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The Impermanence of Magnificence


Has vegan food ever been so beautiful? “Kajitsu,” a cookbook explaining the Zen Buddhist Shojin cuisine of Japan, offers page after page of magnificent seasonal dishes, with recipes. The book’s all based on the Murray Hill restaurant Kajitsu (now closed because of the pandemic), which moved to its present location from the East Village in 2013. And as the book explains, the restaurant, founded in 2009, will close permanently next year to respect the impermanence of things, according to Buddhist philosophy. So if you wish to remember the restaurant, or would be inspired to tackle its vegan recipes, including the most astonishing chirashi sushi you’re likely to encounter, this book is for you. But simpler recipes — like carrot potage, roast eggplant rice, and bamboo shoot and mountain vegetable sukiyaki, which require little background in Japanese ingredients beyond dashi, soy sauce and miso — are relatively few. Many require items like magnolia leaves, lily bulbs, kuromame (sweet black beans) and abura-age (a kind of fried tofu). The book, at least in its English translation, desperately needs a glossary and shopping sources.

“Kajitsu: A Shojin Restaurant’s Season in the City” (FUKA Honten, $90), kitchenartsandletters.com.

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