June 5, 2013

The summer dragon

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I'm back at Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) tonight with the Tiggers, putting more delicious yet unnecessary calories into my system.  My third visit to this establishment was also the first time I sat out in the main dining room instead of in a private room, and everything I had heard about other people's dining experiences here would be proven correct tonight...

It's summer and the restaurant has changed its menu since our last visit.  Since they cycle through 2 menus for each season, I would expect that their next change to perhaps include pike eel (鱧) - something that was on just about every menu on my last trip to Japan.

Cold "somen" topped with "white shrimp" and "premium caviar", scent of "sudachi" - a pretty nice way to start a summer meal.  The  sweetness of the glass shrimps (白海老), the salty flavors of the caviar and the acidity of sudachi lime (酢橘) all worked pretty well together.  The cucumber strips provided a little more crunchy texture among all the other softer ingredients.

Deep fried "Premium sea urchin" from Hokkaido wrapped with seaweed - I have to say that I'm not a fan...

While it was definitely interesting to eat something akin to a Japanese samosa, I just don't like having my sea urchin cooked, as it brings out the stronger "fishy" flavors.

On the side we had eggplant from Hokkaido with ginger mash and a little sudachi lime.

Japanese sweet corn tofu - this is basically pudding-like, with the obvious sweet taste of corn, and came folded in corn husk.

Traditional kaiseki summer soup: seasoned "ichiban dashi" broth with a delicate shrimp dumpling - the 一番出汁 from bonito was delicate and delicious.  The dumpling was made with glass shrimp and several different types of white fish (白身魚).  While the flavor was fine, the texture was too gooey and fell apart easily.  Winter melon help cool the body down, and watershield (蒓菜) adds an interesting element via its slippery texture.

Sashimi of "yokowa" baby tuna, spring onions with fragrance of shiso leaf and lime - OK, so once again I gave in and ate bluefin tuna... but this baby was just too tender to resist...

Charcoal grilled "alfonsino" covered with "roasted rice" - I actually found this really interesting, and delicious, too!  The layer of rice crispies on top reminded me of Shanghainese guoba (鍋巴) and was really yummy.  Needless to say the alfonsino (金目鯛) itself was very tasty and succulent, perhaps with a hint of miso (味噌).

The acidity of the green apple slices was refreshing, helped by the plum wine (梅酒) marinade and ginger mash.

The Japanese watercress was rather bitter but tasty nonetheless, with the additional flavors of seaweed (海苔).

RyuGin interpretation of "katsudon": "wagyu beef cutlet" with "onsen tamago" and red onions - OMG this was damn good!  Ever since we moved to Tokyo when I was growing up, katsudon (カツ丼) has been my favorite Japanese dish.  It is something I get regularly as my comfort food, above anything else normally found in Japanese restaurants.  This was obviously the premium version - with A3 Saga (佐賀) beef substituting for the normal pork loin or cutlet.  The mix of onions, beef deep-fried in batter and egg with the all-too-familiar sukiyaki (すき焼) sauce at the bottom was totally awesome.  Where's the bowl of rice that I can pour this over?!

Simmered whole "ezo" abalone with abalone reduction over shiitake mushroom rice - of course the rice course was coming next… The Ezo abalone (蝦夷鮑) from Hokkaido was incredibly soft and tender… Very yummy.  Mixing the seaweed and mushroom with the rice made everything extra delicious.

On the side was the abalone's liver, as well as cucumber and myoga (茗荷) slices.

With the savory courses behind us, we were served a little cup of tea at this time.  I asked the waiter to tell me what type of tea we were having, and he replied "green tea".  No shit, Sherlock!  I could see that it's green tea, but there are different types of green tea.  I was unhappy with his answer and asked for clarification.  Eventually I was told that this was sencha (煎茶).  To be honest I am still suspicious of this answer, because some time earlier I had heard our Japanese waitress talking to a table with Japanese customers and mentioning hojicha (焙じ茶)...

RyuGin specialty: -196ºC "candy strawberry" and +99ºC "strawberry jam" - I had the apple version when I visited the Tokyo honten, and I finally got to taste this on my third visit here.  First came the "strawberry"…

…then we were asked to break the candy shell, revealing the flash frozen contents inside…

…finally the "jam" was added to create the sensation of eating something both hot and cold.

Meringue of cherry blossom, almond flavored ice cream with fresh cherry - we had something nearly identical on our last visit, although this version had cherries instead of strawberries.  Dunno why, but I thought the almond ice cream tasted almost a little savory...

Finally there was a cup of matcha (抹茶) to finish off…

Thanks to the steep corkage charge for sake, we decided to order something off the list tonight.  Kamoshibito Kuheiji Betsuatsurae 35% Eau du Desire (醸人 九平次 別誂 35% Eau du Desire) is something I've had before in Tokyo.  Soft and smooth on the front palate but dry later.  Sweet and dry at the same time, with a long finish.  Nose of rich fermented rice.

Some final words on the clientele…  I'd heard several reports about this establishment attracting diners who were boisterous, which some people felt detracted from a fine dining experience.  Tonight I was a little worried as I entered the restaurant and passed by a table of Big Sixers.  Sure enough, they were pretty loud throughout the entire meal, thinking that they were dining in the privacy of their own home.  Finally we have had enough, and decided to ask the waitstaff to get them to quiet down.

Apparently the people from the Strong Country had a little something to drink, so they were loud because of the alcohol.  WTF?!  Lots of people drink at dinner, including ourselves.  Did you hear us talk at high decibels?  And just because you can afford dinner at a restaurant with Michelin stars and order expensive sake like Kokuryu Nizaemon (黒龍 ニ左衛門), doesn't mean you have class.

I think my future visits are gonna have to be in private rooms...

1 comment:

scubagolfer said...

'Strong Countrymen'...heard that very creative buzzword many times during my recent trip to HK


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