“It felt, to me, more Japanese than Japan,” says chef Hiroki Abe of the first time he ate at the sushi counter of New York City’s Kajitsu. “This place that spreads Japanese culture — not just in its food but its entire space — was very appealing to me,” Abe remembers.
Today Abe is the chef behind the Japanese restaurant, and he’s continuing the tradition by serving a menu on the basis of shojin ryori — Japan’s oldest cuisine that has Buddhist origins; It means Abe is serving a completely vegetarian omakase menu.
“We cook with five tastes, five colors, and five techniques,” he explains. “Which is the basis of shojin cuisine.” The tastes include saltiness and bitterness, while the techniques range from raw to fried; the colors refer to the use of red, blue, and plenty of yellow. “I feel purpose working in Japanese cuisine,” says chef Hiroki Abe. “If it means non Japanese [people] abroad can experience the goodness and richness of the culture.”