistent). You go there for super affordable, freshly made Japanese dishes such as udon noodles in broth, chicken katsu with curry sauce, and chicken teriyaki over rice. Bonus: there's also a small Japanese supermarket on the premises, so you can stock up on authentic groceries after your meal.
One step up from Yagura in terms of atmosphere and service is Cafe Zaiya. Since it's extremely popular with nearby office workers, you'll have to push your way through the bustling crowd, but it's completely worth it. Try not to drool when you spot the racks stacked with boxed sushi and sashimi, bento boxes (chicken, beef, and salmon), rice bowls (the oyako donburi, which is chicken and egg over rice, is especially good), onigiri (kind of like sushi in the form of a ball, which is stuffed with fillings such as shrimp tempura and spicy tuna), and various sandwiches. End your meal with a tantalizing selection from the dessert cases. How about green tea pudding? Or maybe some mango mousse instead? The choices are endless.
Unlike Yagura and Cafe Zaiya, which are strictly takeout places (though they do offer limited seating), Chiyoda Sushi is half takeout joint, half sit down restaurant. It's also the most expensive restaurant of the trio, and for good reason: it's the most aesthetically pleasing (modern, yet homey and warm) and its menu items are of a more refined quality. Indulge in artfully presented platters of sushi, rich bowls of soba noodles, and delicately seasoned salads with seafood and tofu.