Ask the Critics: Where Can I Get a Japanese Breakfast?
Mo P. asks: My girlfriend is craving Japanese breakfast -- the rice/miso soup/pickles/mackerel spread we had every morning in Japan a few years ago. Where can I take her for Japanese breakfast in or around NYC? I know a few high-end hotels do an overpriced version for Japanese travelers, but do any actual restaurants serve it?
Dear Mo: Soup, pickles, and mackerel don't really fall into the starch-heavy American breakfast ideology of pancakes and waffles. You're right that several pricey hotels serve Japanese-style breakfasts, but you're in luck: I've found three stand-alone shops that offer a Far Eastern approach to the morning.
Your overall best bet will be East Village bakery, café and takeout shop Panya, which serves breakfast beginning at 7:30. Being a fan of Japanese breakfasts myself, I decided to go check it out this morning.
As you can see in the photo, this breakfast offers everything that you're looking for: a large piece of cooked salmon, a bowl of miso soup chock full of tofu and seaweed, a small green salad, pickles, two types of seaweed salad, a small portion of natto, a raw quail egg, and bonito flakes. All for $8.50. Not too shabby, since this breakfast easily fed me and a friend. And best of all, breakfast is served all day, so this meal can easily double as lunch or dinner if you can't stomach salmon before noon.
I also tried the breakfast at Oms/b, a tiny Midtown eatery specializing in omusubi, or Japanese rice balls. They offer a "morning set" breakfast, which comes with a small side of miso soup and any two of its signature rice balls, plus two (yes, only two) pickles, for $5. Although the menu lists oodles of choices, the morning's fare was limited to about a dozen different rice balls flavored and stuffed to tempt your palate, from cod roe to bonito flakes to spicy tuna. I had the yukari plum with sesame and the hijiki with edamame and was quite content with both, though I had higher expectations for the pickles.
I did find you one final option, but I don't generally like the food served at Dojo, so caveat emptor. But the NYU-populated, vegetarian-friendly restaurant offers a sort of bastardized Japanese brunch served until 5 p.m. each day. For $5.95 you get miso soup (or chicken or French onion soup or a side salad), plus fried whitefish and sautéed broccoli and zucchini.
Readers, did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.
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