Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tenku Ryugin Hong Kong

Ever since the Michelin was introduced in Tokyo at the end of 2007, the name (Nihonryori) Ryugin was instantly becoming the talk among serious foodies. Seiji Yamamoto, the perfectionist chef owner, has pushed the boundary of contemporary Japanese cuisine with precision cooking while still respecting its tradition. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to savor Yamamoto-san's cooking at his famous restaurant located in Roppongi district. However, I was glad when I found out that Chef Yamamoto opened Ryugin's first overseas outlet in Hong Kong. Nothing was spared; Chef Yamamoto sent five experienced chefs from his original outlet lead by his protege, Hideaki Sato. Almost all of the finest ingredients and the kitchen tools are imported directly from Japan. The restaurant's location was at ICC Sky Dining on the 101st floor offering spectacular views of HK's skyline across the Kowloon's harbor. The decor, dominated by light-colored wood, is minimalist by fine dining standard, but distinctly Japanese. Like the Tokyo restaurant, Tenku Ryugin only offered one menu, 10-course kaiseki meal and below was my degustation menu in April 2013

Tasting Menu (Presenting Seasonality of Japanese Produce)  

Lightly simmered spring vegetables with ice fish in "Okaki (rice crackers)" on a boat of sasa bamboo - A nice opening to tease one's palate. The fish was not oily, the veggies had light flavor and showed texture contrast - I enjoyed the crunchy bamboo  

Hot egg custard topped with yuba and sea urchin - The chawanmushi (the organic egg was brought from Kyushu) was smooth and tasty with heavenly uni. The clean tofu skin added some complexity to the overall dish while the wasabi would reduce any cloying taste (if any)

Quickly simmered "Iidako" (seasoned baby) octopus and refreshing wasabi cucumber salad - The octopus was surprisingly lovely, not simply chewy. It worked well together with the seaweed and the crunchy salad

Soup of simmered abalone and scallop dumpling with fragrance of "Fukinoto (butterbur buds)" - The ichiban dashi was flavorful; the spring butterbur was delicate and a bit bitter as expected. The slow-cook abalone was tender and delicious; the scallop dumpling (with green soy beans) was a bit sweet - wonderful dish!

Sashimi of "Yokowa" baby tuna served with spring onions, fragrance of shiso leaf and lime - A lean and fresh tuna that melted in my mouth; about as good as chu toro, delicious! This young bluefin tuna was around 35 cm in length and usually only available during spring season

"Amadai" tile fish wrapped in kadaif with aroma of binchotan salad of five green colors - A perfect piece of tender and well-cooked amadai (1st deep fried, then grilled on white charcoal); very flavorful. The refreshing salad (green apple, mint etc.) would 'remove' the fish's grease - another great dish

Sukiyaki "Kuroge Wagyu beef sirloin" served with white asparagus, morel mushroom and onsen tamago - The barely cooked beef was succulent with sweet sukiyaki 'sauce' that worked well with soft-boiled egg. The French morels were fragrant and delicious while the asparagus was Ok. I liked this a lot ..

Rice simmered in "Sakura tea" with deep fried "Sakura shrimp" from Surugawan Bay - The Japanese rice with gummy kernels and covered in briny sweet shrimp is very comforting. Chef Sato did a great job to bring out the small shrimps flavor; the miso soup was light and sweet 

Fruit tomato poached with "Umeshu" encased in a fragile glass - The 'glass candy' and granite at the bottom were to add some dimension to the fresh and sweet Shizuoka tomato. The tomato quality was comparable to the one from Passard's garden

Meringue of Sakura flowers served with almond flavored ice cream and fresh strawberries - Put together the sweet meringue, strawberries, light flavor almond ice cream as well as azuki bean to get the best out of this dessert. Overall, not too bad  

A very well done and thoughtful kaiseki menu; it's not often that I easily loved more than half of the dishes offered in any tasting menu. My meal was accompanied by half bottle of dry and cold sake - Suwa no Ryugin (Junmai Karakuti) from Nagano. I enjoyed the exceptional service at Ryugin HK; perhaps because I was lucky enough to be attended most of the time by Ms. Hiromi Takano, the assistant manager who displayed impeccable Japanese hospitality. The locals waiters, while had quite good knowledge of the dishes and spoke decent English, generally could not really connect to their foreign guests. Towards the end, Chef Hideaki Sato also greeted diners as well as explained some of the dishes to guests - a nice gesture. Sato-san was very passionate about cooking and he was pleased that he had chances to create new dishes on his own here, of course only with the approval of his master, Chef Yamamoto. If the "branch" restaurant can be this good, I could only imagine Nihonryori Ryugin will be fabulous! Please visit the website below for the pictures,

Food (and Wine): 94 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 94/100


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