Birthday Dinner at Kaijitsu

For my birthday last month, I had wanted to celebrate it at a vegetarian/vegan restaurant. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to experience a lot of fantastic restaurants with prix fixe courses, but each time I needed a substitution (I’m allergic to shellfish), they’d replace it with a kind of meh vegetarian dish. So, I was curious what a prix fixe course at a vegetarian or vegan restaurant would be like because of all the restrictions. Not to mention, I’ve always been curious as to how good vegan food can really be after watching the Chef’s Table episode with Jeong Kwan, the nun from South Korea who prepares vegan food.

After a bit of searching, I decided to celebrate the special day at Kaijitsu, a Japanese restaurant that specializes in shojin cuisine. According to their website, “Shojin cuisine refers to a type of vegetarian cooking that originates in Zen Buddhism.”

I had seen the restaurant before, because I’ve stopped by the Ippodo located on the first floor. Each time I was there, I’d always see people going upstairs for lunch and I was really curious about what restaurant it was. Well, now I know 🙂

The menu changes every month; we got to experience the menu for May
Watercress with a tofu dressing
Rice and fava beans, green beans with a sesame sauce, red miso soup with an onion
A huge assortment of vegetables; dandelion, burdock root, mushrooms, watercress, tomato, potato, strawberries in a black sesame sauce
Grilled bamboo with a potato puree and sansho peppers
Burdock root (I forgot the green vegetable) tempura
Radish sushi wrapped in a bamboo leaf; mountain leaf tempura
The radish sushi unwrapped
Fava beans, scallions, black fungus, kelp, simmered for a long time
Green tea soba with fresh wasabi
Strawberries with homemade gelato (I forgot what this was made out of)
Blueberry mochi in the shape of an iris flower
Matcha and sugar candy
Vegan brownies, fruit, and tofu cream for my birthday

The meal was amazing. Each course was beautifully presented and well-seasoned. It was really easy to taste the flavors of the vegetables without it being hidden by the batter or seasoning. Most of the time by the end of a multi-course meal, I feel overstuffed, but the portions were perfect and I was really content. It was a really fun and great experience, and I’d love to stop by again sometime in the future for another special occasion.

125 E 39th Street
New York, NY 10016


Leave a Comment


  1. Maria wrote:

    Oh my gosh, this all looks so delicious. You did a fabulous job on the mouth watering photography. I loved the blueberry mochi in the shape of an iris, so pretty 🙂

    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  2. Yiota wrote:

    Omg everything looks so good!!! I can’t chose which dish is the best!!! x


    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  3. OMG this vegan fine dining place looks soooo amazing!! Aww I’m so sad that this place is in NYC since I live in LA but I will definitely bookmark this place in Yelp so I can try it out next time I’m in New York. I’ve cut out red meat for my diet and always try to opt to eat vegan food when I’m out when I can. I loveee how inventive and creative vegan restaurants are getting (there are a ton here in LA), since it’s definitely encouraging more people to be more open in trying vegan food.


    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  4. Quinn wrote:

    I need to branch out with my food! Some of this I would be into (love me some vegetarian dishes), but others are a stretch. You photographed them beautifully. PS: Happy belated birthday!


    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  5. Jennifer wrote:

    Everything looks so good!

    Effortlessly Sophisticated

    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  6. Yes many vegetarian and vegan dishes can be quite good. It is a shame that are not more of them. Your photos are great too and really make the food look so appetizing.

    Allie of

    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  7. This all looks delicious. I’m not 100% vegetarian, but mostly so I love it when I find a restaurant that has veg food that’s actually interesting and inventive. I also love Japanese food, so this place sounds just perfect.

    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  8. Happy belated birthday Mai. Coincidentally a friend ate at Kaijitsu last month and was raving about it. Adding your experience, I really need to give this place a try. I try to eat vegetarian as much as possible and it’s encouraging that there are so many great options for dining out in the city now.

    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
    • Mai Nguyen wrote:

      Thank you Rowena! Same, 90% of everything I cook at home is vegetarian/vegan, but I do eat meat when I go out. But it’s good to know that there are a lot of places to choose from in NYC when I feel like eating vegetarian when I go out like Chloe’s or even Bareburger has a lot of vegetarian options now.

      Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  9. Everything is so nicely and neatly plated, it looks so good!

    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  10. That food is art. Everything looks so beautiful and I’m happy to hear that is was delicious. Thank you for recommendation of this restaurant.

    New Post –

    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  11. Wowww, so many of these dishes are so unique and I’ve never seen anything like them! I know that vegan food sometimes has a rep for being boring or gross, but that’s just because some places are so lazy with their vegan alternatives. Places like this prove that eating vegan doesn’t have to compromise taste or innovation! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
    • Mai Nguyen wrote:

      I know! There are a lot of vegan/vegetarian places around NYC at a more affordable, casual price point too like Terri’s or Chloe’s, which are both great!

      Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  12. Everything looks so fresh and delicious! I love the presentation, too!! Now I’m hungry!


    Posted 6.3.19 Reply
  13. jane wrote:

    I always love Japanese food.
    This looks tasty

    Much Love,

    Posted 6.4.19 Reply
  14. Ashley wrote:

    What a yummy way to celebrate! 🙂

    Le Stylo Rouge

    Posted 6.4.19 Reply
  15. Gabrielle wrote:

    Happy belated birthday! I hope you had the most incredible time celebrating your special day 🙂 I’m so happy to hear the food was not only well presented, but also tasted good! x

    Posted 6.4.19 Reply
  16. yuka wrote:

    oh my that looks soooo good! It’s making my mouth water!

    Posted 6.5.19 Reply
  17. Lorna wrote:

    Oh my gosh that looks delicious! The food looks so good! And happy belated birthday!

    Raindrops of Sapphire

    Posted 6.5.19 Reply
  18. Jessica wrote:

    What a charming place. Food looks amazingly delish too!

    Jessica |

    Posted 6.6.19 Reply
  19. Naya wrote:

    OMG! Stop teasing lol Well, actually thank you a ton for sharing this, because I wanna go there asap. Everything you guys had looked fantastic and I bet it tasted heavenly too. Happy belated birthday! xx


    Posted 6.6.19 Reply
  20. The food looks so yummy and healthy! And, although it was last month, happy B-Day babe!!
    Mónica Sors

    Posted 6.6.19 Reply
  21. Nina wrote:

    Happy birthday dear!!
    I hope you had a great dinner! xx

    La ilusión de Nina –

    Posted 6.6.19 Reply
  22. Kinga wrote:

    Looks fantastic:)

    Posted 6.8.19 Reply
  23. Mercy wrote:

    Looks really interesting! I didn’t know you can get a lot of yummy looking vegan food. I can see you had a great birthday celebration.

    Posted 6.8.19 Reply
  24. Amy Aed wrote:

    This food all looks absolutely stunning! This just makes me realise that I really need to start trying new types of food in new places – I would definitely like to check out this restaurant some time!

    Have a great weekend 🙂
    Amy x Wandering Everywhere

    Posted 6.8.19 Reply
  25. Nancy wrote:

    It is so cool that you got to check out Kaijitsu! I like that you got to sample a bit of everything – all of the dishes look well crafted. I never had grilled bamboo before – sounds tasty! The radish sushi looks super cool with it being wrapped. It gives you that super interactive experience. I’m glad you enjoyed your time there. I know I would want to check this out! Happy belated birthday by the way!

    Nancy ♥

    Posted 6.9.19 Reply
  26. Radi wrote:

    Looks like you had a delicious b-day! Hope you had a great day!

    Posted 6.9.19 Reply
  27. Anouk wrote:

    Eye-catching presentation! Must have been a worthwhile experience.


    Posted 6.10.19 Reply
  28. Gemma wrote:

    Hope you had a lovely birthday! The food looks amazing!

    Gemma x

    Posted 6.11.19 Reply
  29. Valerie wrote:

    Wow, all the dishes look amazing! I seriously need to visit this place someday! Thanks for sharing!

    Posted 6.12.19 Reply
  30. Eena wrote:

    That is so cool you were able to visit a restaurant featured in the show! The food looks fantastic 🙂

    cabin twenty-four

    Posted 6.14.19 Reply


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When I was young, I thought I’d be married with kids by 25, have a house with a nice yard, and have my own cubicle. I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I can’t see myself buying a house (maybe a condo), and I can’t believe my vision of success back then was to have my own cubicle 😂 (tbh, open offices aren’t great, so I wouldn’t mind my own cubicle now). Maybe I haven’t achieved my old version of success, but what I have now is so much better than what I would’ve ever been able to imagine for myself. I’ve lived in Japan, I live in New York City, I get to travel the world with family, I run marathons, and most importantly, my relationship with my family is the best it’s ever been.

I used to think 29 was old, but it feels like my journey has just begun ☺️
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