ed. note: My friend, Michael Talalaev, an experienced cook and diner is willing to share some of his experiences here on my blog and I am thrilled to host him. He has an excellent eye and great skill with a camera, posting his photos regularly on Flick’r under the Photostream of nicknamemiket. I have previously posted his work here on a lunch we shared at Aldea. Looking at his photos and reading his work, I can only wish that I was with him there at Kajitsu for this meal.
Hello, Docsconz Followers,
A while ago John asked me if I would be interested to write a guest blogpost for docsconz.com – an offer I considered a rare privilege.
Just to give you an idea – my primary interest is in food photography, “food reportage”, if you will. Although I write comments on my pictures (and often of a personal nature) – I don’t consider myself a blogger, but rather a man with a
great deal of passion for food and memories that it can create.
Needless to say, I am only so happy to share with you an experience of a rather unusual for me, and unique even by NYC standards, kaiseki-style vegan meal at Kajitsu – East Village restaurant pursuing Shojin cuisine.
Noteworthy, Kajitsu means “fine day”, or “day of celebration” in Japanese. And, Shojin cuisine refers to a type of vegetarian cooking that originates in Zen Buddhism. Even though it does not use meat or fish, shojin is regarded as the foundation of all Japanese cuisine, especially kaiseki, the Japanese version of haute cuisine. In its present form kaiseki is a multi-course meal in which fresh, seasonal ingredients are prepared in ways that enhance the flavor of each component, with the finished dishes beautifully arranged on plates. All of these characteristics come from shojin cuisine, which is still prepared in Buddhist temples throughout Japan.
Also, Kajitsu is using an interesting symbol symbol to show respect for Zen philosophy and the traditions of shojin cuisine. The shapes shown at the top of the post were sketched by the Zen monk Sengai Osho (1750-1837), to illustrate one of the most essential principals of Zen:
- the journey to bring meaning out of something that seems to have none.
In my mind that principle applies to cooking, art, love and passion – all things I hold so dear to my heart.
I wanted to mention a few things before proceeding to pictures, in particular Kajitsu pottery, real estate and service:
In traditional Japanese cuisine the dishware is an integral part of the meal. 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 repaired if they are chipped or damaged. You may notice small patches on some of the dishes used at Kajitsu; this is an indication of deep respect for the work of old masters, and for the shojin tradition of frugality and respect.
Dining space at Kajitsu is fairly intimate, although the best place to enjoy the meal, in my opinion is the bamboo dining counter right in front of the Chef Masato Nishihara – the heart and soul of the restaurant. Also, Kajitsu is immaculately clean – something I truly appreciated.
Kajitsu service is quite good, although reservations are honored only to a degree – and you may end up waiting for a table.
Go to Mike’s Kajitsu Flick’r set for detailed descriptions and comments on individual photos.