Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ryugin - The Pinnacle of Japanese Cuisine

Hello Readers!

The next restaurant on my Tokyo holiday is 3 Michelin-starred Ryugin, which means dragon.

Quietly tucked away in Roppongi, Ryugin was an exceptional modern kaiseki experience. Head Chef Seiji Yamamoto's love for everything dragon is prevalent in everything from his gorgeous collection of dragon plates hung on the wall to the dragons intricately embroidered into our table cloths.

As for the food, Chef Yamamoto is able to embody traditional japanese cuisine whilst still pushing the boundaries with his own modern interpretations and methods. That night we had their Autumn menu.

We started off with some cold sake. Ryugin also offers to match a different sake to each course but unfortunately I'm not much of a drinker so we only had one bottle.

They also let us select a sake cup from a gorgeous selection of coloured glassware. I chose a lovely red one to match our bottle.

We began with a hot dish of mixed vegetables and a pine nut dressing. This small dish consisted of fine slices of 13 different vegetables. It was such a simple dish but the flavours blended perfectly, especially with the pine nut dressing. I could have easily eaten an entire bowl of this.

Next was another hot dish of Premium Sea Urchins from Hokkaido in a flash fried lace wrapping with Burdock Root and Mushroom soup. The sea urchin was rich and flavorsome and contrasted well with the delightfully crisp wrapping.

This was followed by a cold dish, a Ryugin specialty. It was Premium Monkfish liver from Hokkaido in White Miso sauce and Seasonable Vegetables. This was the first time I had Monkfish liver and it definitely won't be my last. The liver was so rich and buttery.

A beautiful bowl was then presented before us and we were instructed to remove the lid. Inside was an amazing soup of crab broth with pieces of Matsuba crab, the best quality of crab in Japan. The crab meat was so delectable and sweet.

Our soup was followed by Ryugin style sashimi. From left to right is Sea bream, Smoked Spanish Mackerel, Squid, Lobster, Sea Bream again and in the middle is Ikura or Salmon Roe.
All of the sashimi was incredibly fresh and tasted fantastic. I barely used any soy sauce, as the flavour of the fresh seafood alone was enough.

Our next dish was called "Autumn Colours on a Plate", it was Kinki fish, grilled eggplant and chestnuts. This dish was easily one my favourites. The fish was cooked perfectly, the skin was crispy whilst the flesh delicate and delicious. The combination of eggplant, chest nut and Kinki fish was a match made in heaven. The flavour of the fish worked well with the sweetness and nuttiness of eggplant and chest nut.... It truly was autumn on a plate. 

This was a simmered dish of Cod fish roe, a fried Tofu Ball with Crunchy Mizuna. It was a simple dish but had very traditional Japanese flavours.

We then had a Wagyu beef filet grilled on charcoal with an assortment of seasonable vegetables and mushroom chips. As expected, Wagyu beef lived up to its reputation and our meat was extremely succulent and tender.

Next was Rice topped with Chinese Cabbage and Sea Bream simmered with Sanshoo pepper, Miso soup and Pickles. I loved the colours of this dish, it both looked and tasted wonderful. 

Finally dessert was presented to us and I was beyond excited. Seiji Yamamoto's signature dessert was something we'd been eagerly anticipating before we even left Australia. This dessert was simply called Tangerine Candy but is so so so much more.

With our spoons we cracked open the delicate outside shell of the candy and a warm tangerine jam was spooned over. The taste and contrast of temperatures was wonderful and the delightful crackling of popping candy made this dish so fun and exciting. I can't begin to explain the complexities behind this dish but thankfully there is a video that explains the whole process (which can take almost 2 days)

This video is the strawberry version but naturally Chef Yamamoto changes the fruit according to each season. Please do take the time to watch it, it's simply genius.

Finally we end our night with a wonderfully baked Ginjou Sake Oyaki Souffle with a soft Egg Cream. After such an amazing and elaborate meal, I was quite content.

At the end of the night, I asked to have my menu signed by the chef! I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had written his name, stuck a Ryugin sticker on it and used his official stamp as well. 


Currently 28th on the list of world's 50 best restaurants, Ryugin is another one of Tokyo's culinary gems. Chef Yamamoto pays extremely close attention to the seasons, which guides him in sourcing only the best of ingredients. His flawless skills and deep respect for the integrity of ingredients combine to create food that is avant-garde yet still steeped in tradition.

Impeccable food and service, Ryugin is a must try in Tokyo.

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