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Oct 15, 2011 09:07 PM

Limited Time: Matsutake Menu at Kajitsu

As usual, full review and photos of the gorgeous food are on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...

While many are waiting for truffle season to really kick in, there is already a delicacy that is in season right now. The matsutake mushroom is technically the most expensive mushroom in the world (truffles are technically not mushrooms).

Kajitsu is a Japanese vegan restaurant that I have raved about before Right now in October, they have a special matsutake menu which they limit to 5 parties per night. Similar to truffles, the aroma is key with matsutakes, and the chef did a wonderful job of preserving that whenever a dish had those mushrooms as a component.

TERRINE OF AUTUMN VEGETABLES WITH CHESTNUT CRUMBS Absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful colors and lots of vegetables. I think vegetables in aspic is a fairly common Japanese preparation. This one was simple, focusing on the clean taste of the vegetables. It rested on top of parsnip puree, and had two small slices of wheat gluten cut to look like autumn leaves, further decorating the plate.

So just how many vegetables were in this? I asked for a list, and they were nice enough to write them down for me. The terrine base (portions are not uniform) includes: broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, lotus root, bell pepper, tomato, okra, snow peas, mitsuba, red beets, zucchini, edamame, celery, corn, and potato.

The sudachi was the small slice of yuzu-like citrus. This was simple with very subtle flavors. A warm soup that focused on the aroma of the mushrooms. I thought the textural differences in the soup were interesting, with the mushroom slices and the fried tofu, although I'm personally not a fan of sogginess of the batter left in the soup.

I absolutely loved this. The goma-dare was a beautifully harmonized sesame sauce and the udon were perfectly chewy. While the last time I had goma-dare I had soba, I thought their version of udon worked perfectly with it.

SLOW SIMMERED VEGETABLES, FEATURING SATOIMO, CARROT, MIZUNA, FRIED TOFU, KABOCHA, GOBO Here, the vegetables were simmered separately and then put together at the end. Our favorite was the kabocha.

The matsutake croquet had that wonderful mushroom earthiness in a creamy filling with a perfectly fried exterior. The awa-fu, like all their wheat gluten, has a texture that is definitely an acquired taste. It was fried this time.Yet again, more vegetables than I could figure out. Luckily, they came through again: kabu turnip, kabu turnip leaf, fennel, fennel fronds, wax beans, enoki mushrooms, cherry tomato, tatsoi. The grilling and the smoked soy is there, but again, quite subtle.

The aroma burst out of the clay pot as they removed the lid. The rice was hot and comforting, filled with the sweet umami of the wonderful mushrooms.

RED MISO SOUP WITH EGGPLANT AND KARASHI Good strong flavor and again, served hot, which was important. This was very good and I had seconds.

SWEET POTATO KINTON WITH COCONUT TOFU CREAM, WALNUTS, AND MACADAMIA NUTS Like most of the desserts I've had at Kajitsu, the inside was filled with white bean paste. This overpowered any of the sweet potato or coconut tastes that were on the plate, but matched well with the nuts.

Assortment of sugar candies and matcha to round out the meal. Another beautiful, solid meal at Kajitsu, and I think that the matsutake is worth the extra splurge ($100 instead of $70) if you like mushrooms. It's always impressive to consider the sheer variety of vegetables offered in every meal here.

414 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10009

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  1. The vegetable terrine was really gorgeous, wasn't it! :) They said left side of the terrine represented southern Japan, hence still green. Moving to right, it is getting red, representing northern Japan where the trees are changing colors.

    4 Replies
    1. re: kosmose7

      Gorgeous. The colors and the pattern are such a classic Japanese design commonly found on origami papers and kimonos. I'm really impressed.

      1. re: Cheeryvisage

        I was really overwhelmed too! I think chef Nishihara Masato san is a genius.

        1. re: kosmose7

          One of the things I find most impressive is that he has never completely repeated a dish since they opened. He's repeated elements and certain techniques, but the overall dish is different and so many vegetables are used!

          kosmose, why can't your site be in English? Or even Chinese?

          1. re: fooder


            Seriously, I'd follow your blog everyday if only I could read it.

    2. You know, the meat-lover in me has always put me off going to Kajitsu. It's the whole "why pay $70 for all vegetables" mentality. Yet, yet.... your report and photos really move me to put the restaurant on the to-go list. I also checked out your previous report of an earlier meal there during the winter. I'm glad to see that the dish preparations seem heartier during the cold months.

      By the way, how does the Matsutake Menu work? You mentioned it's limited to 5 parties per night. Do you tell them that you intend to do the mushroom menu when you make the reservation? Or do you simply get there early in order to be one of the 5 parties?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Cheeryvisage

        If I may butt in, I specifically told them I wanted to have the matsutake course when I made the reservation just a few hours before the arrival. I also have the same mentality towards vegan dishes, but Kajitsu is certainly an exception! :)

        1. re: Cheeryvisage

          I like to plan ahead, so I made the reservation a couple of weeks ahead of time, and when I found out about the matsutake menu on the website, I just called and specified that it was what I wanted. Don't know what the situation is like now.