Kajistu is a fantastic Japanese restaurant in midtown Manhattan that offers an entirely vegan dinner menu. Located in a townhouse on 39th Street, Kajitsu is sparingly decorated and offers only 2 choices for dinner: the 4 course meal (Kaze) or the 8 course meal (Hana). We figured we should go all out and opted for the 8 courses. What an experience.
Everything at Kajistu is very specific. Starting with the name, Kajitsu, which means “fine day” or “day of celebration” in Japanese. Eating at Kajtisu was definitely a celebration – of food, friends, and life!
The cuisine is Shojin which is a type of vegetarian cooking that originates in Zen Buddhism. The logo, the shapes of a square, triangle, and circle, were sketched by the Zen monk Sengai Osho to illustrate one of the most essential principals of Zen: the journey to bring meaning out of something that seems to have none. I love that!
And it is the perfect description for the experience of dining at Kajistu. They found a way to make the entire experience meaningful. From the greeting of the maître d’ when you walk in the door, to the little basket we were offered for our bags, to the warm towel to wash our hands with, to the sparse room with only 8 tables, to the water glasses and little paper coasters, to the presentation of each course on a special dish, and the food itself.
For three hours, we sat, unrushed, and talked, drank, and ate delicate, delicious, well thought out, seasonal, artistic food.
First, the waitress showed us this basket of seasonal vegetables that were to be turned into our meal.
This was first. It was “Spring Current of May” and consisted of asparagus, baby turnip, romanesco, cauliflower, malabar spinach and wild cress.
This was next. It was “Newly Harvested Onion Soup” with potato, mizuna, wood ear mushrooms, and ginger. The potatoes were thinly sliced and kind of almost roasted. So good!
This was next. A “Seasonal Assortmant” which included mountain yam, avocado, nama-fu, fava bean sushi, burdock root, carrot, yuba, celery, bamboo shoot, fiddlehead fern, konnyaku, tofu puree, beets, shiso, umeboshi, taranome, and hijiki. I cannot tell you what was what on this plate but it was all fantastic.
This was next. “Pistachio Croquet and Beans Tempura” with pistachio, wild chickpea, snap pea, string bean, young corn, Worcester sauce, and lemon. Those croquettes were delicate and delicious. The tempura was succulent and the chickpeas were roasted. The crumbles of pistachio added just the right touch.
This was next. “Root Vegetables” in a tomato broth with daikon, burdock roots, baby carrots, spinach and pumpkin-fu.
This was next. “Vegetable Kakiage Donburi” which was a big pile of fried onions over sticky rice with miso soup and pickled vegetables. This was the yummiest of the entire meal.
This was next. “Kashiwamochi” which was like a little taco of azuki beans and white miso. Fun and delicious!
And this was last. “Matcha with Candy by Kyoto Kagizen-Yoshifusa” which were little candies in the shape of the Kajitsu logo.
Amazing. Spectacular. Delicious. Go!