Short version: had an absolutely amazing lunch at Bushi-Tei this weekend, and have put it on my top five list for lunches in the city. Dare I say, I might even take visitors to lunch here before board darling Canteen in the future.
I went in with very tempered expectations because when I went for dinner, I found the food delicious but not delicious enough to justify the high prices. At the $100ish mark, I can name several places in the city I'd rather eat.
Lunch, however, is a different story. Entrees are priced around $15, and well worth it. My husband and I shared a salad and two entrees:
The lunch started with a complementary cup of soup of the day, which was carrot puree. Brightly flavored like they used nothing but beautiful young carrots and a little good olive oil.
Arctic char on a bed of greens: long strips of marinated raw fish on top of a be, of microgreens and cucumbers sliced to resemble spaghetti. The flavor of the dressing was delicate without resulting in the salad tasting like a plate of grass. A very lovely way to start.
Penne: Fresh tomato sauce infused with bacon flavor, a non-inventive but well-executed dish. Quite a generous portion, and one of the cheaper items on the menu at $12.
Pork cutlet: Our server said this is the favorite of return customers, and I can see why. I rarely see pork cut so thick, well over an inch and cooked until juicy and barely pink in the center. The piece was the size of my palm, which I was definitely not expecting at Bushi-Tei. It was breaded and fried tonkatsu style, but better than any tonkatsu I've had in a long time. It was served with a small amount of macaroni salad, greens, and a good helping of french fries. I could have used more greens than fries given that the pork was fried, but everything was very good.
Desserts, were unique, varied, and delicious, especially the apple dumpling and sesame blanc mange. Teas were interesting but nothing exceptional. Total bill after tax for five people was $129: six entrees (one shared salad), four non-alcoholic beverages, and three desserts. A restaurant.com gift certificate made the meal extremely affordable for the quality of food and level of service, but even without coupons we plan to be back often.
I put my overall satisfaction with Bushi-Tei right up there with a lunch at Zuni, but I spent about $30 pre-coupon at BT and have never left Zuni for under $40. It isn't just a place to grab a tasty bite, it's a lovely way to unwind with soem friends over a long meal. Caveat: lunch is available Mon-Sat, Sun you have to do a $25 brunch. The brunch menu looks like it serves similar dishes but requires that everyone eat two courses.