A couple weeks ago Matt and I had the pleasure of lunching at Kai, the amazing kaiseki restaurant on 69th and Madison.Â I say â€œlunchingâ€ because thatâ€™s what one does there between the hours of 12:30 and 3pm.Â Lunch.Â Itâ€™s full of see-and-be-seen types, biz honchos, and people of good taste (so obviously Iâ€™d go back, seeing as I like to put myself in that last category).Â The restaurant is on top of the fabulous ITO EN retail location, which has been one of my favorite Saturday afternoon tea shopping spots for ages.Â When you venture upstairs to Kai, youâ€™re transported to Japan.Â Thereâ€™s a distinctly non-American feeling to the layout, which is great, because I have no time for an actual international vacation at this point.
I had the Kai Bento box lunch, which for $40 is actually a steal.Â I know the economy is rough, and youâ€™re probably thinking â€œ$40 for lunch? Ooph!â€ â€¦but itâ€™s worth it, and actually a really good value.Â If you had to order all the items that come in the bento separately, youâ€™d be way over $40, and nowhere near as delicious.Â Hello, special occasion lunch.Â Or lunch time date (ideal, because no one drinks at lunch so youâ€™ll save a hefty number on alkie!).
Kai Bento Box includes:
Marinated Red Snapper
Simmered Seasonal Fish & Vegetables
Simmered Beef with Rice dashi broth
Shrimp & Vegetable Tempura
Served with Mixed Rice, Housemade Oshinko & Miso Soup
Assortment of Sweets
Obviously the tea was delicious as well, since Kai shares its space with Ito En.Â After dining at Kai, Iâ€™d totally recommend a little Ito En shopping spree.Â Even if youâ€™re on a tight NYC budget, you can find exotic loose leaf teas that will make you feel like a million bucks.
My personal favorites are the Kawane Sencha (a delish and robust green tea) for $6 an ounce, the Red Star (a spiced Darjeeling blend) for $5 an ounce, and the Paradisi (a delish, crisp white tea) for $5 an ounce.Â Â And just so you know, an ounce of loose leaf goes a long wayâ€¦ so youâ€™ll be able to make a gazillion cups of artisan tea for just a few bucks!Â The Ito En store also carries handmade Japanese pottery and a gorgeous tea accessories thatâ€™ll make all your tea party friends jealousâ˜º!