Cafe Zaiya first started serving up fresh Japanese pastries in New Jersey, in 1990. Over a decade later, the brand has expanded to multiple locations in Manhattan. With the move, they have also broadened their menu, adding affordable and authentic savory Japanese dishes to their menu, such as Pork Katsudon, a rice dish with fried pork and vegetables, and triangular rice balls with various fillings called Onigiri.
The best Cafe Zaiya location can be found across from Bryant Park, on 6th Avenue and 40th Street. It’s on the second floor of the Kinokuniya Bookstore, a Japanese specialty bookstore stocked with all of the latest manga, in English and in their native Japanese. The store also has a great collection of anime films and television shows, and collector’s items and clothing.
Visitors can peruse through rows of every manga novel imaginable, while enjoying the fare that Cafe Zaiya has to offer. But you don’t have to be a manga fan to enjoy your visit. Cafe Zaiya is a perfect place for students, or for anyone on a budget. It’s a perfect opportunity to sample fresh made Japanese food without breaking the bank, with no dish costing more than $10.00. The food is labeled so that you know exactly what you’re eating. For the less adventurous, the cafe sells ham and cheese, as well as fried chicken sandwiches made with house-made mayonnaise.
However, the real highlights are their pastries. My favorite is the chocolate cornet; I always buy three or four to take home. But for the first time today, I tried their green tea cake roll and taro bubble tea frappe.
The green tea cake roll was not very sweet, but if you love green tea you will enjoy it. The green tea buttercream filling has a great texture, and I was surprised to find red bean paste inside of it, but it was good. The bubble tea made up for the sweetness the cake didn’t have. The taro was good and very milky and I’m glad I opted out of the whipped cream.
Next time you visit Bryant Park, make sure to stop by Kinokuniya Bookstore and treat yourself to a little sweet treat. On my next visit, I’m excited to try the herbal mulberry tea and strawberry short cake!
Cafe Zaiya: 18 East 41st Street, New York, NY 10017