The best thing I ate in 2013 (and yes I know we’re 2 months into 2014) came on Christmas Day, when my sister and I ate at Kajitsu. Kasjitsu is a vegan restaurant that specializes in Shojin cuisine, which they say is “a type of vegetarian cooking that originates in Zen Buddhism.” The idea, it seems, is to use seasonal vegetables artfully arranged on a plate. Our eight course meal was exorbitantly priced, plus we paid for the additional sake pairing (which I highly recommend). Some of the dishes were too simple — Yakishabu Vegetables: chunks of a few different veggies, cooked and then tossed table-side in a mild miso sauce. Others were overly complicated — King Oyster Mushoom: mixed with grated daikon, umeboshi, and ponzu gelee, our server (who was great) admitted to us was impossible to eat in the way that “the chef intended.” But there was one dish that was just perfect. I mean so perfect it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Towari Soba was a simple bowl of buckwheat noodles, topped with grated mountain yam and wasabi, with a little soy for flavor, served room temperature. The soba noodles, which are usually made with a mix of buckwheat and wheat flour to help them form, were made with 100% buckwheat for the holiday. They were the most perfect noodles I have ever eaten. Each noodle was firm, chewy, and slippery. You could feel the corner edges of each noodle against your tongue as you ate them. I had never eaten grated mountain yam before, though I’d heard of it; it has the texture of the slimy part of okra, and on its own the texture made me gag a little, but mixed in together the sliminess coated each noodle and somehow it made sense. The little bit of wasabi added a touch of sharpness that balanced the dish out in an unexpected way. It was the perfect encapsulation of simplicity and technique, and was by far the best thing I ate in all of 2013.
Kajitsu — 125 E 39th St, NYC