There are times when it seems like you just can't do a decent sit-down Japanese restaurant for $10 or less. And then you meet Cha-An and its $10 lunch menu and swear that this must be the best Japanese lunch deal in the city.
$10 buys you a main dish plus two vegetable sides, and a hot pot of genmaicha. Add $3 for specialty teas, but I don't find it necessary—genmaicha is the ideal pairing, a simple, clean and nutty green tea. The specials follow a weekly calendar, always a different type of "don," or rice bowl. On weekends they serve the Unagi Hitsumabushi Don (pictured above), complete with finely chopped shiso leaves, nori, and thin-sliced tamagoyaki. Chicken Soboro Don comes on Monday, followed by Anago Don Tuesdays and Chicken Teriyaki Don Wednesdays.
I prefer the latter half of the week, when they do an excellent Salmon Tartar Don on Friday and meaty, fresh Tuna Steak Don on Thursdays. The serving size is quite substantial, and that's before factoring in the vegetable sides. Pickled vegetables are a mainstay, but I've yet to see the other dishes repeated. Steamed kabocha, seaweed and toasted sesame have made past appearances, and on my most recent visit, soybean crust with root vegetables. The soybean crust is the leftover product from straining soymilk from pureed soybeans. Here the crust is gently fried, seasoned with sesame oil, shoyu, and mixed with boiled root vegetables. Service is gracious and tea is constantly refilled—pretty wonderful for just $10.
About the author: Originally from Honolulu, Kathy YL Chan writes A Passion For Food, where she chronicles her eats and travels adventures between Hawai'i, New York and beyond. She firmly believes that there is always room for dessert.