Mon-Sat, 5:30pm-10pm; Sun, closed
1, 2, 3 at Chambers St.; A, C at Chambers St.
$10-$105; $80 for the seven-course menu; $120-$200 for the nine-course menu
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
South St. to Canal St., FDR Dr. to West Side Hwy.
Rosanjin, in Tribeca, is another diminutive Japanese establishment seeking to find its own highly stylized niche. The specialty here is the esoteric cuisine of the Kyoto emperors, kaiseki. A true kaiseki meal proceeds according to a ritualized formula that even some Japanese gastronomes believe to be excessively mannered and baroque. The owner, Jungjin Park (who is Korean, educated in Japan), attempts to duplicate the experience almost exactly. There are only nine tables at Rosanjin, and each set-course dinner is prepared to order by the Kyoto-trained chef. The room is shielded from the outside by a silk screen, and if you go early, you may find yourself dining in solitary splendor, with Yo-Yo Ma music playing gently in the background and Park himself pouring glass after glass of sake from a chilled-glass teapot.
Dinner at an elite kaiseki restaurant in Kyoto can cost upwards of $500 per person, so the $150 price tag at Rosanjin is a comparative bargain. My dinner began with slivers of scallop flecked with gold leaf, which I devoured in about five seconds flat. The next course, a carefully articulated bowl of eggy fish broth called wangmori, didn’t last much longer, at which point Park appeared to explain how my chopsticks had been hand-carved from red-cedar wood by the finest chopstick masters in Kyoto. I then used the chopsticks to hoover down four reasonably fresh varieties of sashimi and a button of fatty tuna—so fatty it tasted faintly like bacon. The highlight of the meal was the tempura, which featured sea urchin wrapped around a single frizzled shiso leaf. Dessert, a dribble of tofu “blancmange” dripped with mango juice, was disappointing. Park was at pains to point out that dessert has never been a notable part of the kaiseki experience. He’s right. Regardless, it’s unclear whether frenetic New Yorkers will take to this obscure, Kabuki-like form of dining.Extra
For a more moderately priced Japanese-food fix, Park's prepared-foods line, Manjiro, is available at Balducci’s.
There is no vegetarian menu, but a course without beef can be arranged.