Cheap Eats 2007: Temari Cafe

First things first: Ignore the sushi—it’s middling. The charms of this nine-table Japanese cafe, something of a cult hit among young Japanese professionals, lie elsewhere: In the donburi, its glossy strips of broiled eel set artfully atop a bowl of steamed rice. In the simple plates of broiled mackerel garnished with lemon and grated radish. In the shu mai, the wrappers almost transparent, the crab sweet. In the tureen-size bowls of ramen, the rich, sweet pork broth full of noodles and luscious pork, seaweed, fish cakes, and hard-boiled egg. In the mochi, soft bundles of sweetened rice flour filled with sweet red-bean paste, worth a trip by themselves.

The staff is solicitous and good at explaining the menu. The atmosphere evokes a cheerful, homey diner, down to the clatter of plates in the open kitchen and a TV that’s always on. You can even snatch a Japanese-language newspaper from the shelves to peruse while you wait for the food to pile up on the table.

Open daily except Tuesday for lunch and dinner.

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