Monday, March 30, 2009

Vegetables at Kajitsu

To many, I may be the last guy on earth to recommend anyone to eat veggies. But after my exceptional experience Friday night at Kajitsu, I may have to rethink my whole take on food.
Protein may not have to take center stage all the time.
(mind you "may" being the operative word...)

Kajitsu (Highly Recommended)
414 E. 9th St.
(between 1st Ave & Avenue A)
New York, NY 10009
(212) 228-4873

Kajitsu isn't just about the vegetables (food) they serve.
With that said, this place isn't for everyone, or even all foodies for that matter. There's an element of culture and tradition also being delivered here that makes for so much more than just taste. And I guess one needs to accept and embrace the whole package in order to appreciate what they are trying to accomplish.

It was 8:30pm, Friday evening. I had just wrapped up with my work when my colleague mentioned she wanted to take me out for my birthday. She was meeting up a friend and I was too, but we ended up making it a foursome.
She made it a surprise and chose the newly opened Kajitsu... a specialist in Japanese Shojin Cuisine (Vegetarian).
She knew I wouldn't be immediately excited so she kept it a secret 'til we all got there.
I actually met the head chef a few weeks ago at a Restaurant/Food show and had promised him we would go when he opened.
So there we were, at the door steps. In my mind, I was a bit bummed out... Afterall, I'm a "meat eater".
So I psyched myself up, and convinced myself I should always try everything at least once.

As we opened the doors, a pleasant waft of freshly sanded cedar wood greeted us.
(Every table and counter is made with a distinctly different piece of lumber)
This took me back to my childhood when I lived in Japan.
Everyone immediately picked up on the scent and let out a fresh breath of nostalgia.
As you enter the restaurant, you can't help but notice the minimalist take on decor.
I could see Phil Jackson really digging this place.

We were taken to our table and quickly greeted by the chef. As we were taking our seats, I looked to my right, over at the counter and saw Ferran Adria. I mean, seriously... Holy Shit! Mr. FoamSauce was sitting 5 ft to my right! Are you kidding me?!
So I quickly composed myself as to not startle everyone within a 2 block radius.
We took our seats and our hostess quickly gave us an explanation about what to expect that evening.

First off, the chef is a deciple of Kiccho. For a French chef, it would be like saying you were trained in Escoffier's kitchen.
And his kitchen brigade is 100% Japanese. All transplanted from Japan. Even down to the dishwasher.

Um, yah...! Dishwasher. The reason is, the dishware at Kajitsu are all handmade works of art.
Some date back to the Edo Period. That would be over 400 years ago.
So you can understand the care in just about everything that goes into this meal.
This is typically how [High End] Kaiseki is done in Japan. Customers enjoy the tranquility of the experience, as much as the food being presented. To some, this may be just outright silly. But to others, great satisfaction comes from all this attention to detail.
Sound, Smell, Climate, Atmosphere, Service, Taste, Texture, Seasonality, Convenience, Logic, Culture, Tradition, Anticipation, Surprise all played a role that night.

As I'm writing this post, I realize I could continue to write volumes about every minute that transpired that evening. So I will save you the extras and go straight to the food.

Hana Course : $65 (highly recommended)
- Broccoli Rabe wrapped in freshly made Konyaku *
- Clear broth with Nama Fu (glutenous mochi) and Kabu (turnip) ***
- Roasted Artichokes ***
- Bamboo Leaf Sushi **
- Yuba **
- Soba **
- Tempura **
- Bamboo Shoot Rice with Pickled Vegetables *
- Sakura Mochi **
- Matcha *

These pics could be the first to hit the blogs. Enjoy!

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