Next on my food itinerary is another highly anticipated restaurant, which is Nihonryori Ryugin helmed by chef Seiji Yamamoto. It is a three Michelin starred restaurant, and was recently ranked no.29 in this year’s World’s 50 best restaurants by San Pellegrino (Read More). Although such lists aren’t necessary the most definitive of rankings, it would certainly give you expectations of some high level of cookery.
The restaurant is tucked within a small street within Roppongi. The interior is rather ornate, especially with the Japanese crockery used that looks and is probably bloody expensive. My server for the night was Japanese bloke who speaks like a native English speaker. Apparently he spent a large chunk of his life in Australia, as well as being out and about in Canada.
This was the first day for the restaurant’s summer menu, which could potentially result in some hiccups with new dishes that had yet to be refined upon. That being said, I never did mind being a guinea pig in the name of gastronomy and all that jazz.
We started off meal the with an amuse bouche of deep fried paper roll with Uni and Shiso, and an Edamame bean puree. I felt that the flavours were quite muddled and not very interesting. After that, we had abalone with liver tofu and chicken broth. This was definitely more delicious, and the broth was particularly intense.
Next, was pike eel stuffed with Kamonasu eggplant, topped off with a dot of plum sauce. Despite its appearance, the clear broth had a lot of flavour. The pike eel was very well cooked, and the eggplant was luscious to the bite. This was definitely one of my favourite courses of the entire meal.
Subsequently was a Sashimi platter. Starting from the top and moving clockwise was bonito with garlic, flounder with monkfish liver and ponzu sauce, squid, lobster with cucumber, and finally crab with apple vinegar. My favourite of the lot was the flavourful bonito, as well as the Monkfish liver. The latter was luscious and very tasty; it definitely deserved its reputation as being the foie gras of the sea.
The next dish was one of the highlights of the meal, which was a charcoal grilled Ayu fish. This was meant to be eaten within 3-4 bites depending on the size of the fish. One should start from the head, which was crispy and delicious. Next is to move on to the body that also had some crunch, as well as some bitterness from the fish guts. The final bite would be the tail dipped with watermelon vinegar.
We then moved on to the vegetable shabu-shabu with a broth made from chicken stock, vegetables and local pepper leaves. The latter ingredient was incredibly fragrant with its aroma permeating the entire dish, as well as leaving a slight numbing effect similar to sichuan peppercorns. The vegetables were cooked in the broth for approxiately 15 seconds, then dipped with sesame sauce. I must say, the chef is really capable in extracting a lot of flavour from the ingredients. This was probably my favourite meal of the night due to its simplicity and being just plain delicious.
The first main course was a Sanuki olive Wagyu beef cooked on a hot stone with egg. The dish was well cooked but not particularly memorable. It could have definitely used a touch more seasoning to bring out the flavours.
The final main course was my personal favourite of Unagi Kabayaki with rice and pickles, dipped with a choice of peppers or wasabi. The chef had used a very rare and large eel, which weighed approximately 1.5 kilograms. The size of the eel allowed the chef to cook it with charcoal and yet retain a sizable amount of flesh. Unlike the commercial versions of this dish which are soft and sweet; this was smokey from the charcoal, as well as having a deliciously crispy skin.
For dessert, we started off with shaved ice made from herbal tea, which is then topped with fresh mango. Very much a refined version of the local Malaysian “Mango Loh”. We then concluded with the chef’s take on the Japanese Dorayaki made from sweet potato, then Sake and Mirin made from Oryzae. Oryzae is apparently a type of fungus which is used heavily in Japanese cuisine, and was recently classified as a national treasure. Both dishes were quite subtle in flavour, and a light end to the meal.
I reckon I had an enjoyable meal at Ryugin with a few memorable dishes. It was Japanese cuisine executed at a very high level with some modern touches. Portions were just about right, and I left satiated without having a food-induced coma. That being said, it was not the best meal that I’ve had in Tokyo. Would I return? Not anytime soon. But for those who haven’t tried Japanese fine dining, this would be a good place to start albeit with a hefty price tag of 27,000 yen.
Location: Side Roppongi Bldg, Ground Floor 7-17-24 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo 106-0032. +81(03)3423 8006. Website