Kajitsu, NYC 5
October 15, 2013
I had been to Kajitsu four times before in its basement setting in the East Village, enjoying its traditional Shojin vegetable cuisine originating in Zen Buddhism. In March, 2013, Kajitsu moved up to Murray Hill in a somewhat less austere setting. Kent and Russell invited me to dinner there on August 20, 2013, in observance of my 73rd birthday three weeks before.
We selected the Seasonal Special Menu with Sake Pairings.
The first course was
Umani Cucumber with Gelee
Simmered shiitake, malabar spinach, pickled tiny lotus root, shishito and artichoke with chopped ginger on top.
Cucumber had been simmered in a sweetened soy sauce to make this lovely, fragrant gelée. It was a perfect backdrop for the simmered and cooled. vegetables. This kind of cool dish is a traditional summer starter.
The sake was Denshin Natsu “Summer” Daiginjo Namazake.
Matsutake with Simmered Tofu
Grated ginger on top
The thick chunks of cooked Matsutake mushrooms were a nice combination with the subtler tofu chunks.
The sake was Nanbubijin Daiginjo
Baked yuba and eggplant with fu-puree, house-made tomato sauce and cubed tofu-yo on top
This was a “lasagna” in that it was layered and baked. Also because of the rich, fresh tomato sauce. Under the spoon were tempura basil leaves as a garnish. This was by far the most assertive course of the meal. It was paired with an assertive sake: Oze no Yukidoke Junmai
Chilled Green Soup with Edamame Tempura
Pumpkin-fu, fresh myoga, and yuzu zest on top
Several green summer vegetables were used in making this complex gelatinous soup. The shredded myoga ginger and yuzu zest added needed spark.
The sake was Amabuki Sunflower Junmai Ginjo
Gozan no Okuribi
Romano green bean and king oyster mushroom with sesame puree; nori-dumpling; nuta with fried tofu, scallion, and konnyaku; porridge with daitokuji- natto; vinegar wakame.
This complex plate offered a surprising variety of natural flavors and textures.
The sake was Gasanryu Daiginjo
The chef, Ryota Ueshima, obviously enjoyed shaving the generous portion of summer truffles onto our onion. The whole onion had been slow cooked for four days and was then garnished with slivers of fresh onion. The contrast between the deep richness of one with the sharpness of the other was striking. Of course, summer truffles are never as flavorful as the winter variety, but these had a definite truffle aroma, which added earthiness to the dish.
There was no sake with this course.
Portabella Tempura Sushi Roll and House-made Soba
Chef’s specialty soba served with grated spicy summer daikon.
The sushi rolls were centered on crisp tempura Portobello mushrooms. We were instructed to eat the first with no sauce, the second with the tartar-like sauce and the third with the pickled ginger. This provided a progression of complexities. The soba was in a cold broth with freshly grated daikon.
The sake was Takaisami Tokubetsu Junmai
Seasonal Fruits Yokan
Azuki-bean custard with seasonal fruits.
The red bean custard on the bottom provided a rich base for the fresh figs and melon balls.
We had a very good time. The cuisine was always inventive and interesting. The current chef, Ryota Ueshima, has been in New York for over a year now and has much improved his selection and sourcing of ingredients to take into account the setting and season. The service was always excellent and the noise level very low, but then the restaurant was not full on this August Tuesday.
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