Kajitsu is the best culinary gift to the City this year. I eat Japanese almost daily, and there’s no other Japanese restaurant of this caliber serving real kaiseki ryori in New York. The meal is like a journey to Kyoto, conjuring the poetic beauty of Japan’s ancient capital, bringing with it all its refinement and tranquility, feeding my nostalgia for the place where I studied years ago. The monthly menu offers two options: the four-course kaze (wind) and the eight-course hana (flower), which includes two more courses (one being homemade soba) plus dessert and matcha (green tea). Chef Nishihara’s last post in Japan was at a soba kaiseki restaurant where the buckwheat noodles were handmade, so he continues the tradition here. He’s also trained in tea ceremony and flower arrangement. At the end of the hana meal, it’s a pleasure to watch him make the matcha with all the elegance and orchestrated movements of a traditional tea ceremony, so make sure to sit in the front room.
My favorite item on this month’s menu — perfect in peak root vegetable season — is the red daikon and kohlrabi with white miso in a chilled celery root soup. A thin slice of red daikon like the red sun on the Japanese flag is the centerpiece of the soup set atop fine pieces of kohlrabi. The white miso makes the texture of the soup lighter than those made with milk. With its subtle mix of vegetables, it’s a refreshing dish that cuts the August heat.