When I was in college, I used my senior status to snag a seat in a Japanese Tea Ceremony class. My friends thought I was crazy, as on Wednesday mornings I would leave campus at 7:30am to walk thirty minutes to the Japanese tea gardens, to a small tea house where class was held. Each week’s class contained a time for private meditation, a lesson in Japanese history, and, a tea ceremony.
The tea ceremony was always my favorite time. The class gathered in a circle on the floor, and our instructor would perform the specific rituals that comprise this extension of hospitality. Shuffle shuffle into the room, a slow long bow to us each. I wish I remembered each step as acutely as I remember the sounds, smells, and taste of matcha tea.
Matcha tea was always served in thin light tea bowls, of which each guest lightly slurped their tea in three swallows. The concentrated green tea has a slightly bitter taste, and was often served with a light bean paste treat.
And “treat” is the one word I will use to describe the tiny restaurant Kajitsu. In its essence, it is an establishment that serves shojin cuisine, which in and of itself is something to marvel. This is veganism at its finest – fresh, in season vegetables, legumes, herbs, seeds and grains, “chosen at the moment that best reflects their flavor”. Each course served on beautiful Japanese pottery, which the restaurant repairs if they are chipped or damaged as a sign of humility and respect for the artist who created it.
We sat at the chef’s counter, arguably the best place to perch in the 26-seat restaurant. As we chatted over our 8-course menu, we watched the Chef prepare each element with abundant finesse.
Another welcomed surprise to the meal was the crisp and cool sake pairings. I’ve never enjoyed sake so. Erase any preconceived notion of what sake tastes like at your neighborhood sushi joint, as Kajitsu’s selection proffers smooth, clean flavors, bidding one to sip rather than bomb.After our meal, we watched the Chef prepare matcha tea, whisking the green powder to frothy delight, turning the bowl just so, with a light bow as he served us. The ceremonious routine resonating gratitude and respect for this cultural experience.
414 E. 9th Street, New York, NY 10009
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