Some experiences defy words, despite how many things remain to be said. Pop-up restaurants come and go by definition, a fleeting glimpse into a chef’s vision unleashed on the plate, but the memory of Jay Kitchen will stay with me for a very long time. Eight courses, many familiar faces, countless new friends, all packed into one evening. Even if the food had been middling it was a recipe for success, but let me assure you, conversation came to an abrupt halt with each new dish. Eating and savoring, the quiet was periodically interrupted only with utterances of pleasure.
What really gets me is the fact that Jay Astafa, mastermind behind all this, is only 20 years old. 20! Younger than me by four years, and so immensely talented, so accomplished. Now the tables are turned and I understand why so long ago, many writers felt it necessary to preface any article about my first book with a mention of my age.
Though I lingered in the kitchen quite a bit more than was perhaps helpful to the cooks buzzing about, assembling and sending out plates at the speed of lightning, the kindness and warmth I felt throughout the entire night was incredible. Never before have the staff actually raised the lights in the entire dining room so that I could get better photos. Or let me in the shoebox-sized kitchen, in the teeth of the dinner rush, snapping away amid the chaos. Any decent photos I stole should be credited to everyone behind the scenes and the lengths they went through to accommodate me. It was a simply amazing evening.
And that’s not to mention the food itself. I find myself tongue-tied trying to describe what I tasted, so unparalleled in its finesse that comparisons are impossible. Though the temptation to describe each dish in painstaking detail remains strong, I really think that the photos speak for themselves…
King Oyster Mushroom Scallop with Aged Balsamic Caviar and Green Pea Puree
Spring Crostini Duo (Ramps & Cashew Chèvre and Sorrel-Mint Pesto, Micro Pea Tendrils, Green Peas, Cashew Parmesan)
Chilled Potato and Leek Soup with Chive Olive Oil Foam
Ravioli with Asparagus and Ricotta (House Made Cashew Cream Butter, Cashew Parmesan)
Smoked Cauliflower Steak with Sunchoke Puree, Morels, Fava Beans, Snap Peas, Green Garlic, Truffle Vinaigrette, Shaved Black Summer Truffle
House Made Cheese Plate with Aged Cashew Cheese and Brie, Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote, Orange Infused Vegan Honey, Rosemary-Almond Crackers
“Dragon Breath” Caramel Popcorn (A Fun Surprise)
Grand Marnier Infused Chocolate Tart with Pistachio Gelato, Raspberry Coulis, Pistachio Tuile, Raspberry Pop Candy, Fleur de Sel Salted Caramel Powder
For even more photos from the evening, including behind-the-scenes photos in the kitchen, visit my set on Flickr.
Picking a favorite would be impossible, harder than picking a favorite child, or worse, picking a favorite cookbook. However, it was the brilliant green crostini, festooned with tender peas and pesto so bright in flavor that it sparkled on the tongue, which truly stood out in my recollection of the affair. Immediately upon my first bite, I knew that I needed the recipe. Jay, generous and sweet as he is, readily surrendered his secret formula for everyone to enjoy. It’s just one tiny bite out of the whole experience, but one well worth savoring. I can only hope that it’s just a matter of time before Jay opens up a traditional restaurant, less fleeting than this tantalizing glimpse at vegan fine dining, so everyone can share that same incredible experience.
Crostini with Sorrel-Mint Pesto and Fresh Peas
This brilliant green crostini is topped with tender peas and pesto so bright in flavor that it sparkles on the tongue.
For the crostini:
- 1 good quality baguette, sliced into thin slices
- extra virgin olive oil for brushing and drizzling
- 2 cups shelled fresh green peas
- pea shoots for garnish
- 1 pint sorrel-mint pesto (recipe follows)
- 1/2 cup homemade cashew parmesan (recipe follows) or store bought Parmela Parmesan for garnish
- 1/2 cup pinenuts
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 cups mint
- 2 cups sorrel
- 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup cashew parmesan (homemade or Parmela)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- sea salt to taste
Homemade Cashew Parmesan*:
- 4 cups raw cashews (soak for 8-12 hours)
- 1 cup rejuvelac (I make it with quinoa)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoon white miso
To assemble the crostini:
- Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil. Toast for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.
- Heat up a medium pot with water to blanch the green peas. When water is boiling add the green peas and blanch for 1-2 minutes. Transfer into an ice bath.
- Heat up a pan over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the green peas for a few minutes, until tender.
- Spread a tablespoon of the pesto. Then top it with some green peas. Garnish with some pea shoots and cashew Parmesan. Drizzle with a good quality extra virgin olive oil.
For the Sorrel-Mint Pesto:
- In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, garlic, mint, and sorrel and pulse until chopped. Slowly pour in the olive oil. Finish it with cashew Parmesan and lemon juice. Process until smooth. (makes about 1 pint)
For the Homemade Cashew Parmesan*:
- Blend the soaked cashews and rejuvelac in a high speed blender until smooth. Add the nutritional yeast, sea salt, and miso and blend until incorporated.
- Transfer the cashew cheese into a bowl and cover with cheesecloth. Culture for about 36-48 hours. The culturing time depends on the weather. The hotter it is, the quicker it will culture. The cheese will have firmed up and risen by 36-48 hours. It will also smell cheesy and sharp.
- Spread it on the dehydrator trays lined with non stick sheets. Dehydrate at 115 degrees for 8-12 hours. After 8-12 hours, flip the cheese and dehydrate the cheese until dry for another 8 hours.
- After it’s has dried out, process in a food processor until it’s grated. This cheese will keep for about a month in the fridge. It can probably stay longer, but it always finishes so fast so I’ve never kept it longer than that! (makes about 1 quart)
*This version of Parmesan takes about 3 days to make, plus 2 days for the rejuvelac. A good helpful recipe for making rejuvelac is in the book Artisan Vegan Cheese. I always make mine with quinoa. This recipe makes about a quart so you’ll have more than enough than you need for this recipe. If you don’t have time to make the homemade cashew Parmesan, I highly recommend Violife Just Like Parmesan as an alternative
Recipe Adapted from Jay Astafa.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 412Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 445mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 2gSugar: 26gProtein: 7g
32 thoughts on “Jay Kitchen NYC”
How nice! I’ve had some stuff from his vegan menu at 3 Brothers. He certainly is talented and I hope he opens up something out here! Looks like a great Kickstarter project!
These photos are amazing Hannah, as usual! I remember being absolutely amazed that Jay was only about 16 or 17 years old when I first tried his delicious food at Three Bros. on Long Island. I felt so lucky to have him at my back door, and I couldn’t believe that someone so young could have developed a heart that big!
OMG Everything Looks sooooooo gooooood! The kind of place that I would love to have at the corner:) very talented ! Awesome ideas. Great creativity. Wishing him the best and hoping once he will open in LA
Insanely beautiful food. Would love to be able to experience it. Beautiful photos, too!
Thank you! And thanks for having such a perfect explanation of rejuvelac for me to link back to. ;)
Looks so good! His food, your pics…it could turn a meat eater vegan. Keep sharing and spreading the good word:)
Wow! This looks amazing! I am going to make the cashew Parmesan tonight… I have not found THE recipe yet for a good vegan parm. This looks like a winner. I am so impressed that he’s 20! When I was 20 I was living off of boca burgers, canned green beans, and pasta. My college town wasn’t exactly vegan friendly :)
I have no words. I’m torn between licking my computer screen or flying to NYC for a sampling of this fanciful feast! Just another reason I’d be broke if I lived in NYC.
What’s the best way to follow Jay? I would love to know about future pop-ups/events. We can only that Jay will chose a permanent space when he is ready to. And Hannah, your photos are truly remarkable!
Your best bets are either through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jaykitchenNYC) or Twitter (@JayAstafa). I hope he does another event like this soon, too!
Holy crap that’s vegan?!!! I am bowing down and saluting at the same time (don’t ask…just believe it is entirely possible) to this young chef’s abilities to WOW me. I can see more than a bright future for this fleeting chef. The future is less meat and more veg by necessity not by any hipster uber chic ruminations. This guy is going to make it seriously BIG. Can’t wait to see where he goes :). Cheers for sharing this Hannah…I would have been huddled over my plates growling protectively like a feral cat over a particularly delicious fishhead…the waiters would have been afraid to take my plate before I licked it completely clean…who CARES who was staring, pointing and whispering…those plates deserved to be spotless before they headed back to that kitchen…the least you could have done for that amazing feast. What an amazing guy to share a recipe! I think I am in love with someone young enough to be my grandson! I feel like a vegan cougar ;)
HOLY SMOKES I JUST USED THE WORD ‘festooned’ FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FOREVER TEN MINUTES AGO ON FACEBOOK.
Also, there is so much yellow and green in this post/meal that I feel happily like I’m back in Australia cheering on the cricket team. xo
What a divine pop-up restaurnat this surely is! All of the food dishes look outstanding & fantasticly tasty too! :) Thanks for this yummy & tasty recipe too! I love sorel a lot too! It is a very underused vegetable leaf over here!
what a spread! looks amazing :)
What in the what?!? One, I can’t believe he’s 20. So much talent at such a young age. Two, the food! It all looks so amazing!
These are great pictures! :D
woah! 20 years old!? That amazing!! looks fantastic!
Yum the pesto sounds devine!
WOW!. Your pictures are great and I did not expect anything less from Jay. I found him and Dad in Rockville Centre and when they sold the business, I almost resorted to wearing sackcloth and ashes. When they opened in Farmingdale, life began again. Jay is a vegan treasure and I am so sorry that I could not attend this event. I will not miss the next one. Meanwhile, my table awaits me at Farmingdale!
Oh my…what an event and scrumptious 8- course meal. They all look amazing. And the chef is only 20???? I’m speechless.
I’ve read his blog and made some of his recipes which were all really good, but then he stopped posting. The food looks amazing! Beautiful photos.
Wow,all those foods look awsome!
That looks amazing! The food looks absolutely incredible, hard to believe it’s all vegan, that is serious talent.
those are all so beautiful beautiful. each of the creations.. so intricate and i bet delicious. i cant wait for Jay to open up more restaurants and visit them!
this looks like an unbelievable experience! Lucky you. The crostini are gorgeous, and the caramel popcorn… Was it just steamy? I bet the cauli steak was great. The second photo looks like he’s a delicious specimen himself ;)
The caramel corn was dunked in liquid nitrogen right before serving! Sorry that wasn’t better explained- It was “smoky” because it was so cold. Crazy fun stuff.
What a beautiful meal and an amazing community to put it together and enjoy it. How nice it would be to have so many courses all of which you can eat, and in such a well-presented high dining style. I like the idea of the oyster mushroom ‘scallop’ and the grilled cauliflower ‘steak.’ For me, most of this meal is best enjoyed through the photos since I can’t eat either cashews– very inconvenient with how much they are used in vegan and raw recipes for ‘cheese’– or oranges. Though I can certainly make ‘cheese’ in my own kitchen using other nuts than cashew, and I can make all kinds of chocolate desserts without ever involving Grand Marnier.
Wow, amazing looking food which you totally capture in your equally amazing photos! :-)
Wow! I remember when Jay was first posting on the PPK and I’m crazy impressed with how far his restaurant dreams have come in such a short period of time. Amazing! I wish I could have been there!
WOw wow wow! I’m so excited by the food just by looking at your photos. It’s very impressive indeed! I would really love to try his food someday. Amazing stuff!
so nice of him to share this recipe. also, i have to know how the brie and the honey tasted in comparison to their non-vegan counterparts…
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