Kajitsu is a restaurant that specializes in shojin cuisine, which you can read more on their about page. But it's vegan food, and damn good regardless of the fact that it's vegan. See Serious Eats for better photos and writing.
But here's my experience:
InteriorThe dining area is on the second floor of a row house, interior is very Japanese in aesthetics, down to the tokonoma (alcove).
MenuThe restaurant only has seasonal prix-fixe that changes once a month. It's a nice touch to add context to the menu items with some background info on the festivals and traditions happening during the month. For February, it's the beginning of spring (ha I wish, why is it still -20?)
Hot yuzu teaSince this is the splurge meal of the trip, I ordered a drink alongside my meal. Yuzu is a citrus fruit, so you could say this is just a hot lemon tea. But regardless of whether it's a mere psychological effect, this tasted delicious. Plus the cup has interesting glazing (shino?).
I read somewhere that in western restaurants with several tiers of tasting menu, the more expensive options usually contain rarer ingredients. Whereas in kaiseki with several tiers, the more expensive options have rarer tableware.
As Kajitsu mentions on their website:
The dishes used at Kajitsu were specially selected for this space, and include pieces created by master Japanese potters over 200 years ago as well as works by modern ceramic artists.
Since the unique color and quality of these pieces cannot be reproduced, dishes are carefully repairedif they are chipped or damaged. You may notice small patches on some of the dishes used at Kajitsu; this is an indication of our deep respect for the work of old masters, and for the shojin tradition of frugality and respect.
So prepare to see some beautiful tableware, like the spoon and tofu container below:
First course: black soybean tofu, umeboshi (pickled plum) soup and rice.
Umeboshi soup - the sourness is very appetizing, and goes well with the rice. The flavour is repetitive with the yuzu tea, but I still loved it though. The 3 spheres in the soup are: umeboshi, golden beet, and mochi.
The tofu tasted like the soy beans, aka what it should taste like. It's also very creamy but light. I would definitely take chilled tofu over ice cream.
The rice was also perfectly made. Each grain is distinct but sticks to each other, and subtly sweet tasting. Made me realize that I make really shitty rice, maybe that's why I like noodles more.
A couple close ups, because I was so impressed by the first course. Though the photos aren't great quality because a) iPhone camera and b) I was more focused on eating
Then we move onto the second course, which is a white miso hotpot, with tempura, and ponzu daikon.
Miso hotpotThere are lotus ball, brussels sprouts (surprisingly delicious in this dish), and various fu (wiki, but read this instead). I thought the broth was too oily, making this my least favourite dish out of the meal.
The tempura is fantastic though:
Tempura with fu, vegetables, and a daikon flower. With dipping salt.The vegetable tempura were mind-blowing, because the vegetables were actually well cooked prior to deep frying. This improves the vegetable's own taste, and increases the textural contrast between the soft interior and crisp crust. Also the use of salt instead of the typical dipping sauce preserves the lovely crust. Hands down best tempura I've had, though I really want to visit this tempura restaurant in Tokyo.
A refreshing side: grated daikon with ponzu sauce, mushroom and scallions.
By the end of the second course, I was full. But the Chazuke turned out to be really delicious.
Chazuke with mustard leaves and pickles.
Pouring the tea in
The mustard leaf is perfect. Nothing else needs to be said aside from the fact that the pickles also go well with the rice porriage.
Lastly dessert. I actually choose the 3 course prix-fixe with the rice, and added the additional matcha and sweets.
Matcha, sweets, and complimentary iribancha (a smoky kyoto tea)
Isn't it so cute that the sweets match the store's logo? All the tea are from Ippodo downstairs, which I'll talk more about in a roundup post. The matcha with sweets are quintessentially what they are. The iribancha is very smokey, it was a little shocking since it was my first time having smokey tea. Initially I didn't like the taste, which is entirely of the roasting, but smokiness subdued as I kept drinking and ended up appreciating the flavour more by the end of it. The smokiness should go well with the other dessert choices, especially the fu-manju.
Needless to say, you gotta eat here when in New York. I'm definitely going for the dinner menu next time.