Date of Visit: February 26 2013 (Early Spring Menu)
In stark contrast to its offshoot’s glamorous location in Hong Kong (my review here), Nihonryori RyuGin‘s location in Tokyo is more subdued, in a residential back street off Roppongi. Roppongi was a sleezy area frequented by American GIs in the 60s before Mr Mori took the punt to redevelop the area and almost went under during the Japanese Asset Bubble. Lucky for him, his gamble paid off and now Roppongi is a thriving metropolis in Tokyo.
With an impressive string of accolades, namely 3 Michelin stars and being in S. Pellegrino’s List of World’s Top 50 Restaurants (determined by the water the restaurant sells, methinks), booking for a degustation dinner at RyuGin is very strict – starting at 11:30am on the 1st of the preceding month. However, if you are a late diner, you may be able to book in for their à la carte after 9:30pm.
The cosy-dark-wood-den has the ‘lived-in’ feel and really personified Chef Yamamoto’s artistic touch. There are ceramic wall platea with drawings of dragons adorning the walls. Moreoever, in conformity to its HK outfit, luxurious embroidered table-runners decorated the table, waiting to receive each dish of art.
First up, wipe our hands then choose the wine.
When in Japan, go for Japanese! We chose a Japanese Pinot Noir: – 2010 Yoichi Nobori Kyumura Pinot Noir from Takahiko Soga, Hokkaido (¥15000). Good thing that we ignored the sommelier’s warning that the taste is ‘different’ because we were not sure what she meant – but hey- perfect choice of a light-styled dry wine with notes of cherry and a touch of oak at 11% alcoholic content.
Our dinner tonight is themed ‘Early Spring’.
Changing From Winter to Spring…
ONE: Seasonal Vegetables with Pine Nuts dressing and a sip of Burdock Root soup
This is a melange of 12 vegetables dressed in the creamy savoury-sweet pine nut dressing. The chargrilled asparagus constrasted well with the crunchy turnip and very fresh peas from the pod, which I couldn’t help but eat them one-by-one.
TWO: 2 Kinds of Calf Sweetbread
I love sweetbreads – and often have them done the European way (sauteed in sauces). So this is the first time I’ve tried a sweetbread custard – absolutely yums – savoury ‘panna cotta-ed’ sweetbread. The fried sweetbread in sticky rice skin is not bad either.
Admiring the crockery…
RyuGin has exquisite crockery to heighten the ceremonial aspect of dinner!
I had the shrimp ball and didn’t ask for a substitute to the shell-fish. Happy to report that I didn’t get an itch at all.
FOUR: Today’s Assortment of Sashimi RyuGin Style.
The assortment of sashimi came as fresh as you can get. My favourite is the cup of slippery eels which came with ebi and other slippery ingredients which I forgot.
FIVE: Charcoal – Grilled Dish
SIX: Shark Fin! (Now, don’t go all ethics on me…)
Very rich thick chicken essense – check the golden glow!
Spring Fragrance One Step Early
SEVEN: Wagyu Beef
EIGHT: Last savoury course – Traditional Japanese meal set of rice, veg and soup
No comment…except a bit too oily…
NINE: RyuGin Specialite ‘Tangerine Candy’
Cute tiny tangerine on a glass plate…looking so lonely on the glass plate… was expecting the high drama of dry-ice from my experience in Hong Kong!
The soufflé made from leftover sake rice leans more towards the steamed spongy dumpling. It is soaked in sweet fragrant sake and complemented by salty creamy ice-cream.
Yup, with 10 courses under my belt, I’m stuffed. I was looking forward to the often quibbed use of molecular gastronomy applied to traditional kaiseki which propeled Chef Yamamoto to stardom but I did not detect any, except for RyuGin Specialite ‘Tangerine Candy’ which fell short of my expectation (perhaps it was old-news).
No doubt there is a reverence for classic Japanese seasonal ingredients and approach, however, with the second-in-command exported to RyuGin Hong Kong and the Chef himself in Singapore to receive S.Pellegrino’s Best Restaurant in Asia 2013 (RyuGin came 2nd), in my humble opinion, it was an average dinner. We also did not get to meet the chef-in-charge of the kitchen when we leave. (Top marks for the maitre-de though, she put a stop to the tai-tais from Honky Town from showing videos of their grandkids on their iPhones! Seriously, ladies…!!)
It did however, floated my brother’s boat since he has not been to the outpost in Hong Kong. He gladly picked up the tab (set dinner at ¥30,000++ per person)