Kajitsu, NYC 6
March 21, 2017
It had been over three years since I had been to Kajitsu to enjoy its traditional Shojin vegetable cuisine originating in Zen Buddhism. Linda and I went on March 3, 2017, with Tom and Kathy to celebrate his birthday.
I arrived early and could watch the action at the Ippodo tea counter near the entrance downstairs.
The ground floor also has a casual, non-vegetarian restaurant, Kokage, while Kajitsu is up a flight.
After being seated, I had a glass of Matsuno Midori Junmai Daiginjo sake. This was the early evening view from my seat.
The Hopper/Zen ambiance set a good mood, but it disappeared when the room eventually filled up.
After Tom and Kathy arrived, she ordered a bottle of Denshin Yuki Junmai Ginjo sake; we eventually needed a second bottle.
The Denshin Yuki lived up to its menu description: “Dry, pure and gentle with a fragrant and refreshing taste.”
But the meal started with cups of cherry blossom tea.
The first course was
Turnip, bamboo shoots, basil, nama-fu
The early bamboo shoot bits underneath the thinly sliced turnip canopy had a good spring flavor.
White Miso Potage
Sesame tofu, asparagus, mustard
After the winter’s end dish, we kicked off spring with asparagus which flavored the miso broth. There was a sharp dab of mustard under the asparagus tip on top of the tofu. Very good.
Inari sushi, Sakura petal, konnyaku, buckwheat seeds, burdock root, yuba, cucumber, lettuce, red radish, bell peppers, shiitake, celery, green pea, lotus root, mountain yam, Yuzu-miso, nama-fu, carrot
Many good little bites to enjoy. Too many to list and describe here.
Bamboo shoots, curry croquette, pearl onion, broccoli rabe
This was interesting, although tempura served on a plate at a table is not in the same category as hot tempura served piece by piece over a counter. The composition and coating of the croquette is a mystery to me, but the curry flavor was nicely done.
An extra course of a warm rice cake wrapped in nori followed.
We all really enjoyed this. The cake was subtly luscious and the nori was superbly crisp.
Myoga, pumpkin, tofu fritter, Chinese broccoli, Dutch flat beans, ginger, seasonal mushrooms
This showcase course is traditionally made by cooking the ingredients separately and then combining them just before serving. It was presented to us in a big serving platter and then divided onto our four plates.
Ginger sparked this up and the tofu fritter added needed texture.
As a double traditional finish, the menu showed Five Grains Rice with Wakame Deep fried tofu, sesame and Hanamaki Soba Mitsuba, scallion, nama-fu, sesame, but we were served a morel and black truffle rice.
The rice had picked up the woodsy mushroom and truffle flavors. The garnishes were wasabi broccoli rabe, vinegary pickles and a very good miso soup.
The pre-dessert was grapefruit jelly topped with dried orange.
This was a very good palate cleanser.
The dessert was
White bean, matcha, soy bean powder
An uguisu is a male bush warbler whose arrival is a firm sign of spring in Japan. This seasonal confection is made from a white bean paste wrapped in sticky rice and coated with soybean and matcha powders. Lovely.
Tom was offered a birthday dessert to share and we were all given glasses of prosecco to go with it.
We finished with
Matcha with Candies
Matcha by Ippodo,
candies by Kagizen-Yoshifusa from Kyoto
Our meal was a good exploration of traditional Japanese vegetable ingredients and techniques. Tom described the cuisine as “celebratory special.” A few western ingredients were appropriately included: truffles, morels, broccoli rabe, but March is not the best season at our green markets. The flavors were sometimes subtle and sometimes evident. I regret that a soba course was not included.
As the room filled up, it became quite noisy, not at all zen, and the pace of service slowed down. But we were having a good time.
On the way out we could look into Kokage downstairs, where a big Japanese party was in progress.
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