This summer in New York I was looking for a new restaurant to go to and stumbled across a write up about a new restaurant called Kajitsu. Since that first visit I have recommended it to many people all who have enjoyed it and yesterday we went back for a second visit...I look forward to my next dinner there.
The type of cuisine at Kajitsu is Shojin, which I had never heard of before. The restaurant website says, "Shojin cuisine refers to a type of vegetarian cooking that originates in Zen Buddhism. Even though it does not use meat or fish, shojin is regarded as the foundation of all Japanese cuisine, especially kaiseki, the Japanese version of haute cuisine. In its present form kaiseki is a multi-course meal in which fresh, seasonal ingredients are prepared in ways that enhance the flavor of each component, with the finished dishes beautifully arranged on plates. All of these characteristics come from shojin cuisine, which is still prepared in Buddhist temples throughout Japan."
The food appeals for so many reasons starting with the simple fact that it is vegan, clean and Japanese...but it is more than that. There is a thoughtfulness and consideration that goes into the food, the service and the presentation that exceeds most dining experiences. Plates, utensils and beverage napkins are thoughtfully chosen for each item served. Seasonal vegetables are incorporated into the meal. Even produce that is not traditionally used in Asian cuisine finds a way to fit in. At the same time there is nothing fussy about the experience.
One of the central elements of this cuisine is Fu and Nama-Fu which are made from gluten. At Kajitsu they have a beautifully printed small book that they give out upon request explaining the laborious process of making Fu. Fu is basically the gluten element of bread with the starch separated out that is then mixed with rice powder. The process is complicated but the result is smooth, chewy, satisfying and complimentary to a variety of flavors and textures.
The menu changes once a month. This is what we ate last night:
Celery Roots Tempura with Grated Apple
Vegetable Miso Soup Tofu, Shiitake, Burdock Root, Carrots, Turnip, Japanese Taro
Sticky Rice with Tea Tree Mushrooms, Umeboshi and Shiso; Kabocha Pouch with Red Beans; Grilled Sesame Tofu in a Bamboo Leaf
Simmered Daikon Radish with Yuzu Red Miso
Grilled Nama-Fu and Butternut Squash with Black Trumpet Mushroom; Leek and Fig Tempura
Hanamaki Soba Nori, Mitsuba, Wasabi
Snow Ball Mochi Matcha with Rakugan Candies by Shioyoshiken