Today's lunch recommendation? Head to Cha-An in the East Village for lunch—in particular, Bento Set "B" ($19). It will give you a wide taste of the menu, dessert and tea included. You will leave quite satisfied. The meal begins with tea, any tea off the menu, be it a plain warming Assam or one of their special iced Matcha or Chai Lattes.
Quiche, smoked salmon salad, and more, after the jump.
Then out comes a wedge of the house Soy Milk Quiche, studded with mushrooms and and chopped scallions in puff pastry. Soy milk may seem an odd choice but the effect is subtle, and the taste of dashi comes through more strongly with each wobbly, eggy bite.
Eat quick, because the full bento arrives rather quickly, especially during prime lunch hours. The only letdown was a milky bowl of potato soup dotted by crunchy, oversalted croutons. It goes uphill after that, first with a chilled tea smoked salmon salad, and then hot rice and simmered chicken with chunks of sweet kabocha, and another generously filled with sesame eggplant and string beans.
And if you're not absolutely stuffed by this point, make way for dessert. Cha-An offers two different desserts with the bento set on any given day. Pictured above is macerated strawberry and vanilla cream between sheets of puff pastry. My companion found azuki beans and matcha cream tucked between his layers. Simple and clean. Though not the most exciting bento in town, the entire meal was well-composed, satisfying, and more than enough food to justify the price tag.
230 East 9th Street, 2nd Floor, New York NY 10003 (map)