Here’s another excellent Midtown East lunch special that should be on your radar. Mifune is a high end Japanese restaurant run by a cast of pedigreed chefs who trained at some of the best restaurants in Paris. While a dinner tasting will run you $100 a person, or $250 if you do the omakase at the sushi bar Amane downstairs, the lunch menu entrees hover at around a reasonable $25.
The thing to get is definitely the Mifune chirashi box, and it’s because the sushi rice that comes with it is so good. The rice is served separately from the raw fish in two different compartments, one topped with cooked egg and roe and the other with some pickled vegetables. They’re both fantastic and could shine on their own as independent dishes. There are also Western entrees on the menu, reflecting Mifune’s Franco-Japanese point of view, which is great if you’re in the mood for something more hearty and filling, and the juicy and tender roasted duck breast with brown sugar vinegar sauce will do the trick. If you were never jealous of people who worked near the UN or Grand Central, which are both comfortably within walking distance of Mifune, then you might be now.
245 E 44th St (between 2nd and 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10017
Lunch at Sushi Yasuda never even occurred to me as an option. I’m the type of girl who out of principle likes to keep weekday lunches to $10 or under, and there was no way that lunch at a fancy, world-renowned sushi restaurant would meet my reservation price. But I recently learned that Sushi Yasuda offers a pre fix lunch special for around $24. It’s true that the price tag exceeds my $10 maximum, but on a relative scale, it’s a great value considering an ordinary sit-down dinner there can run about $200+ per person. On my visit, I ordered the chirashi lunch set, which came with a soup or salad, and there were 4 types of sashimi and two pieces of tamago beautifully draped on top of the sushi rice. There’s a $2 add-on for dessert, which again is a pretty good deal so of course I opted in for it.
The skilled and thoughtful manner with which Sushi Yasuda prepares its food is apparent in every aspect of a dish. The miso soup, which is more of an afterthought at many Japanese restaurants, was extremely distinctive with its bold dashi flavors that really emphasized a full-bodied umami taste. As expected at a high-end sushi restaurant, the raw fish was extremely fresh and just seemed to melt in your mouth. The fish came pre-seasoned with soy sauce and fresh wasabi, which was something I wasn’t expecting. I’m still on the fence about the rigid rules of sushi consumption that apply at places like Sasabune and Sushi Yasuda, but perhaps there’s a reason for this disciplinarian dining, as there was no need to add anything more to taste. Even the sushi rice was distinctive. The hints of grated ginger provided some nice texture and sharp flavors, and the slightly sweet and tangy flavors in the rice were in perfect balance. Do I even have to tell you that the rice was cooked to perfection–not too sticky, but still cohesive? I’m not a big rice person, but I ate every last grain in that bowl.
For dessert, you get to choose between mochi ice cream, two scoops ice cream or fruit. Sushi Yasuda’s forte is obviously in the appetizers and entrees, but the desserts were a nice, sweet way to finish off the meal. I especially enjoyed the red bean ice cream, and the mochi had the perfect ratio of rice cake to ice cream. It’s a good thing I live downtown, because I would probably break my $10 lunch rule all the time if I worked around here!