Sugared & Spiced

pâtissière in paris, now shanghai

[Tokyo] Ryugin 龍吟

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Ryugin 龍吟

Add: Side Roppongi Bldg, 1st Floor, 7-17-24 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo 106-0032
.           東京都港区六本木7-17-24 サイド六本木ビル 1F
Tel: 03-3423-8006
Hours: 6pm-1am
Price: ¥23,100+10% service charge/set, drinks extra
Website: www.nihonryori-ryugin.com
Visited: Jan 2011

Ryugin is definitely on the hot list. This kaiseki restaurant has been awarded 3 Michelin stars, ranked 22 in S. Pellegrino’s World Top 50 Restaurants, garnered unanimously positive reviews on Chowhound and food blogs, and was recommended to me by two very serious food fanatics. I made a reservation almost 2 months prior to my visit, knowing how difficult it is to snatch a table at this highly regarded restaurant.

At Ryugin, Chef Seiji Yamamoto puts together a seasonal menu that changes daily. As far as I could tell, most tables were served the same set, though there was one table occupied by a frequent patron that had customized dishes.

Dish #1: 100% Turnip Hot Soup with “Turnip and Fish” Ball. The soup was as clear as crystal but very expressive. The turnip fish ball was delicate and fell apart easily at the spoon, and thin strends of yuzu peel added a refreshing touch to the soup.

Dish #2: Premium Monkfish Liver” from Hokkaido with Special Miso Sauce. This was absolutely mesmerizing. I loved the voluptuous richness from the monkfish liver, and the accompanying vegetables dressed in apple vinegar delivered a pleasant zest.

Dish #3: Soft “Simmered Abalone” with “Grilled Oyster” in Hot “Squid Sauce”, Deep-fried “Egg-tofu” and “Variation of Vegetables”. A fine dish with delicate flavors, but not very memorable.

Dish #4: “Matsuba Crab” from Sanin in Shabu-shabu style served in the “Crab Broth”. Sanin Matsuba Crab is quite a celebrity in Japan, and the shabu-shabu style of cooking allowed the natural flavor to really shine through.

Dish #5: “Sea Bream” from Tokushima and “Aoriika Squid” with Seaweed. The sea bream was smooth and slick with a clear, transparent flavor, but I was more impressed with the squid, carved so delicately that it looked like a piece of paper art. The taste, a creamy richness with a slightly sticky texture, was just as enchanting.

Dish #6: Hot “Egg Custard” with “Shark Fin” Sauce. Quite a sexy dish.

Dish #7: “Grilled Seaperch” from Choshi with “Roasted Rice” over the Skin and “Black Vinegar” “Sea Urchin” Soy Sauce. Tender seaperch complimented by crispy roasted rice, while the grainy fish roe and thick sea urchin soy sauce added yet more complexity to the texture and flavor. Perhaps a bit too too rich for me.

Dish #8: “Wagyu Beef Cheek” in “White Miso Soup” with lots of “Winter Vegetables”. This was my least favorite dish of the meal because I really didn’t like a spice used in the broth. Just something personal. 

Dish#9: “Simmered Rice” cooked with “Kuroge Wagyu” Beef. This was a truly amazing dish. The Kuroge wagyu beef, cooked medium rare and seasoned simply with salt; the rice, simmered in beef broth and each grain bursting with flavor; the seaweed and shiso leaves, sliced and sprinkled – together they made the pièce de résistance of our meal.

The rice was served with pickles and Miso Soup with “Shiba Shrimp Broth”.

Dish #10: a choice of rice or soba. It seemed weird to me that immediately after the wagyu beef and simmered rice dish, we were offered more rice and soba…but of course I still asked to try all three options. The first – sticky rice cooked with red beans and topped with sea bream and a sprinkling of sesame seeds – was simple but delicious. The second rice dish was…I forgot (oops), and by the time I got to the soba I was too full to appreciate it. Bummer.

Tea to cleanse the palate.

Dish #11: -196 Degree Celsius Candy Apple and +99 Degree Celsius “Apple Jam”. This was quite a fun dish. What appeared to be a mini candied apple was actually thin sugar wrapping milky white powder made from frozen apple. When placed in the mouth with piping hot apple jam, a collision of hot and cold produced a most intruiging sensation. Among the crazy somersaults of temperature on my tongue, I could also distinctly taste the sweet and sour.

Dish #12: Hot Parfait Ryugin Style Vol. 11 “Yuzu”If the first dessert wowed us with the presentation, the second dessert actually impressed with the taste. It was again a contrast of temperatures – yuzu ice-cream on top of a hot bed of crumbled yuzu cake – but was much easier on the tongue. The doughy crumbs had an intense egg flavor, which contrasted well with the zesty yuzu ice-cream, while the candied orange chip added a nice crunch to the combination.

The epic meal ended with a bowl of matcha.

Service throughout the meal was attentive and the waitstaff waltzed around with grace. The only complaint I have is that the dishes were served immediately one after another, and we certainly would’ve appreciated some room to breathe in between.

The dishes at Ryugin were impeccable. I was at first a bit disappointed because the presentation and taste were less creative than I expected, but actually at the end of the day I prefer traditional cooking over molecular gastronomy – and apparently so does Seiji Yamamoto, who originally became well-known because of his modern techniques, but is now reverting back to the basics.

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Written by sugarednspiced

January 24th, 2011 at 8:50 pm