Date of Visit: February 16 2013
To date, my dinner at Tenku RyuGin is the most expensive meal I had in Hong Kong (HK$1980++). What gives? The location of course, atop the International Commerce Center, currently the tallest building in Hong Kong on Level 101. I had also wanted to compare the branch here in Hong Kong before I test the mother branch in Tokyo where I had secured a reservation.
To get to RyuGin, one has to go to the Sky Dining Lobby to catch the dedicated express (1 minute) lift. I guessed that Level 101 must be at 400m (bad digit for the Chinese) above sea-level since the screen inside the lift turned orange once it reached 399m and a second later, the lift doors opened.
The decor of the restaurant is very simple with light-coloured raw timber. It is reminiscent of walking in a Japanese garden passing through the ‘shacks’ of glass-encased wine displays before arriving at our table by the window.
The views from Level 101 is less than spectacular with smog and haze.
Sake (HK$2800++). This is specially made by a famous sake brewery in Japan for RyuGin in Hong Kong. Fragrant it was, smelling of sweet rice wine, but very bland in taste, like drinking water – is this what you call ‘smooth’?
We got to choose our own sake glass. I went for cut-crystal, mom went for the traditional porcelain.
Service was attentive and excellent, albeit very Cantonese (i.e. casual). As soon as we were seated, the Chinese maitre-de informed us that dining at RyuGin HK will take at least 2 hours – this is a problem for the locals since they tend to rush through their meals. He further informed us while all the ingredients are air-shipped from Japan, they are also trying to incorporate local tastes into their menu and adjust services to suit the locals… err… I’m doshing out here for Japanese experience not a Cantonese one… Nevertheless, we also have a very formal Japanese maitre-de looking after us (her formality extended to lower her body when she speaking to us)
An alternate choice for moi with shell-fish allergy. (I had informed them of my allergy when I did my reservation via email and had OK-ed with them my menu. So I had a ‘personalised’ menu in a maroon envelope on my table when I arrived )
Check out the cup (for green tea)
TWO (the Bogans cometh…) What’s a Bogan, you asketh? Here…click…
Wow – very understated dish. Delicate balance of the assemblage of sweet, rich monk liver, miso, acidity of jelly and crowned off with the nutiness of slivered almonds
Very gelatiny broth, rich urchin, tofu and egg custard at the bottom with a smidgen of horseradish on the top – sliding gleefully down my throat.
Hey, what’s the racket going on? Walking and yakking loudly on their mobile phones? Constant ding-ding-ding IMing on the mobiles?? Am I in a fine-dining resto or a dim-sum joint?
My abalone soup
This is a thick soup that comes with Japanese daikon and mochi (glutinous rice ball). I thoroughly enjoyed the crunchy daikon and chewy mochi.
It came on a piece of chilled timber board to keep the sashimi cold. The chef suggested that we eat the sashimi first then finish off with the radishes. I also ate the fresh ginger flower leaves and ginger separately, just to check out the tastes…
Check out bent-wood bowl – a hollowed piece of wood
Seriously! It’s getting rowdier over the next table. I looked over to check out the bogans. What the hell, it’s the Asian chick from The Transporter, (who starred alongside Jason Statham) elbows on table, twirling the chopsticks expertly in her mouth – does she do that when rocking up in Cannes?(read in papers before that she was in depression over her blue films). Honestly, I couldn’t recognise her featureless face! Guess make-up and photography really conjure up magic!
We were asked to eat the sea-perch first. Very silky and fat fish. The roasted rice added stickiness to the mouth-feel. It also smelt heavenly
A deconstructed dish, perfectly executed. The beef is A4 wagyu (or A5?) with perfect marbling.
This is served the traditional Japanese meal-style: Rice, veg and soup and heralds the end of the savoury course.
Loved the idea of pepper – giving a kick with each bite. The rice was risotto-like – Excellent!
Check out miso soup bowl
Main course finished… Towel to freshen up
NINE – RYUGIN SPECIALITY
Great choice of fruit since it is still Chinese New Year, and the mandarin represents luck!
The crackling sherbert candy adds another dimension to the dessert through the crackling noise it made and the ‘explosion’ in my mouth. Wow! Really alluding back to my childhood days!
The milky panna cotta with meringue cones, spherified raspberry pearls and dehyrdrated rose petals makes a jolly picture and interesting texture of milkiness, crunchiness and exploding liquids in the mouth
Dinner draws to an end with the macha and a damage of HK$8000 (lucky digit). I had a fantastic 2-hours enjoying the food and admiring the utensils. Unfortunately, the ambience was ruined by a ‘movie-star’ and her entourage who IM-ed non-stop on their phones, walking and talking louding with their mobiles attached to their ears, artistically drapping their bodies over the chairs and tables – but short of taking their shoes off and picking their toenails (a touch of sarcasm here). I guess in Hong Kong where more nouveau riches are coming in, the Michelin restaurants have to put up with crass clientele to survive the competitive restaurant market.
On our way out, the chef (imported from the Tokyo head branch) in the true Japanese fashion came to send us off with a deep bow. Would I be back? Well, only if my autograph is not required, then hell yeah!
Next stop, Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo!!