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Vegetables

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We dined at Per Se last week and ordered the "Tasting of Vegetables" menu. But that is not what it turned out to be. It was fairly elaborate cuisine without meat or fish. There didn't seem to be any great effort to procure terrific vegetables and to show them off one at a time with what could seem like simple cuisine, but might actually be quite hard to do. My model for this would be Arpège in Paris. I imagine that Manresa and Ubuntu in the SF Bay area do it well. The Japanese know how to do it. My question is: Does any restaurant in NYC do this well?

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Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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  1. Try Kajitsu. Like you said, the Japanese know how to do it.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/658982

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

    1. I haven't found any place in NYC that serves vegetables in the style you name (haven't been to Kajitsu). Not quite sure why you mention Japanese. Are you implying that Manresa and Ubuntu are Japanese (they are not), or are you looking for a restaurant that does Japanese cuisine?

      I think the closest I've had to what you're looking for is probably Blue Hill. They have their own garden and supplement their items (if needed) with produce from farms. Cooking style is upscale (though not quite like Arpege -- more like Manresa).

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      Blue Hill
      75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

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

      2 Replies
      1. re: Miss Needle

        Sorry, I wasn't implying that Manresa and Ubujtu were Japanese though I can see how you could read it that way. I wasn't really looking for Japanese cusine; it was just a parenthetical comment. Do you mean Blue Hill downtown or the one at Stone Barns?

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        Blue Hill
        75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

        1. re: beaulieu

          I've only been to the Blue Hill at Stone Barns but DH has been to both. He preferred the one at Stone Barns -- not sure if it's because he thought the food is better or because of the whole setting and experience. Could be wrong, but I would assume the food should be similar.

          DH still talks fondly about this vegetable medley we had at l'Arpege. Tons of beautiful vegetables individually cooked in a light sauce, letting the true flavor come out. Each vegetable was beautiful on its own but worked really well together. We haven't been able to find a dish like that in the States yet. Closest we've come to was Manresa's Into the Vegetable Garden dish. I think Ubuntu has something similar to that though we didn't order it when we were there. I haven't had the vegetarian tasting menu at Per Se so I don't have any comments on it.

          While not exactly what you're looking for, I think you would appreciate Basement Bistro in Earlton, NY. Not quite NYC but closer than California. He does some really nice things with veggies. He totally gives a new name to farm-to-table. He will outsource things like olive oil and meats, but 100% of his produce is from his farm. He even makes his own charcuterie, cheeses and vinegars. His cheeses are some of the best things I've ever had in my life. I had a wonderful squash blossom in a "tempura" batter made with ground bean flour (his own) and seltzer oven-baked. And there was this really delicious wild mushroom soup (that he foraged himself that day) topped off with his own smoked corn. He doesn't really use cream or dairy, preferring to let the true flavor of whatever he's cooking to shine through. Health nuts should appreciate this -- he doesn't use refined sugar but sweetens his dishes with his own homemade stevia extract (which tastes nothing like those commercial versions) and grape syrup that he makes from his grapes. He says he doesn't do it for health reasons but for the same reasons he doesn't use cream or dairy. Presentation is a bit dated and the cuisine is not as high-end as places like l'Arpege. But the food tastes wonderful. It's definitely off-the-beaten path and a bit unusual. There is one fantastic man who is behind the whole operation -- he's the farmer, chef and waiter. Seatings tend to be very small because of that reason and reservations are very difficult to procure. But it's quite the unique experience, and was totally worth all the hoop-la I had to go through. And it's a steal! I had something like a 13 or 14 course menu for about $85.

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          Per Se
          10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

          Blue Hill
          75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011

      2. I don't quite get your comment about Per Se. Are you saying the preparation is complex, rather than something simpler that "shows off" the veggies? Ubuntu is similar to Per Se, it makes fancy veggie dishes though Per Se is fancier. I was underwhelmed by Ubuntu. Kajitsu is Shojin style, which looks simple but is also quite complex. It was ok, but it lacked something. I had a Shojin meal at a temple in Tokyo and it was phenomenal. I think the only place I've been to that "shows off" veggies is Chez Panisse (it was boring). Also, Charlie Trotter's in Chicago can make a raw veggie meal. It's way way better than it sounds.

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        Per Se
        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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

        1 Reply
        1. re: plasticman

          Yes, that is what I am saying. The menu was billed as a "Tasting of Vegetables," but, in fact, one tasted sauces instead. To see the whole meal go to: http://epicures.wordpress.com/2009/11...
          I suspect that little effort was made to procure top notch vegetables, but I couldn't really tell as they were submerged. I don't think this was true a year ago at Per Se. I have not yet been to Ubuntu, but some bloggers whom I respect do not agree with you.

        2. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Dirt Candy! http://www.dirtcandynyc.com/

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          Dirt Candy
          430 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10009

          1. We went to Kajitsu last night and really liked it. Thank you for the recommendation. We thought that the eight course menu was superior to the comparable one at Per Se. But Kajitsu also has a complex cuisine and not what I was looking for in my original question.

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            Per Se
            10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

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