Monday, May 19, 2014

Nihonryori RyuGin, Tokyo

May 9, 2014, Nihonryori RyuGin, JPY 29,700, Japanese

RyuGin was the 2nd of the three appointments that I was able to secure through Amex’s Concierge. It is located in Roppongi Hills, the very same metro station that I got off at when I went to Jiro. It is located right across the street from the chic Roppongi Hills complex. I followed the Google map provided by a very kind friend and was able to find it easily. I arrived a bit early, but the receptionist let me in right away. The max capacity is for 14 people and the place is decorated with theme color of black rendering a very soothing atmosphere. “Nihonryori” means Japanese cuisine and “RyuGin” means dragon’s hymn, probably referring to dragon’s happiness from enjoying the restaurant’s cuisine. To be consistent with its name, RyuGin had one side of wall decorated with a wall-to-wall painting of dragon. The background music also provided with a very relaxing atmosphere.

I ordered the 8-course tasting menu. RyuGin serves Kaiseki style cuisine which emphasized enjoying your meal with moderate pace (no rush). On the menu, above the description of each course, there was a phrase indicated to reflect the spirit of the course.

Beginning with a variety of Sensations … Seasonality, Aroma, Temperature, Texture and Assemblage
1st Course – Appetizer

1) Assorted Spring Vegetables with Shellfish and a sip of Clam Clear Soup

Clam clear soup was very fresh and delicious, not spicy at all. Raw Horse Clam was topped with many fancy spring vegetables such as: Ostrich Fern (a light minty fern), bamboo shoots, spinach, fresh fried water chestnut, murame (red color), urui (light green), and tempura coated fukinoto, grilled little green broccoli. The tall green color vegetable which stood out in the picture was kogomi, it was something that I have never had before. It had a unique taste, sort of a combination of spinach, broccoli and sweet peas. I loved all these vegetables; each was prepared to perfection according to its texture and flavor.

Horseshoe clam was raw, but it was not sliced like sashimi. It was in chunk and was tender and succulent.

2) Grilled Firefly Squids and Young Peas on Egg Custard

Firefly Squids live in deep sea and make light like lightning bugs. Spring time is the most ideal season to eat them because the flavor is the best during the spring time. They were tenderer than the ordinary squids and with a bit milder flavor. Egg Custard is RyuGin’s house specialty; it was made from steamed eggs and flavored with caramel. Young peas were so young and tender that even if you are not a vegetable lover would fall in love with them.

Philosophy on the Ichiban Dashi-Taste of the Wind that Captures a Moment
2nd Course – Kuruma Prawn Dumpling and Simmered Abalone in Luxurious Presentation

These prawns were from Kyushu Island in Southern Japan. Prawns were covered with rice cake and steamed abalone (from Hokkaido in Northern Japan) served in dashi soup (made with kumbu and benito). Shrimp dumpling appeared in orange color because paste had egg yolk in the mixture. Both abalone and prawns were outstanding with flavor and freshness. It also reflected chef’s efforts to balance the natural taste of the quality seafood with limited spices.

A Message from the Coast of Japan – Richness of the Sea, Tidal Current 
3rd Course - Ocean’s Delicacy Array of 7 plates RyuGin style

They were 7 items of sashimi. In the 1st picture, upper right item was Stone fish served with ponzu sauce and scallion, lower right picture was smoke bonito with mustard sauce, lower left item was custard of abalone liver topped with hairy crab meat, and upper left was Botan shrimp from Hokkaido served with ginger sauce and freshly chopped cucumber. In the 2nd picture, on the right hand was Monk fish liver (in light orange color) served with kinomi (pepper & lime) sauce, bottom picture was butter fish with vinegar and soy sauce jelly, and left hand side was squid served with salt and citrus and nori seaweed. Each of these items was super fresh, refreshing, tasty, and unique. Abalone liver custard and monk fish liver were especially prepared with great creativity.

Exquisiteness – Power of the Ingredients
4th Course - Fresh Sea Urchins in Lace wrapping flash Fried

Fresh sea urchin wrapped in nori seaweed and rice pepper, then, quickly fried. It was served with edamame paste at the bottom and kinomi leaves on the top. The texture of sea urchin was still semi-raw after fried process; imagine the equipment used must be so special to produce the ideal end product. This was the 1st time that I ever tasted fried sea urchin.

Binchotan – A Powerful Scent of Charcoal Grill . . .
5th Course - Cherry Salmon and Vegetables with Pine Nuts Dressing

Cherry Salmon from Hokkaido = white salmon. A few years ago, I had it when I was in Buenos Aires. Later, I had it in NYC twice. White salmon tastes less fishy than the ordinary salmon and has a paler color. This dish was grilled medium-rare and covered by cherry blossom leave with chopped onion in between. Chopped daikon was served on one side and spring vegetables (baby corn, and celery) were served on another side with pine nuts sauce. On this trip, I learned that cherry blossom is for visual enjoyment as well as gastronomical pleasure.

Palate Cleanser – Apple pickled with ginger

Diverse History of Wagyu – Grass fed free range Akage Beef from Aso
6th Course - Akage Beef filet Charcoal Sukiyaki style with Crispy Poached Egg

Wagyu beef was grilled rare-medium with Sukiyaki sauce. It was the top quality beef and perfectly aged. On top of beef, there were smoked and grilled white asparagus from Saga, sautéed julienned onion and chrysanthemum leaves. On the very top was a boiled and fried egg with egg yolk still running inside. I was suggested to break the egg first and let the yolk dripped on to beef before I started eating beef. I dearly loved this smoked and grilled white asparagus; it was as good as my favorite at Mathias Dahlgren in Stockholm. This Crispy egg was really a fun thing to do as well as to eat.

The land of Rice Plants – Pleasure of eating of the same trencher, Niigata rice
7th Course - Simmered rice flavored with Cherry Blossom tea and Sakura shrimp from Surugawan Bay Pickles and Red Miso Soup

It was a trio - rice was cooked with Sakura tea, baby shrimp fried and miso soup was cooked with shrimp shell and green seaweed on top. This bowl of miso soup was the best miso soup that I have ever had. Sitting on the side of the rice bowl was a roll of colorful pickled vegetables (daikon, plum, white asparagus, koniyaku, yellow daikon and Chinese mustard green) wrapped in baby cabbage leave. All pickled vegetables were delicious. I was asked whether I would like to have another bowl of rice when I finished everything. This time I remembered to ask my server whether the offer was complimentary or not. I am not a big rice eater; in this occasion I happened to prefer miso soup and pickled vegetables. My server went along with my person preference and brought additional serving of miso soup and pickled vegetables.

Lusciousness – Coolness, Warmth, Playful Spirits, Nostalgia and Temptation
8th Course – Deserts
1)One Piece of Strawberry

A candy-shell strawberry filled with nitrogen-frozen strawberry essence and powdered sugar. The strawberry looked absolutely adorable. When I broke it open, I saw what was inside. It was served with strawberry stew. It was definitely a very creative light desert.

2)Hot Sake and Cold Sake Sweet Flavors

They were Sake ice cream and Sake souflée. This serving of Sake ice cream was the best that I have ever had and Sake souflée had a firmer texture (It did not tank when you started eating it) and enough Sake flavor. I was very contented with these cold and hot twin deserts.


Frothy matcha tea was served near the end of meal.

My dinner at Ryugin was the best meal I had during this trip of Tokyo. I made three reservations at Sukiyabashi Jiro Roppongi, RyuGin and Sushi Mizutani. Throughout the entire meal, the dishes displayed creativity, artistic presentation and exceptional skill across a wide variety of techniques. Many individual items were the best that I have had in their categories. Service was attentive, impeccable and friendly. Atmosphere was resting and relaxing. At the end of the meal I met Chef Yamamoto who was such a friendly and cordial person in his forty. I praised him for the sumptuous meal served, he was very pleased. As I walked out of the restaurant, he made a bow to say good bye. If you would like to have one truly enjoyable fine Japanese meal, this is the place.

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