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
Midtown East, the exciting hub of financial firms, big corporations and Hale and Hearty chains, never had much appeal to me. But one thing that can lure me to that side of town are the many great options for a sushi lunch. Normally a sushi dinner at Kurumazushi, an old school veteran of the high-end Manhattan sushi scene, would set you back at least $100 a person, but the lunch is a more affordable option at $25 a set, $35 for sashimi only. Four different types of gleaming fresh fish and a bowl of miso soup arrive at your table in very efficient fashion, leaving you to enjoy a Michelin caliber meal without going over your lunch break. The location isn’t the nicest, and you will be surrounded by suits, but this is a small price to pay for a really good sushi deal.
7 E. 47th St (between 5th Ave and Madison Ave)
New York, NY 10017
Bangkok is an exciting city that’s defined by a chaos that overwhelms your senses. Examples include the maddening gridlock at all hours; the crush of people clamoring for photos with golden buddhas; the stifling heat; and the fragrant aromas from the outdoor markets. This is a city that commands your attention at all times, and the only moment of respite might be at the massage parlor. Although there’s no guarantee with even that if your Thai masseuse is bending you in all sorts of contorting positions.
Sometimes you need a break from all that stimulation. Sweaty and stressed from haggling with a cab driver who didn’t want to use his meter and from elbowing all the tourists at Wat Pho, I needed to get away, asap. As I walked down the driveway towards the entrance at Bo.lan, I could feel the weight of Bangkok city living slowly being lifted off of my shoulders. The beautiful and sturdy teak walls blocked out all the craziness outside so that the urban din was just a distant memory. I felt very regal sitting on the dark wicker chairs and fanning myself like a rich Thai spending time in her summer home.
Bo.lan is indeed a high-end restaurant serving traditional Thai cuisine using local ingredients. One of the hosts described the restaurant’s commitment to the Slow Food movement. A free range chicken used here, for instance, takes longer to grow and might be smaller in size compared to commercial chickens amped up on corn feed and hormones, but there’s no mistaking the superiority in flavor. It was great to see that the commitment to local farmers and sustainable agricultural practices is alive and well in Thailand.
Normally a meal at one of Asia’s Top 50 restaurants will cost you $65 USD at a minimum, but a lunch will cost only half as much. The pre-fixe menu consists of 4 courses that make up a typical Thai meal–a soup, a salad, a curry and a fried dish. The flavor profile reflects the Thai cooking principles of balance, in which fiery heat is counteracted by muted creams, and sweet is balanced out by salty. Thai food in the States is usually very sweet and homestyle in nature, but Bo.lan’s preparation is much more refined than anything I’ve ever come across. The curries and coconut based broths are so smooth and elegant and without imperfection. It takes great skill to whittle away all the different seasonings that go into a sauce or a paste into one harmonious blend. The level of heat was also authentically off the charts. There’s no Western option of spicy, only Thai spicy, and the burn from the seemingly harmless squid salad and the green jungle curry was brutal.
After cooling off with a dessert, it was back to the chaos outside. A meal here is fit for a king and not for the everyday, so I knew that I wouldn’t be back anytime soon. Bo.lan does have a more casual sister restaurant called ERR near Wat Pho and Wat Arun that is more accessible for the tourist budget that can only stretch so much. For many of us, we’ll never be royal, so this down to earth option might make more sense but will still be plenty tasty.
There’s nothing more I love than Japanese bento lunch specials. Something about seeing compartments neatly filled with dainty pickled vegetables, crisp tempura pieces, white rice and a protein makes me very happy. I think the fact that you are visually and literally eating a square meal is a very appealing prospect. You don’t need to debate over whether you want noodles or donburi, the bento meal takes care of that by giving you a bit of both!Read More