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Kajitsu

I'm still marveling at the meal that I had at Kajitsu last week. This is a Japanese restaurant in the style of Shojin Cuisine. Shojin is described on their website as the following:

"Kajitsu serves shojin cuisine, an ancient Japanese cuisine developed in Zen Buddhist monasteries. Following the Buddhist principle of not taking life, Shojin cuisine does not use meat or fish. Meals are prepared from fresh, in season vegetables, legumes, wild herbs, seeds and grains, chosen at the moment in the season that best reflects their flavor. At Kajitsu we make our delicious and wholesome dishes from high quality ingredients prepared with traditional Japanese culinary techniques."

The food does indeed verge on a religious experience. The restaurant is quiet and serene, and the service is attentive and kind. There's a real sense of reverence for food and nature, and I was immediately drawn into the atmosphere of gratitude.

The restaurant alters it's menu monthly to reflect the season. The result is Japanese food as poetry at it's best. We opted for the eight course menu(only $70). This was possibly too much food for me, and, with the exception of their excellent soba noodles, my favorite dishes were those that are on the four course menu($50). Steamed tofu, maitake mushrooms and mushroom tempura in a clear broth was delicately flavored and warmly comforting. My favorite dish was the grilled eggplant with mushrooms prepared two ways and nama-fu over wild greens. The nama-fu is essentially wheat gluten, which was served in green cubes that had a chewy yet light consistency that was truly remarkable. It had a tangy sauce, which I think may have been miso based, that was a bright and lively contrast to the succulent eggplant and mushrooms, and the blander nama-fu. All of the dishes had incredible complexity of flavors and textures, while presenting it's star ingredients in their purest form. I wasn't drinking that night, but my friends tried several sakes and loved them all. Also, the glasses and flatware were all beautiful. This was an exceptional and elegant dining experience. I plan to go once a month to experience their ode to what the season has to offer!

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  1. Thanks for the report. Kaiseki restaurants seem to attract little attention on this board, so I'm glad you posted a thorough review. If you liked Kajitsu, you may want to try Rosanjin and Sugiyama as well. Kajitsu is ideal for vegetarians and vegans though.

    3 Replies
    1. re: hcbk0702

      Those are both on my list of places to go... thanks for recommending them!

      1. re: luckiestduck

        Kyo ya is a far better choice than Rosanjin. but if you go to Rosanjin call the day before for your reservation , dont just show up. You will get better food if you reserve in advance. They used to only serve advanced reservations, but noticed they had no business. So they opened for walk-ins. Rosanjin is more serene and perhaps classier looking than Kyo ya but the food is far superior at Kyo ya

        1. re: foodwhisperer

          How about Sugiyama vs. Kyo Ya? I get the impression Sugiyama is better but I haven't been to either very recently.

    2. We went on Saturday night and had a wonderful meal as well. We also did the Hana menu and enjoyed each course. The house-made soba noodles were delicious and the presentation of each course was beautiful. The atmosphere was quiet and subdued. We almost felt like it was a private dining experience. Overall, a truly great find!

      1. Just had a wonderful meal at Kajitsu tonight. The service was great, and the food was lovely. We had the four course tasting menu and ordered an extra course of the soba noodles for an extra $9. We were told that the soba this month had a higher ratio of buckwheat to semolina to celebrate the fact that it was the buckwheat harvesting month. Our server was very knowledgeable and took the time to explain every dish to us. We also enjoyed the very affordable sake pairing ($18 for 3 decent sized pours.) I highly recommend a visit to try something other than standard issue sushi if you're in the mood for Japanese.

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        Kajitsu
        414 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10009

        1 Reply
        1. re: livetoeatnyc

          Yes, when I was there earlier in the month they explained the higher buckwheat ratio to us as well. One of my friends who had been before said that the noodles were thinner than they usually make them there, probably because of the variance in that buckwheat ratio. I look forward to going back and seeing if the noodles are thicker next month. I'm so glad this restaurant is getting some love here... I want them to do well!

        2. Any reports on the November menu? I plan to visit next week. I'm debating whether to order the four-course menu or the larger one. I just read livetoeat's idea of doing the four-course with the addition of the noodles. Maybe that's the way to go. I'm concerned the eight (or is it seven?) course meal might just be too much, but I do like the idea of sampling lots of dishes.

          5 Replies
          1. re: uwsgrazer

            Yes, for a complete report on the November menu go to:
            http://epicures.wordpress.com/2009/11...
            It even includes a dish with a "Thanksgiving" theme. Eight courses is not at all too much; the added four courses are certainly worth the $20.

            1. re: beaulieu

              beaulieu, thank you very much for the wonderful report and pictures! I will report back on our experience.

              1. re: uwsgrazer

                Apologies for the tardy reply but four of us went to Kajitsu about a week ago for the November menu. They didn't require the whole group to order the same set menu. Two of us did eight courses and two did the four course menu. It worked out to about the right amount of food, while allowing everyone to try everything. Overall, we enjoyed the food and found the whole experience different and interesting. We were seated in the front room, at a table facing the bar. Initially, I thought it might be nicer to sit in the back, but we were told it was reserved or something. I took a peek later on and actually thought the front room seemed a little more lively. Not sure that was an accurate assessment but we were happy with our table

                Thanks for the recommendation.

              2. re: beaulieu

                beaulieu, i really enjoy your site and reviews; definitely more high-end than my usual haunts but you make it all seem quite accessible and comfortable, with great info and knowledge. keep up the good work!

              3. re: uwsgrazer

                For those who never had shojin food before, this is an introduction. But compare with the shojin cuisine generally available in Japan, this one is on the entry level. The black truffle topping of the 1st course was tasteless and smell-less and should not be there. Of the 4-course set menu of November, the main ingredients next 2 were both deep-fried - a repetition should be avoid. Services at the back sitting area were comparable to the Michelin star assigned.

              4. I went to Kajitsu for their 10 course thanksgiving dinner. Since this is my first experience with this kind of food, I was very intrigued and excited by the prospect of this meal.

                I'm not vegetarian, let alone vegan, but I like food and am open to try pretty much anything. Take my opinions with a grain of salt due to my unfamiliarity with this cuisine. I'm not sure I'd say it's "bland," so much as it was all very "same." After maybe the 5th course I found myself feeling somewhat bored with the food.

                The service was excellent, so they get full marks on that account. Oh, and I hated the lighting. We were sitting in the front room, along the right hand wall when you come in. Maybe the lighting is better elsewhere in the restaurant.

                1. Not much to add to the first review. We just ate at Kajitsu last night. Excellent, serene atmosphere in the back, excellent food and service. Only one dish on the menu was so-so (the rice and mushrooms, but this was balanced with tasty, tart pickled veggies on the side, so overall it was still an inventive dish). Overall, TWO THUMBS UP.

                  We're going back again with the inlaws (who are incredibly picky with high standards).

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                  Kajitsu
                  414 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10009

                  1. We dined at Kajitsu and had their 1st year anniversary menu which included a complimentary glass of sake and an extra Nama-Fu (Wheat Gluten) tasting. Everything from the service to the food showed a nice level of refinement. Their lacquer ware was very nice and well chosen, and their food arrangement was good as well.

                    The flavors where incredibly subtle as can be expected from Shojin Ryori where no strong tasting vegetables are allowed. (ie. No Onions, No Garlic) Standouts for me where the steamed rice with morels and salsify, and the Bamboo Shoots with White Miso and Sansho.

                    I would definitely return each season to sample the new menu at Kajitsu. New York is really very lucky to have a chef with the experience that Nishihara San has.

                    As a sidenote, Kagizen Yoshifuza provided their "Candies" that night which is an added bonus as they are an incredible wagashi ya from Kyoto. They did these one off interpretations of Kajitsu's logo. A nice touch.

                    Pictures here:

                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/42140802...

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                    Kajitsu
                    414 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10009