I was in the East 50's and was walking around looking for a place to eat. I saw Ten Zen, it looked clean, inviting, and it was packed. Once inside I noticed there were no Japanese people working there. The host was Chinese and the staff varied in ethnicity. The displayed fish for sashimi and sushi looked scary. So I was smart enough to not get any of the raw fish. Instead I ordered 2 rolls ( shrimp tempura and california) they were not very good. But I felt it was safe. The shumai were soggy and terrible. The Yakitori was strange in looks was but edible. The miso soup was like water. The gyoza were still frozen when i got them. The vegetable tempura was so greasy.The tea was good, it tasted like roasted barley tea mixed with green tea.
But I think it is a good thing to go to a "bad" Japanese restaurant once in a while. When you frequent places like 15 East, Kanoyama, Yasuda, Ushi, Kyo Ya, Soto, kajitsu, Brushstroke etc you get spoiled. You forget how good these places are. Once you see what most people are eating when they go for Japanese food, you really appreciate the great and the good Japanese restaurants that NYC has to offer. So I thank you Ten Zen for reminding me to skip the bad places and stick to the good ones. I can't believe places like this are packed and people look like they are enjoying themselves.
988 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10022