Kaikagetsu, at 162 Orchard Street in Manhattan, is a space of dark woods, lanterns and woven bamboo. In ambience and menu, it is a simple shrine to Hida, a city in Japan’s Gifu prefecture that I visited last summer famed for its mountains and marbled beef, aka Hida-gyu.
Beef lesson: Gyu means “beef,” and so Hida-gyu means simply “Hida beef.” Similarly, Wa means “Japan,” which is why Wa-gyu translates to “Japan beef” and refers to any beef from Japan.
As a place to eat world-class beef with Japanese single-malts, Kaikagetsu has been a great addition to the Lower East Side’s “Little Tokyo” assemblage of Japanese commerce since opening in July of last year. The three-chef team serves Hida-style cooking built around (but not exclusively consisting of) authentic, melt-in-your-mouth Hida-gyu following the mold of the two Kaikagetsu locations before it, both in Japan. Complementing the food is a drink list rotating sake, whiskey, wine, and a surprising beer or two.
Inside Kaikagetsu for the first time last month, I took the hefty, eight-course Getsu menu ($220) beside my girlfriend at a lantern-lit table in the back. A smiling man named Hiro delivered my first bites of Hida-gyu since my time in Hida amid the fattening black-haired cows, and there was no mistaking it: The beef at Kaikagetsu, as in “Hida beef toban yaki on a Hida stove” and “Hida beef sushi,” was memories-of-Japan good.
What qualifies as Hida-gyu? According to its website (!), Hida-gyu must come from black-haired Japanese cattle fattened in Gifu prefecture for at least 14 months by certified farmers. It must also later be given a grade of three or higher by the Japan Meat Grading Association.
The non-beef dishes on the Getsu menu were tasty, too, and in fact included maybe the best thing I ate the whole night: the “Simmered black cod in soysauce flavor,” which today appears available on the a la carte menu as “Black cod saikyo miso” or at least the brother to that dish. The beer I opened the meal with, a Japanese IPA from a brewer I will never recall, was great for washing it down, as later were my fingers of single-malt.
Beyond the Getsu menu, the ways of eating well at Kaikagetsu include via three smaller tasting menus of five ($50), six ($70) and seven ($90) courses and a slim but excellent a la carte menu. And in the weeks ahead, the kitchen is pushing out a special Restaurant Week menu of five courses. You can grab it “from July 18” for $42, and you can see what’s on it, and all the most current menus, here.
Hida-gyu is the biggest reason, but not the only reason, to visit the newest Kaikagetsu location. Give it a look this Restaurant Week!