Sep
24

Kajitsu…A Restaurant For “A Fine Day”

photo copy 16The name “Kajitsu,” meaning “fine day” or “day of celebration” in Japanese, was chosen by the owners of this fine restaurant in hopes that special occasions would be celebrated there. The name couldn’t have been more perfect for me, since my recent birthday celebration at Kajitsu with my husband, Jeff, was certainly the highlight of a very “fine day.”

Kajitsu, located at 125 E. 39th Street in New York City, specializes in Shojin cuisine, a type of vegetarian cooking which originated in Zen Buddhism. Although Shojin cuisine does not use meat or fish, it’s regarded as the foundation of all Japanese cuisine, especially “kaiseki” which is the Japanese version of haute cuisine.

The dinner at Kajitsu is presented as a multi-course meal in which fresh, seasonal vegetables are prepared in ways to enhance the flavor of each component, with the finished dishes beautifully arranged on plates. This is typical of shojin cuisine, which is still prepared in Buddhist temples throughout Japan.

photo copy 9The dishware used in the restaurant is unique, imperfect and stunning, and was specially selected for the restaurant. They include pieces created by master Japanese potters over 200 years ago, as well as works by modern ceramic artists. Since the unique color and quality of these pieces cannot be reproduced, the dishes are carefully repaired if they are chipped or damaged. This is indicative of Kajitsu’s deep respect for the work of the old masters, and for the shojin tradition of frugality and respect.

Image 9-23-13 at 2.33 PMJeff and I both chose the Chef’s Seasonal Special Menu which consisted of 8 courses, accompanied by wonderful sake. We immensely enjoyed each course, and I could only describe the experience of eating the beautifully presented food as “an event,” as opposed to a “dinner.” We were also seated at the chef’s counter which enhanced the experience because we were able to watch the chef’s artistic preparations. I found the restaurant’s minimalistic decor to be calming and serene.

photo copy 20The meal was delicious and included Ginger Dumplings with Black Sesame Sauce, Steamed Matsutake Mushrooms, Matsutake Mushroom BrothGrilled Vegetables and Steamed Vegetables with Sesame mayonnaise, House-made Soba, varieties of unusual vegetables such as Oyster Mushrooms tossed with grated Black Daikon, Burdock Root Tempura, and a variety of pickles. As previously mentioned, everything was beautifully prepared and presented, even the Matsutake Rice cooked with black truffles in a special Donabe clay pot. The soup made with Japanese Taro, Pumpkin-fu and Yuzu zest was a standout for me, as were many of the vegetables which were made in sort of a tempura style. The vegetables were also accompanied by exquisite sauces for dipping.

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photo copy 2We ended our meal with a divine dessert of Mochi With Sweet Edamame Paste (I’m definitely going to try to make this at home!), Matcha tea, and candies made into shapes that reflect the most essential principals of Zen: the journey to bring meaning out of something that seems to have none.

Image 9-23-13 at 3.37 PM (1)Jeff and I both left the restaurant feeling satisfied and healthy, and we discussed how wonderful it would be to eat in such a simple, elegant, and divine manner every single day. Although Jeff isn’t one to appreciate food presentation at a restaurant (as you may recall from my interview with him about Beyond Sushi), the exquisite way in which the food was presented at Kajitsu played a huge part in my dining experience there.

I highly recommend that you experience the simple elegance of Kajitsu (even if you are not vegan) to enjoy fresh, seasonal food artistically prepared and beautifully served.

Click here to read about The Miracles Of Matcha Green Tea

Click here to read Vegetables Become “The Star” With Michelin Chefs

Debby

xoxo

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Comments

  1. The simplicity of the decor and tableware seem so integral to the preparation of the food—-looks like more of an experience than just a night out! Happy birthday (again)—it looks like a wonderful way to celebrate!

  2. Matt Ruderman says:

    Looks like you had a terrific birthday experience, Debby! Omedetou (which means “congratulations” in Japanese)!

  3. Hi Debby,
    I’m just starting my journey into veganism. I also live on Long Island and wonder if you’ve found any LI restaurants that serve vegan friendly foods?

    • Three Brothers Pizza cafe in Farmingdale is great. Tula Kitchen in Bayshore has vegan dishes. Bareburger in Great Neck has a good vegan burger. And Skinny Pizza in Roslyn Heights and at the Roosevelt Field mall have good vegan pizza. Other than that, it’s pretty tough.

  4. Debby,
    Thanks for the information. Looks like there is a need for a vegan restaurant on LI.

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