Kajitsu under new chef: still up to par?
I'm thinking about eating at Kajitsu soon, but this will be a significant splurge for me, so I would love to know if the food and experience have suffered at all under the new chef, as I haven't been able to find many recent reports or review.
Has anyone been to Kajitsu since the change in leadership? How does the food compare to before?
I'd also be interested in hearing more comparisons from those who've been to Kajitsu before and after the chef change. We visited in late September and had the same Hana menu as the one detailed in following link:
Looking over that post, I agree that the main dish (described to us as such by the server) of pot baked mushrooms was the most successful, and the rice dish was the least. Though most of the meal was pleasant, we generally had issues with most dishes. For example, the vegetable plate had some elements quite tasty, but none provided revelations, and we felt several components were cooked at not particular high a level. In the udon dish, the noodles themselves are very well made, but the accompaniment of wasabi and shredded diakon made the dish exceedingly pungent.
After the meal, my wife looked at me with incredulous disbelief when I told her the restaurant held two michelin stars. We both agreed that a kaiseki style meal we had in Taiwan a couple months prior was far superior, at far less a cost. She opined that perhaps for those who hadn't had chrysanthemum or taro, that dish would be an exotic trip that surprised, and the meal would have such an accumulating effect. I don't know if that's true; there certainly were Japanese diners the evening we were there. Whatever the case may be, our meal was a disappointment.
Your question made me go check my old notes and do a quick rating dish by dish. A * means "seriously amazing". A + means "very very good". No * or + means "very good", and so by implication both times were most definitely up to par compared to other restaurants.
1. Summer Eggplant with White Miso Sauce
2+ Shiitake Mushroom Soup with Magnolia Leaf Lid (Grilled Shiitake, House Made Fried Tofu, Syungiku, Goma-Fu, Choji-Fu)
3+ Artichokes Chips with Vegetable Dips | Konnyaku Yam with Tofu Sauce | Brown Mustard Spring Roll
4. Vinegared Summer Vegetables (Tomato, Junsai, Cresson, Lotus Root, Kaede-Fu)
5* Fried Yuba Wrap with Morel Mushroom and Hijiki
6* Burdock Root Kimipira Sushi | Somen Noodle with Summer Cypress
7+ Matcha Bean Yokan and Hoji Tea Jelly
8. Matcha with Candies by Kyoto Suetomi
1* Steamed Purple Top Turnip and Awa-Fu Tempura with Warm Ankake Sauce (Gingko Nuts, Mitsuba, Wood Ear Mushrooms, Wasabi)
2* Potage of White Satsuma Potato | Leek Tempura with Radish, Winter Truffle and Lemon Powder | Yuba, White Shimeji Mushrooms and Lotus Root with Cauliflower Puree (Cornucopia Pasta)
3* Grilled Nagaimo Yam with Sakekasu Miso Lotus Root and Scallion Cake (Grated Daikon, Ginger)
4* Salad of Mixed Greens and Root Vegetables with Apple Vinaigrette (Sweet Soy Gelée)
5* House-Made Flat Udon Noodles with Butternut Squash, Daikon and Carrot (Bok Choy) | White Sesame Stew with Cabbage and Snowflake Celery (Blacken Seven Spice Infused Sesame Oil)
6. Steamed Rice with Braised Enoki and Nameko Mushrooms (Snow Peas, Dried Nori with Phyllo dough) | House-made Pickles
7* Azuki Bun with Kabocha Nama-Fu and Candied Walnuts
8* Matcha with Candies by Kyoto Suetomi
So for example, my (limited) experience aligns with the Michelin guide's change of rating this year. What I do like is that while I found that the cooking has become simplified and less crazy/ambitious (note for instance that even the menu is less wordy), their dishes are still easily better than a lot of other expensive, non-veg Japanese restaurants in the city. It's just that the pricing hasn't changed. If you are interested yet hesitant to commit, maybe their shorter menu is a good way to test the waters?
Brief update, this is my 3rd visit and completely reaffirming. I find that the cooking has a sensibility and understatedness that is sometimes missing in certain other well-regarded (including some 1-starred Michelin) restaurants, both Japanese and non-Japanese. And best of all it is done without having to strain, i.e. do it through showy or virtuosic cookery. It was a restorative meal, food for the spirit so to speak.
* Gyokuro tea
1. Turnip textures
2+ Mushroom and other vegetables in white miso soup
3* Autumn "still life", and Cedar grilled tofu
4* Fried mochi composition
5. Carrots with spinach sauce
6* Steamed sushi and House soba
7* Warabi mochi (served warm-ish)
8. Matcha, with Candies by Kyoto Shioyoshiken
Every course was good, but saying that would be reductionist. There was a transporting quality that I don't think I've encountered in a while. And that is worth the trip.