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Kajitsu

  • Vegan Vegan
    ( 20 reviews )
Contact 212-228-4873
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125 E 39th St (at Murray Hill, Manhattan), New York City, New York, USA, 10016

Makes Shojin cuisine, a Japanese vegetarian kaiseki, which originates in the zen monks' diet. Traditional Japanese decor interior. Reservations may be required (call ahead). Previously at 9th St. Open Tue-Sat 11:30am-10:00pm, Sun 5:30pm-10:00pm.

Category: Vegan, Japanese

Reviews (20)

First Review by Jackie1965

Vegans can have fancy Japanese dinners, too! - Edit

my husband and I are very pleased with both the food and the entire experience. the ingredients, quality, taste, and presentation of every single course was wonderful. we opted for the seasonal bamboo special menu, and loved absolutely every single course. my husband also ordered the full sake pairing and enjoyed it. their rouge beer is awesome! we had dined downstairs previously, but we were much more limited down there as there are not a lot of vegan options, but really loved last night's meal. definitely plan to return. one or the loveliest meals we've had, and we dine out often.


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not what it used to be - Edit

When I first began to frequent Kajitsu years ago, at their old E Village location, I was delighted to find a reasonable representation and defender of shojin ryori in NYC, though their version has always been somewhat edited for non-Japanese palates. All the servers at that time could speak Japanese, including the non-Japanese staff, and the place was usually at least half full with Japanese clientele. Since moving to midtown, Kajitsu sadly has become something like Hangawi, which is to say it caters to the masses of theatregoers and tourists, probably none of whom can evaluate the food from a cultural or historical perspective. This is too bad, as it is clear that Kajitsu was once more honestly trying to reference, showcase, and reinterpret different features of Kyoto-style temple cuisine.
The overall quality of the food and prep has deteriorated, and the servers--from all over the world--cannot properly pronounce the Japanese names of the dishes. Kajitsu now offers a vaguely 'oriental' vegan experience, without being obviously located within any particular regional cuisine. The yuba is shamefully tortured, although the tempura is still nicely prepared. It remains a viable option for vegan food in NYC, though it has lost its way and forgotten its roots while remaking itself into a mass market tourist canteen.


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Awesome food and ambiance for special occasions - Edit

The tasting menu was excellent with many new and interesting preparations I had not seen before. I loved the food and enjoyed every dish. We also got the sake pairing which was a lot of sake. The ambiance is very calming with very simple decorations. Wait staff was professional and extremely courteous. I did have a hard time hearing the explanations from our waiter regarding the dishes as I was sitting furthest from the edge. It is expensive and I can see why as many of the dishes seemed quite time-consuming to execute.

Pros: Great food, Courteous wait staff


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overpriced - Edit

As a vegan for over 30 years, I found much of my meal ( had saki tasting and mid tier menu) unsavory. Glad I went, but definitely not for non vegans. My husband ( all at table must have the mid tier menu or else none can) ate elsewhere after playing with his food here. Many unidentifiable items and hard to understand staff.


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Best Meal of My Life - Edit

I actually ate at Kajitsu for my birthday about a month ago, and I'm just remembering to write a Happy Cow review. We went for the full eight course menu with sake tastings. While each course was small, the sum total left me feeling completely full and completely satisfied. The service was impeccable and the food presentation was gorgeous. I would definitely return for a celebratory dinner, as this is not casual dining prices.

Pros: amazing food , service, atmosphere

Cons: prices


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A delightful treat - Edit

Wow! What an adventure for the eyes and the tastebuds! This is someplace you go for the experience, not a quick meal. We spent nearly three hours tasting things I never even heard of, paired with unique teas. Staff was well-trained, very kind and knowledgable. We loved the variety of meticulously prepared food and attention to detail. Almost spiritual. It's no doubt waaaay more than we've ever spent for a meal, but the food was to die for (and I would not say it was overpriced when you consider the quality...very special!). I'd go back to try another season's fair (after saving up for a few months!). Go with an open mind and you'll enjoy the experience! Kajitsu will nourish your mind, body, and soul!

Pros: unique, all vegan (upstairs), wonderful tastes

Cons: expensive


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tiny portions, huge bill - Edit

I feel bad about leaving a negative review for any vegan restaurant, but I felt pretty ripped off by this place. For $45 ( the least expensive tasting menu), I got a very small amount of beautiful looking but mediocre tasting food.
The service was very nice, though.


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only thing impressive was the bill - Edit

We went here for a fancy dinner a few months ago, and, out of everything we sampled on the tasting menu, we weren't very excited by any of it.

For such an expensive meal, I want to like the food a lot more than this.

Pros: all vegan

Cons: whole paycheck for mediocre food


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Delightful Meal - Edit

We were thrilled with our dining experience at Kajitsu. The food was awesome...the starting course called Milky Way was an intriguing blend of jelly and apples along with a hint of scallions. The courses that followed offered delightful blends of flavors and textures.

Pros: Flavors, Tastes, Ambiance

Cons: Cost


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Amazing degustation meal with matching sake - Edit

This place is pretty unique - a traditional Japanese, vegan, 8 course degustation meal with matching sake. Some of the dishes were amazing, the celery root soup was great and there was another dish with seasonal vegetables with flavones so intense it was amazing.

The price tag comes with it - our meal for the 2 of us was over $300.

The lotus rice porridge was the only disappoint dish of the 8, perhaps too Japanese traditional for my taste.

The decor is very sparse but intentionally so I believe. The service was amazing.

Pros: Amazing flavors, A unique one of a kind experience , Attention to detail in the dishes

Cons: Very expensive, Not sure the decor worked for me


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kokage by kajitsu - Edit

Beautiful dish sautéed vegetables served over rice along with a light soup. The service and the ambience were beautiful along with delightfully light food. And a small dessert with berries was extraordinarily delicate. I loved every morsel.

Pros: just a beautiful relaxing experience, I would return in a heartbeat


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I have found the best restaurant in New York! - Edit

From the moment we arrived We were treated like royalty. It was not intimidating, but very inviting and friendly. We made reservations to seat at the chef's table, which was a fantastic experience; We got to see how the food was very carefully put together piece by Beautiful piece.
They have a sake and tea menu that the staff was happy to talk to us about and we ended up ordering one sake and one tea. Both of them were delicious and paired well with our food. Now, The food, how can I describe it? It was beautiful, it was delicious, and it was unusual. It was also very Japanese. There were two menus to choose from; one had eight courses and the other one had six, I think. We went four the eight courses (Hana menu). I recognized most of the ingredients, but some of them were unknown to me. Everything was presented beautifully and it was amazingly delicious. They explained to us that most of the ingredients are made right there at the restaurant, including the yuba.
All the dishes were small, so we were not stuffed, but we were not hungry either. All in all, it took three hours to get through our meal.
Everything had to be perfect. So much so that I one point, after I came back from a bathroom break, The waiter informed me that the soup was ready while I was away, but it had to be thrown away and prepared fresh so that I would get it at the perfect temperature. Crazy! Also, when I came back, my napkin had been folded in a neat triangle.
Yes, it is pricey, but go celebrate a special occasion with them. You will not regret it!

Pros: taste, presentation, ambiance

Cons: none


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An exceptional experience - Edit

Kajitsu was a unique and exceptional experience. The menu is prix fixe and changed monthly. We had both the Kaze (4 courses) and Hana (8 courses). There was also a seasonal menu that looked very attractive - it added a sizzled rice and a tempura, but the entire table had to choose it. The meal presented a wide variety of flavors, ingredients and textures. The presentation was exquisite. Each course was described by the server. Service was excellent. The ambiance was artistic and relaxing. The restaurant is very attentive to the fine details. Bags and purses are placed in neat canvas carriers by the table. The room is pleasantly quiet. Unfortunately they can't totally accommodate gluten free. In all, this was a very special restaurant.


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Amazingly satisfying - Edit

We had the seasonal summer menu. The food may have been small portions but we were full by the last but one course. So satisfying to the taste buds and such a variety of tastes. Worth every cent. And more! Will definitely go back!

Pros: Excellent food, Pleasing atmosphere, Excellent service

Cons: Small exclusive seating


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A meal to remember! - Edit

All vegan, Japanese, one Michelin starred (down from two), Kajitsu was automatically a must visit. I'd been dying to try it out, but we weren't able to get a reservation in the past few trips to NYC. This time we lucked out and secured two seats at the counter. I knew it would be a great experience, but I have to admit it exceeded my expectations - it was out of this world!

Both of us ordered the 8-course Hana set. Japanese cuisine typically does not rely on spices or heavy seasoning to develop the flavor profile, which could be why the menu might look somewhat simple on paper. But in reality, every dish were very carefully constructed and exquisitely presented. Throughout our meal, we were constantly bedazzled by the clean but deep flavors that came through. Even I, as a fast eater, couldn't help but slow down so as to savor every single bite.

Some might find that it was too quiet (no background music) or that the decor was too dull (it was pretty much tables and walls), but it was exactly this calm, serene atmosphere, and the simple, minimalistic decor that I enjoyed so much. I also recommend sitting at the chef's counter, especially for first-timers, where you will be able to see your food being prepared. It was enthralling just how meticulous the chef was.

True, it was a bit of a splurge, but I thought it was well justified.

Pros: excellent food, atmosphere & décor


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An escape to Japan - Edit

Having returned from Japan a couple of weeks ago and with a new found love for the country, I jumped at the opportunity to visit a kaiseki in NYC.

Kajitsu is a marvelous culinary experience, an opportunity to travel to Japan through their food, drinks and excellent service. The atmosphere is elegant, minimalistic, allowing guests to focus fully on the incredible creations by Kajitsu's chef. We had the 8 course Hana and were delighted with every dish presented to us, prepared by the chef in front of our eyes (we were sitting at the chef's counter) and explained in detail by the attentive staff. A Japanese couple was also sitting at the counter and had the opportunity to receive the explanations from the chef himself.

Kajitsu serves traditional Shojin cuisine and I think the experience may be more enjoyable if you check their website first to see the menu and understand what will be served - they obviously use the Japanese terminology to refer to the different items.

Kajitsu is also a 2 Michelin star restaurant. This is the place to go for a unique occasion, it is an absolute treat.


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Amazing - Edit

Kajitsu was the highlight of our culinary experiences in NYC, by far.
The service and decor were impeccable. The only thing we might suggest would be some light music (there is no music at all, and so its a little quiet in there).
We went to Pure Food and Wine a few days ago, and spent $140 (without tip); we left less than satisfied. At Kajitsu we spent $200, and were stoked. We could happily go back there.

Pros: Presentation, Sevice, Culinary Delight


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Kajitsu is a vegan must visit! - Edit

As a long time vegan who travels for a living, I make it a point to go to vegan as well as haute cuisine restaurants all around the world, no matter the cuisine or cost. This includes an experience at an authentic vegan shojin restaurant in a Zen Buddhist monastery in Kyoto.

Having spent most of my time in New York I've frequented practically every vegan / veggie restaurant in New York City including Candle 79, Hangawi, Counter, Dirt Candy, Pure Food and Wine, etc. I make it a point to also dine at high end restaurants that accommodate vegans including Per Se, Nobu, Craft, Charlie Trotter's and Alinea (in Chicago).

I've been to Kajitsu three times in as many months and have had the pleasure of experiencing their last three menus which change monthly to feature seasonal elements. Kajitsu combines high-end dining with truly unique authentic ethnic cuisine. The dining experience is exquisite with impressively informed and passionate servers and a tranquil and thoughtfully designed setting (including many antique place settings and furniture). It's worth noting that, as the Kajitsu website indicates, shojin cuisine is considered the foundation of all Japanese cuisine, including kaiseki (which is derived from shojin), and has always been a vegan cuisine.

The menu, as pointed out by other reviews, is prix fixe at a $50 or $70 level and I've always gotten the 8 course meal as it really is the better deal and experience. Neither I, or the more than 20 people (vegan, veg, and none) that have accompanied me, have ever left less than satisfied or hungry.

The sake selections are great and the seasonal frozen sake is a treat in the summer months (the spoon that it's served with has a 1000 year old glass bead hanging from it!) The Nama Fu (something I've never had before in the US) comes from a multi-generational owned family shop in Japan and is a wonderful replacement for the typical seitan / tofu / tempeh ingredients.

At this price range it's certainly a special occasion destination and definitely worth visiting each month to explore the new menu. Every dish is impeccably executed with flawless technique, masterful flavor pairing, and inspiring presentation. Each plate was a joy!

I look forward to our new monthly tradition of visiting Kajitsu.

For pictures and a thorough review of my first visit to Kajitsu, please visit my partner's posting here: http://lagusta.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/your-new-favorite-nyc-restaurant-kajitsu/

Pros: Quality Sake!, Calming transportative experience!, Incredibly creative for vegans!

Cons: Once a month visit, not daily.


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Shojin Cuisine? It's perfect vegan. - Edit

I am Japanese, but I totally forgot about Shojin Cuisine. It's a vegan cuisine that Buddhist monks have practiced for many centuries. Until I discovered Kajitsu, being a vegetarian though, I totally forgot about its existence.

Buddhist monks are not allowed to consume any animal protein so that Shojin Cuisine is absolutely vegan. Kajitsu, though not a Buddhist restaurant, has a modern approach to the ancient practice by using American produce and kaiseki style presentation. The result is that the food is much better than traditional Shojin Cuisine.

Kajitsu is for someone who is vegetarian/vegan and looking for nice decor, high-end food, and high-end service for special occasions. The price tags are of course high. They offer only 2 pre fixe dinners: $50 and $70. Of course, it's not something you would visit every week, but for something special, this will work perfect.

Pros: High quality vegan, beautiful presentation, friendly staff

Cons: no a la carte

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