Kajitsu, NYC 3
August 26, 2010
On August 13, 2010, Linda and I went back to Kajitsu with Kent and Russell. We were looking forward to tasting a summer vegetable menu. Our two previous visits had been in November and February. We appreciate the respect of the seasons in Kajitsu’s menus, which change each month. We had enjoyed the cabbage, turnips, carrots, leeks etc, but fresh summer vegetables usually are more interesting and with greater variety than the winter vegetables.
We ordered the eight-course Hana Menu for August and a bottle of Denshin Yuki Junmai Ginjo, Fukui (Described on the menu as: Dry, pure and gentle with a fragrant and refreshing taste.) This was followed in mid-meal by a bottle of Sasaichi Junmai, Yamanashi (Very smooth with well balanced taste, using excellent underground water from Mt. Fuji.) We had enjoyed these sakes at our last meal at Kajitsu and so ordered them again. We still liked them.
The first course was
Kuzu Coated Eggplant in Soy Broth and Tomato Nama-Fu
White Asparagus, Ginger, Wasabi, Cucumber Flower
We could immediately sense that we having a summer menu. This was cool with clear, refreshing vegetable flavors. The tomato flavor came through in the nama-fu. The ginger and wasabi were kept nicely in the background.
Sesame Miso Soup with Summer Vegetables
Eggplant, Potato, White Mushroom, Lettuce, Kabocha, Broccoli, Fushimi pepper, Seven Spice, Sesame Oil
Here the vegetables were more substantial and not really of the summer season. The broth, which was just warm, had a nice sesame flavor. The Fushimi peppers were smaller and hotter than the more familiar Shishito peppers. The dish really woke up the palate, which had an easy ride in the first course.
Kinugasa Mushroom with Spinach and Agar Gelée
Bean Sprouts, Sesame Oil, Snap Peas, Green Yuzu
Squash Sushi with Zucchini Flower Tempura
Shiso, Sesame, Zucchini, Cucumber
Tricolor Bell Pepper with Grated Radish and Cucumber Moro-Miso
Soy Braised Nama-Fu, Ginger
The Kinugasa, or veiled lady mushrooms, are the wrapping for the rolls in the upper left of the glass plate. I found that dish to be somewhat mushy and confused. On the other hand the tempura sushi was crisp with a nice summer vegetable flavor. The little cucumber round with fermented barley miso was delicious.
Oden is a hearty winter hot stewpot dish. This was an inventive summer version served cold. After presenting two serving bowls, our server spooned half out into our four bowls and later refilled them with the other half. The Ganmodoki, or round tofu fritter, is held together with egg white. I found it too mild to be interesting. The peeled tomato had excellent concentrated flavors. It is resting on Konnyaku, a traditional oden ingredient valued more for its texture than its flavor. The miso mustard and diced scallions helped increase the interest in this substantial dish.
Steamed Rice with Corn Tempura
Corn Soy Sauce, Italian Parsley
Rice and pickles are traditional at this point in the meal. The crisp tempura of fresh sweet corn kernels was superb and went perfectly with the rice, blending together as two starches, but with different textures and flavors. The pickles were a little disappointing, but maybe they are a light summer variety.
House-Made Soba Noodles with Chilled Broth and Sudachi Citrus
This course was nice, but unusual in that it came after the rice and, by including fruit, was somewhat like a pre-dessert, but it was also a soba course and not at all sweet. I was surprised afterwards in rereading my post on our meal at Ryugin in Tokyo in April that we had a similar, but warm, course at the same point in the meal. The sudachi have a more elegant flavor than limes.
I had opened a couple of presents brought by Kent and Russell and so our waitress learned that my seventieth birthday had recently passed. The chef sent us a present of peach ice cream with fresh peach slices and a few grains of hot Tasmannia pepper.
The gold flakes on top of one were for me. The ice cream was delicious with plenty of fresh fruit flavor.
The real dessert was
Azuki Bean Pudding with Grilled Nama-Fu
This was a classic red bean paste dessert with sweetened grilled wheat gluten. The crunchy little white balls on top were pretty and added needed texture.
Matcha Tea Served with Candies by Kyoto Shioyoshiken
The candies were very sweet. There was a bean paste inside the gourd shaped one. Chef Nishihara takes special care of his matcha. Ours was frothy and delicious. The photo shows him preparing matcha under the critical eyes of three generations at the counter.
And so we went back out into the New York night after another short visit to Japan. The meal had fulfilled its promise of bringing out summer vegetable flavors. Not everything was a success for me, but it was all interesting and I admire the chef’s creativity within his restrained choice of ingredients. As usual all the dishes were beautifully presented. The service was friendly and efficient.
To see our February 2010 meal at Kajitsu click here.
To see our November 2009 meal at Kajitsu click here.