Address: 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
Price: ¥23,100 ($280) +10% service charge/set, drinks extra
Ryugin is definitely on the hot list. This kaiseki restaurant has been awarded 2 Michelin stars for four years in a row, has recently been ranked 48 in S. Pellegrino’s World Top 50 Restaurants, has 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. I couldn’t possibly be disappointed, could I?
Update: Ryugin received its 3rd Michelin star in 2011.
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.
Table cloth, very nice texture
Dish #1: 100% Turnip Hot Soup with “Turnip and Fish” Ball. The soup was as clear as crystal but very expressive. The turnip and fish ball was delicate and fell apart easily at the spoon, and thin strends of yuzu peel added a refreshing touch to the dish.
Small Appetizer: 100% Turnip Hot Soup with “Turnip and Fish” Ball
Dish #2: Premium Monkfish Liver” from Hokkaido with Special Miso Sauce. This was absolutely mesmerizing. The voluptuous flavor from the monkfish liver was rich and decadent, while the accompanying vegetables dressed in apple vinegar delivered a gentle shock.
Chef Yamamoto’s Speciality: “Premium Monkfish Liver” from Hokkaido with Special Miso Sauce
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.
Soft “Simmered Abalone” with “Grilled Oyster” in Hot “Squid Sauce”, Deep-fried “Egg-tofu” and “Variation of Vegetables”
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.
“Matsuba Crab” from Sanin in Shabu-shabu style served in the “Crab Broth”
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.
Sashimi Dish: “Sea Bream” from Tokushima and “Aoriika Squid” with Seaweed
Dish #6: Hot “Egg Custard” with “Shark Fin” Sauce. The shark fins went sliding sensously across my tongue with the lush and tremblingly delicate egg custard. Quite a sexy dish.
Hot “Egg Custard” with “Shark Fin” Sauce
Dish #7: “Grilled Seaperch” from Choshi with “Roasted Rice” over the Skin and “Black Vinegar” “Sea Urchin” Soy Sauce. Tenderness seaperch complimented by crispy roasted rice, and grainy fish roe and viscous sea urchin soy sauce added yet more complexity to the texture and flavor. All the ingredients came nicely together, but it was overall too rich for me.
“Grilled Seaperch” from Choshi with “Roasted Rice” over the Skin and “Black Vinegar” “Sea Urchin” Soy Sauce
Dish #8: “Wagyu Beef Cheek” in “White Miso Soup” with lots of “Winter Vegetables”. This was my least favorite dish of the meal. My main problem with the soup (other than the fact that this was the 5th soupy dish of the meal) was that it was pungent with a very distinct and unpleasant spice. Could just be a personal thing.
“Wagyu Beef Cheek” in “White Miso Soup” with lots of “Winter Vegetables”
Dish#9: “Simmered Rice” cooked with “Kuroge Wagyu” Beef. Despite its underwhelming presentation, 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.
“Simmered Rice” cooked with “Kuroge Wagyu” Beef
Comes 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. Even though I was stuffed beyong capacity, of course I asked to try all three options. The first dish – 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 forgetful, and by the time I got to the soba I was too full to appreciate it.
A variety of rice and soba
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 delicate candy coating 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 still distinctly taste the sweet and sour.
-196 Degree Celsius Candy Apple and +99 Degree Celsius “Apple Jam”
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 creaminess of the yuzu ice-cream, while the candied orange chip added a nice crunch to the combination.
Hot Parfait Ryugin Style Vol. 11 “Yuzu”
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.
Dragon-themed plates and bowls
A full house
The dishes at Ryugin were certainly very satisfying – fancy, high quality ingredients prepared meticulously – but I left with a slightly disappointed heart because there wasn’t as much creativity in presentation and taste as I was expecting. I later heard that Seiji Yamamoto is now reverting back to the more traditional ways of Japanese cuisine rather than the modern, molecular gastronomy through which he got his fame from. Of course, he’s still using science and modern technology in his kitchen, it’s just not showing up in the plating…