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Mai Cuisine recently opened near Bryant Park — it’s a combination Japanese “deli” and sit-down restaurant, headed by a chef who trained with Morimoto. The capacious front carryout area offers everything from deluxe sushi packs, to bento boxes, to onigiri, tempura, and “sushi cups.” The full-service restaurant is in the back, apparently serving lunch now and dinner soon.
Reportedly, Mai Cuisine is the same company that supplies Whole Foods with its sushi, but Mai’s seemed much better than Whole Foods’ to me. Sushi packaged to-go is never as good as made-to-order sushi, mainly because the rice gets too cold and hard. But within those limitations, Mai serves some tasty sushi and other dishes. If I worked in the neighborhood, I’d definitely make it part of my lunch rotation.
Above is one of those “sushi cups” ($8.95), this one the Hokkaido version. It looks pretty, but it doesn’t function terribly well. First, you eat all the good stuff off the top — scallop, sea urchin, salmon roe, crab, tamago, shiso leaf — and then you’ve got a big cup o’ rice to deal with.
Bento boxes range from $5.49 to $10.79, depending on the size. You can choose from a large selection of fish, meat, and tofu preparations, plus side dishes of various salads and pickled vegetables. No matter the size, you take it in this twee little carrying case.
I particularly liked this curry-fried Spanish mackerel as a bento component.
16 East 41st Street