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The End of an Era at Kajitsu – Japanese/Vegetarian – East Village
April 11th, 2012 by donuts4dinner

I still remember the subtle delights from my first trip to Kajitsu back in 2010: the juxtaposition of grilled mochi on raw, flaky layers of lotus root cake, an osechi box full of foods I’d never heard of, let alone tasted. With chef Masato Nishihara’s departure from the restaurant looming, my group of dining pals and I stopped by for a final taste of his food before a new chef (Ryota Ueshima) takes over and Kajitsu moves to Midtown.

The eight-course, $70 Hana tasting:

Kajitsu
nagaimo hishimochi (Japanese yam) with spring vegetables and sweet soy gelée

Kajitsu

Kajitsu
grated kohlrabi soup with grilled gomadofu, karashi, fresh green peppercorn

Kajitsu
smoked satoimo (taro) with tofu-yo sauce; Brussels sprout with fukinoto paste; spring scallions with white wood ear mushrooms and mustard miso; kabochafu (pumpkin wheat gluten) with red miso; kaffir lime and lemon grass

Kajitsu

Kajitsu

Kajitsu
simmered young bamboo shoots with artichoke tempura, fava beans, mitsuba (stone parsley), wakame (seaweed)

Kajitsu
shredded phyllo-wrapped mugwort nama-fu (wheat gluten) with house-made Worcester sauce; grilled cabbage, arugula sprouts and watermelon radish; snap peas with parsnip puree; sautéed glass noodles, kinugasa mushrooms and leeks in corn husk

Kajitsu

Kajitsu
steamed rice with chaju mushrooms, yuba, and grilled water chestnuts; nori, sesame, and dashi, with housemade pickles

Kajitsu
cherry blossom mochi, salted cherry leaf

Kajitsu

Kajitsu
matcha with candies

Kajitsu

Thanks to my dining companion cheeryvisage for her excellent memory; many of these are only labeled correctly because of her Flickr set.

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne-Half Star

When compared to the food at other high-end restaurants in the city, the food at Kajitsu can seem austere: an entire dish will be white or yellow, made up almost entirely of white rice or bamboo. No one flavor ever stands out, and even the tempuraed vegetables are tremendously fresh and light. I know that balance is sort of the point of this kind of food, but it can’t be stressed enough how subtle these dishes are, how you might get caught up in conversation and miss the simple perfection of a salted leaf or the smallest slice of peppercorn.

I love Kajitsu for the seasoned eater and the diner who’s never seen a fiddlehead fern in real life alike. The food is artful and exciting in its simplicity. The boxes filled with four different kinds of unrecognized vegetation dazzle the eye, and the dishes served in covered bowls build anticipation. I didn’t once miss the meat during this tasting and instead delighted in knowing that I wasn’t going to run into a single sinew or bone. With this two-Michelin-starred restaurants in town, vegetarians have it pretty good.

Kajitsu
414 East 9th Street
New York, NY 10009 (map)


4 Responses  
  • Ash writes:
    April 11th, 20127:51 pmat

    Oh no I haven’t been here yet! :(

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      April 12th, 20129:55 amat

      It’s just getting a new chef and moving to Midtown! So it’ll actually be more convenient from your apartment.

  • Mrs. Bachelor Girl writes:
    April 12th, 201211:42 amat

    While the beautiful food definitely appeals to me, this is the sort of meal that The Guy would talk about for YEARS.

    • donuts4dinner writes:
      April 12th, 20121:38 pmat

      Oh, yeah? Does he love weird vegetables or just plates full of all preparations of food?


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