At Robataya NY, there's a $16 lunch special best filed under the "bargain" category. It's the Ikura and Uni Set, a deep bowl of steamed rice, one half piled with buttery tongues of uni, and the others with briny, fresh ikura. It doesn't compare in quality to a place like Yasuda by any measure, but neither does the price; both the uni and ikura were of better quality that I expected. The lunch set is accompanied with miso soup and a simple salad, two daily appetizers—simmered yam with carrots and cold steamed watercress with sesame seeds on my last visit, and an endless bowl of rice. The Kamado Premium rice is excellent; they typically change $5 a bowl, but at lunch it's all you can eat with no extra cost. To top off the deal, look for the small table in the back of the restaurant; there you can fill bowls with house-pickled vegetables and boiled eggs, all "free," and both appropriate accompaniments to lunch.
If you come on a warm day, finish your meal with the Black Sesame Warabi Mochi (pictured above), four pieces for $4. The glossy, silky slices are served with kuromitsu, a smoky black sugar syrup. Use a spoon and make sure to get a bit of syrup in each bite, along nutty dustings of kinako powder made from roasted soybeans. On a cold day, have the Matcha Shiruko to warm up. It's served in a deep cup—the same ones used for hot matcha—with two pieces each of warm, chewy mochi balls and yam balls the size of a marble. The matcha is blended with white bean paste until it reaches the consistency of porridge; it's on the sweeter side. While the Warabi Mochi is an all-around crowd pleaser, the Matcha Shiruko is much more unusual: a sweet you'll either love or hate.
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