If you want real Japanese food – not your Americanized, cream cheese-filled sushi roll joint, then Kajitsu in New York City’s East Village should be at the top of your list. It is as varied and gustatorily invigorating as it is inconspicuous and modest. Tucked away below street level, the Shojin destination quietly glows, defying a bustling neighborhood. There is no music, minimal decoration, and a warm, smiling staff. The prix fixe menu features an ancient cuisine perfected in Zen Buddhist monasteries that utilizes seasonal foods and follows the Buddhist principle of not taking animals’ lives. One interesting element is the FU, or as we like to call it, seitan. From the frozen sake drink, through to the dessert, each dish was a meticulously curated experience, filled with new taste combinations and an array of textures.

Visitors are treated to their choice of an eight-course ( “Hana”) or four-course meal (“Kaze”) .