Feb 28 2014

RyuGin

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RyuGin is the world’s 22nd best restaurant according to the St Pellegrino awards and according to the latest best in Asia list also the 5th best restaurant in Asia. Besides these awards it also has 3 Michelin stars. It was one of the restaurants that I was very keen to go to when I was in Tokyo.
 
I tried to get a reservation myself but it was impossible, they only spoke Japanese on the phone and had no online booking system. I then asked one of my Japanese colleagues to help out and book it for me and when she called she could not book it as RyuGin are very strict, they require either your hotel concierge to make a booking for you or one of your Japanese friends to help out and physically go there and leave a deposit. After all else failed I did ask my hotel concierge to book it and they were successful. A month before our meal we managed to get a reservation for Friday evening, so it is not impossible to get in like it can be with some of these expensive and amazing restaurants.
 
Our reservation was for 6.30 and when we arrived we were the last table to be seated. As I later found out they actually have two seating’s and when the people that arrived at 6pm left the next dinners arrived at 8.30. it is strange to see this, as in Europe all these top ranked restaurants would only have 1 seating and you would spend minimum 3h in the restaurant hence they could not accommodate another seating. But as I have discovered, in Asia things are more efficient, people don’t like to be stuck for a long time in a restaurant and here and in Narisawa our meal that consisted of many courses was very quick and lasted a bit over 2.5h.
 
The décor is stunning. I started taking pictures of it but was later told by one of the waitresses that you can’t take pictures of the décor, only of the food. In contrast to Narisawa which has a light fresh and minimalistic décor, RyuGin goes all out and has pictures of Japanese dragons all over the restaurant. It is dark there, the tablecloths are black, it has Japanese elements, as much as I liked the minimalism of Narisawa, I really liked the all-out look of RyuGin. You sit in a small room, close to neighboring tables, and most of the tables next to me were for 2 people. I actually don’t know where you would sit if it was a bigger party. Just like in Narisawa the restaurant had foreign and Japanese waitresses and waiters and the foreign (non-Japanese) waitresses would serve foreigners like us and the Japanese waitresses would focus on Japanese people
 
The menu was given to us in a red envelope and we had to break the stamp of Tokyo and open it to read it, and tell the staff if we were allergic to anything. I instantly noticed that the menu was in a form of the traditional Japanese kaiseki dinner, so it followed all the elements of a traditional Japanese dinner. We have had these traditional meals on two different nights in our ryokas before so we sort of knew what to expect, which was a bit less exciting for me.
 
The menu said the first dish was “beginning with a variety of sensations. Seasonality, Aroma, Temperature, Texture and Assemblage”. And they brought us two dishes as part of it, a hot one followed by a hot and a cold one. The first thing that we got was assorted 12 different vegetables with pine nut dressing that tasted light and fresh and had a nice nutty flavour to it. The second part of the dish consisted of two fish, abalone cooked for 10h so it became extremely soft and tender and chargrilled blowfish that was sort of soft and guey inside. I usually don’t like the strong taste of abalone but here I liked it as it did not taste like abalone. I also thought the texture of the blowfish like a soft candy was super cool.
 
The next dish was called “Philosophy of the Ichiban Dashi, Taste of the Wind that Captures a Moment” and in a broth that was apparently made 2 minutes ago there was a kuruma prawn dumpling covered with rice cake. The broth did not have much taste, like these sort of traditional broth taste, and the texture of the rice cake was interesting it was all guey and chewy like the blowfish we had had before. Interesting combination and quite good.
 
Next the waitress brought us “a message from the coast of Japan – richness of the sea, tidal current” and it had “an array of Ocean’s delicacy RyuGin style”. The traditional kaiseki meal has a course that has sashimi and here they took sashimi to a whole new level and this is probably one of my most memorable dishes from the whole meal. The waitress brought us a big round plate that had six small round plates arranged in a circle and each had a different fish with different accompanying features. There was also a round plate in the middle. Visually beautiful dish and with amazing content. Clockwise starting from the top we got blowfish with its skin which was one of my favourite small dishes, it tasted amazing. Next you got arc shell and clam mixed together which I enjoyed less as I am less keen on these fish. The next small dish was the most interesting one, it was Monkfish liver with a tiny drop of wasabi. I never thought I would eat monkfish liver and it had a strong taste but quite interesting. I would not eat it every day but good to try. The next one was butterfish with ginger which tasted fresh due to the ginger. The next one my boyfriend liked and I also liked very much, squid with salt and citrus. I could tasted the salt, not the citrus but nevertheless it was excellent the squid was so amazing and good served with a little seaweed. My boyfriend also loved the next small dish, Spanish mackerel, and it tasted so soft and tender if you closed your eyes and ate it you would think it was salmon, it did not have that mackerel taste. And the last dish in the middle of the plate was herring roe mixed with some part of sea cucumber stuff, quite interesting.
 
The following dish was called “Bichotan, a powerful scent of the charcoal grill” and the waitress brought us a plate of chargrilled kinki fish (love the name!) with a little cup of salsa of avocado mixed with marinated vegetables and grated daikon. The kinki fish was served on a coriander type of sauce with some broad beans. The kinki fish was good but most of all I enjoyed the avocado with mixed vegetables which tasted like Mexican salsa, it was very fresh. Also as a palette cleanser they brought us apple with pickled ginger which was amazing. It was a much better palette cleanser than all the sorbets they give you.
 
“A sealed dedication under the lid. Exquisite Sincerity of Japan” followed which was a simmered broth with spring vegetables, octopus and cod roe with white miso. This soup contrary to the one we had at the start was thicker and it was interesting to see the cod roe like a lump there which quickly dissolved. The octopus was delicious. Good dish, not great.
 
The next course was the meat one, called the “diverse history of Wagyu. Grass fed free range Akage Beef from Aso” and as the name suggests had an Akage beef fillet charcoal cooked sukiyaki style with crispy poached egg. The crispy from the outside and runny from the inside poached egg (amazing how they did it without breaking it) was put on top of the beef and the waitress recommended you break the egg on top of the beef and then eat the beef. The beef was tender and delicious like wagyu beef is. I would not have put the egg and the beef together like this but it was sort of nice.
 
Our last savoury dish course and the way all kaiseki meals end was – rice, pickles and miso soup. RhyGin had tried to pimp this course up and make it amazing but at the end of the day it was rice, pickles and miso soup. It was called “The land of rice plants, Pleasure of eating of the same trencher, Niigata fresh rice”. Chef Yamamoto apparently loved chicken rice as a kid and here he served you chicken rice from his childhood memory with red miso soup and pickles. It was the best rice and pickles I have had in Japan. The pickles had sort of an European taste to it, there were mixed vegetables there and the chicken rice was very delicious and moorish, I could have had more. Being red miso soup, the soup was also more intense than your average miso soup.
 
After the savoury courses we moved into “lusciousness, coolness, warmth, playful spirits, nostalgia and temptation” and were given “one piece of strawberry”. In reality the waitress brought us a plate with a strawberry in it which had this amazing sharp colour. She asked us to break it and inside there was frozen strawberry ice cream (cold) and then she poured over it some hot strawberry jam. Simple but delicious and one dish where I really liked the whole hot and cold theme.
 
The next desert was something I absolutely loved and was one of my favourite dishes at RyuGin. It was called “hot sake and cold sake sweet flavours” and the waitress brought us a hot soufflé in sake flavour and a cold sake ice cream. The soufflé was amazing. It was so extremely tasty, tasted a bit like sake and had a melted rice cake centre. The ice cream tasted not too much of sake but was very refreshing with the soufflé. Loved this.
 
And the last thing we got before we left was a matcha tea. Very intense traditional tea.
 
Had I not had kaiseki meals before in Japan I think I would be more impressed with RyuGin and the fact that I sort of knew what to expect ruined my experience a bit. Having said that this was the most tasty kaiseki meal by a mile that I had in japan, I just wish there was more of a surprise element to my meal. I therefore think if you don’t plan to have another traditional meal in Japan, come here, but if you do, then go to Narisawa as it will be more interesting. I did however love the décor at RyuGin, loved the interpretation of the courses, I usually don’t like kaiseki meals and this one I loved, and I loved the whole traditional Japanese feel you got from this place which you did not get from Narisawa.
 
Date: 28/ 02/ 14
Location: Tokyo
Price for 2 people with a bottle of champagne: YEN 65,000 (around £378)

Maija rated: 

4.50

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RyuGin
Side Roppongi 1st fl., 7 Chome-17-24 Roppongi Minato 106-0032
Tokyo
Japan
JP
RyuGin Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 4.5