While many are waiting for truffle season to really kick in, there is already a delicacy that is in season right now. The matsutake mushroom is technically the most expensive mushroom in the world (truffles are technically not mushrooms). In fact, they are one of the very few types of mushrooms that they cook with on Iron Chef America.
Kajitsu is a Japanese vegan restaurant that I have raved about before. Right now in October, they have a special matsutake menu which they limit to 5 parties per night. Similar to truffles, the aroma is key with matsutakes, and the chef did a wonderful job of preserving that whenever a dish had those mushrooms as a component.
Our first sake pairing of the night.
TERRINE OF AUTUMN VEGETABLES WITH CHESTNUT CRUMBS Absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful colors and lots of vegetables. I think vegetables in aspic is a fairly common Japanese preparation. This one was simple, focusing on the clean taste of the vegetables.
It rested on top of parsnip puree, and had two small slices of wheat gluten cut to look like autumn leaves, further decorating the plate.
So just how many vegetables were in this? I asked for a list, and they were nice enough to write them down for me. The terrine base (portions are not uniform) includes: broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, lotus root, bell pepper, tomato, okra, snow peas, mitsuba, red beets, zucchini, edamame, celery, corn, and potato.
CLEAR SOUP WITH MATSUTAKE MUSHROOMS, FRIED TOFU, AND SUDACHI
The sudachi was the small slice of yuzu-like citrus. This was simple with very subtle flavors. A warm soup that focused on the aroma of the mushrooms. I thought the textural differences in the soup were interesting, with the mushroom slices and the fried tofu, although I'm personally not a fan of sogginess of the batter left in the soup.
HOUSE-MADE UDON WITH GOMA-DARE, CHAYOTE, SHISO, SHICHIMI
I absolutely loved this. The goma-dare was a beautifully harmonized sesame sauce and the udon were perfectly chewy. While the last time I had goma-dare I had soba, I thought their version of udon worked perfectly with it.
MATSUTAKE TEMPURA Accompanying the noodles were these pieces of lightly fried matsutake.
This was the first really assertive sake we had.
SLOW SIMMERED VEGETABLES, FEATURING SATOIMO, CARROT, MIZUNA, FRIED TOFU, KABOCHA, GOBO Here, the vegetables were simmered separately and then put together at the end. Our favorite was the kabocha.
ASSORTMENT OF GRILLED VEGETABLES WITH SMOKED SOY SAUCE; MATSUTAKE MUSHROOM CROQUET WITH HIBISCUS LEAF; GRILLED AWA-FU WITH SWEET SOY SAUCE, BUCKWHEAT SEEDS, WASABI
The matsutake croquet had that wonderful mushroom earthiness in a creamy filling with a perfectly fried exterior. The awa-fu, like all their wheat gluten, has a texture that is definitely an acquired taste. It was fried this time.
Yet again, more vegetables than I could figure out. Luckily, they came through again: kabu turnip, kabu turnip leaf, fennel, fennel fronds, wax beans, enoki mushrooms, cherry tomato, tatsoi. The grilling and the smoked soy is there, but again, quite subtle.
Assortment of pickles for our final savory course. There was some eggplant and kelp in the assortment.
CLAY POT STEAMED RICE WITH MATSUTAKE MUSHROOMS
The aroma was bursting from this as they removed the lid.
A closer look, which was tough because of all the steam coming out.
The rice was hot and comforting, filled with the sweet umami of the wonderful mushrooms. For the three of us, there was probably a total of about eight bowls of this size.
RED MISO SOUP WITH EGGPLANT AND KARASHI Good strong flavor and again, served hot, which was important. This was very good and I had seconds.
SWEET POTATO KINTON WITH COCONUT TOFU CREAM, WALNUTS, AND MACADAMIA NUTS Like most of the desserts I've had at Kajitsu, the inside was filled with white bean paste. This overpowered any of the sweet potato or coconut tastes that were on the plate, but matched well with the nuts.
Assortment of sugar candies
Matcha to round out the meal. Another beautiful, solid meal at Kajitsu, and I think that the matsutake is worth the extra splurge ($100 instead of $70) if you like mushrooms. It's always impressive to consider the sheer variety of vegetables offered in every meal here.