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An inspiring and fantastic dining experience in Tokyo – RyuGin

RyuGin

RyuGin, a restaurant renowned for creative Japanese cuisine, is hidden in the very modern and chic Roppongi area.   The chef Yamamoto Seiji (山本征治) used to work under the very famous chef Koyama Hirohisa (小山裕久) at Aoyagi (青柳) for 11 years.  When he was 33 years old, he started his own restaurant RyuGin in December 2003.  It’s rated as a 2-star restaurant by the first issue of Michelin Guide – Tokyo 2008.  Yamamoto was invited to the 2007 Madrid Fusion and presented a dish called “Silkscreen of Squid Ink with Squid Carpaccio” which earned an ovation at the event.  Indeed, Yamamoto is a super star in  Japanese cuisine nowadays.

The dining space of RyuGin is pretty small.  The main space could host about 20 guests only, but with a private room, it can host up to about 26 seats.  I was lucky to get a seat because I called to make a reservation just 2 days ahead, but I was requested to arrive at the restaurant at 18h, otherwise, there’d be no tables available until 22h.  I knew it’s very difficult to get a table there, so, I told the person that it was fine for me to be there at 18h.

2 choices of Champagne by the glass

2 choices of Champagne by the glass

On that day, I was the first guest to arrive at the restaurant.  The sommelier (who was also the person to serve me) told me it would be okay to take a few pictures of the restaurant since no other guests were there yet.  I was glad that the sommelier spoke English fluently.  He told me that he went to Australia to take a sommelier course before, so there was no problem to communicate with him in English at all.  Obviously, we have a shared interest – wine.  Soon, we started a cheerful conversation.  By his recommendation, I ordered the Gastronomy B set (which cost 26,250 yen, about US$250) which focuses on Yamamoto’s signature dishes.

After having the seasonal amuse bouche, I asked the sommelier what kind of whites they provided by the glass.  He soon brought 4 whites to my table.  Normally, I would choose the wine by myself, but in this case – I didn’t know how this “creative Japanese cuisine” would be, so I preferred to consult the sommelier.   Satisfyingly, he gave me this answer – “How about this – I’ll pour some of each wine for you, so you can try the different combinations with different dishes.”   How could I reject this offer?!
When the first dish came, I was still on my Champagne Henriot.  Then the 2nd dish – Aichi figs with port flavored foie gras terrine served with sesame cream came, the waiter suggested another wine which didn’t appear in those 4 white flight when he just showed me.  It’s a 2005 Zind-Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl Gewurztraminer VT, what a brilliant suggestion.  “Le mariage” of the wine and food was very harmonious.  The bouquet of this Gewurz was dazzlingly aromatic.  I just couldn’t stop myself taking a deep breath of this wine…

Assorted Sashimi - RyuGin Style

Assorted Sashimi - RyuGin Style

The sommelier was indeed helpful and friendly.  He patiently explained every dish to me.  When the “Assorted Sashimi – RyuGin Style” was served, the chef Yamamoto himself even came to pour the soy sauce for me as well as presented his greetings.  Quelle surprise!

When I dined at some Michelin 2-star or 3-star restaurants in Paris, I sometimes found some dishes were not executed perfectly which usually made me feel a bit disappointed.  But at RyuGin, I would say – every dish just and simply blew me away.  I didn’t find anything over-cooked or not executed properly.  Plus, the ingredients were top quality and the service was inviting with a “Japanese” sincere touch.  Instead of “words”, maybe the pictures posted here would tell better by themselves.  You would understand what RyuGin is likely to be.

The selections for food & wine pairing

The selections for food & wine pairing

Winewise -
Champagne Henriot “Souverain”
2005 Zind-Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl Gewurztraminer VT
2003 Chateau Villa Bel-Air, Graves
2006 Koshu Cuvee Denis Dubourdieu (Made in Japan and by original Japnese grape variety)
2006 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Blanc
2003 Domaine Jayer-Gilles Bourgogne Hauts Cotes de Beaune
2006 Chateau Mercian Nagano Merlot (Japanese wine)
1999 Louis Jador “Ladoix”
1998 Chateau Batailley, Pauillac
Japanse Sake “天明 Tenmei” 純米吟釀 Junmai-Ginjo

Gastronomy B set

1) Amuse bouche – Ichiban Dash soup (Traditional clear broth) with puree of 5 varieties of wild mushrooms.

2) Deep fried seaweed, stuffed with sea urchin

"Deep fried seaweed, stuffed with sea urchin"
3) Aichi figs with port flavored foie gras terrine served with sesame cream. (The foie gras is from Landes)

Aichi figs with port flavored foie gras terrine served with sesame cream

Aichi figs with port flavored foie gras terrine served with sesame cream

4) Blue swimming crab and Shanghai crab topped with chrysanthemum gelee

Blue swimming crab and Shanghai crab topped with chrysanthemum gelee

Blue swimming crab and Shanghai crab topped with chrysanthemum gelee

5) “RyuGin’s house special – Contrasted of two abalone pieces cooked differently, steamed for 10 hours and the other in Shabushabu.” – The more transparent one on the right side is cooked by “shabushabu” way.

RyuGin's house special - Contrasted of two abalone pieces cooked differently, steamed for 10 hours and the other in Shabushabu

RyuGin's house special - Contrasted of two abalone pieces cooked differently, steamed for 10 hours and the other in Shabushabu

6) “Assorted sashimi – RyuGin Style” – There are 2 pieces for each kind of fish. For the first piece of each fish, the chef recommended me to eat with the sauce placed next to it. Then eat the 2nd piece with wasabi and dip a bit soy sauce.

7) Egg pudding, made with Hamo’s bone stock, flavored of autumn
8 ) Char grilled natural large eel with aroma of Japanese peppers
9) “Chef’s specialty – Grilled baby pigeon with autumn truffles” – the baby pigeon was only 28 days old! The meat is so tender… It’s grilled perfectly. The autumn truffle is very aromatic which tells the quality.
10) “Chef’s rice dish of the day” – The fish on the top is from Hokkaido, but I forgot the name of it…
11) Fresh compote of pear and small grapes with plum wine soda gelee
12) Caramel ice cream with Wasanbon sugar served with grated milk curd” – Wasanbon sugar is considered the best sugar in Japan. I really like the flavor of grated milk curd.
13) Baked chestnut cake served on full-moon presentation – very traditional Japanese dessert. Interesting presentation.

I posted this experience sharing on a gourmet forum called OAD (Opinionated About Dining), and I sent e-mail to RyuGin and told them I did that.  A couple days ago, I received e-mail from Ryu-Gin, and I’m so grateful for that.  Here’s the e-mail from Ryu-Gin -

Dear Ms. Ho,

Thank you for sending the URL for your photographs.
We have not heard of OAD website, and could you tell us the URL?
We assume it’s like Chowhound or EGullet and your word of mouth certainly help
s us as we are a tiny restaurant and don’t have the capacity for PR.

Recently, we started the online booking for overseas. Hopefully the guests wil
l feel more convenient to reserve a table whenever they want to from anywhere
in the world.

http://www.nihonryori-ryugin.com/en/reserve/

We hope to see you again on your next visit to Tokyo.

Sincerely,

RyuGin Administration

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