The Best Cheap Midtown Lunch Can Be Found at Wajima


That strange corridor around the East 59th Street stop, an area known more for bustling chain stores than its restaurants, is not exactly a dining destination. Luckily, one of the handful of exceptions is currently firing on all cylinders, as it has been for about ten years. Wajima (134 East 61st Street; 212-813-9065) is a small Japanese restaurant, often packed at midday, and it serves one of the tastiest — and cheapest — lunch deals in the city.

With so many sky-high office towers in the area, Wajima is in a great spot for lunch breaks. Its simple, wood-paneled dining room is small, offering efficient service and lunch specials that draw a crowd. Ranging from $12.50 to $14.50, the three lunch deals are generously portioned, with an assortment of treats.

For $12.50 (less than the price of a sandwich and soup at nearby Hale and Hearty), you can get a nice selection of chirashi sushi, including fresh cuts of orange-hued salmon, ruby-red tuna, and sweet layers of tamago, along with freshly made cold soba noodles, ultra-flaky shrimp and vegetable tempura, and miso soup. The real winner of the daily offerings is chawanmushi, a silky warm egg custard, served with chopped shrimp and chicken on top.

And if sushi isn’t your game, the $14.50 special gets you ultra-thin beef sukiyaki in a rich, warm broth, in addition to tender agedashi tofu. Wajima also serves just about every sushi roll and platter you could hope for.