July 22, 2014

The stony summer dragon

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A few weeks ago I ran into Chef Sato from Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), and we chatted about the new Shoun RyuGin (祥雲龍吟) that Chef Seiji Yamamoto (山本征治) is opening in my hometown Taipei and how excited I was.  I apologized for not having visited his restaurant as often as I would have liked, and was surprised that he remembered that my last visit was only a couple of months ago.  Mrs. Tigger had told me about their recent visit and that the Japanese white peach was now on the menu, so I promised Chef Sato that I would make a visit this month.  My Favorite Cousin is always up for a good meal, and since she works in the same building as the restaurant, I asked her to join me for dinner tonight.

I received a call from the restaurant staff this afternoon, and after confirming that I was still coming tonight, the person at the other end of the line checked to make sure I want tuna removed from my menu.  I was pleasantly surprised that they remembered - since I forgot to tell them not to give me tuna last time - and chalk it up to good customer profiling.

As I walked out of the elevator on the 101st floor on my way to the restaurant, the receptionist greeted me my name.  Another pleasant surprise, although since both Chef Sato and Takano-san know me by sight, that information has probably also been passed down to others.  Guess I'm not as anonymous as I thought...

Cold somen topped with white shrimp and premium caviar (富山 "白海老" フランス ソローニュ川 "キャビア" そうめん) - always love to start off with this in the summer since it's really refreshing.

In addition to the glass shrimps (白海老) and caviar, there were cubes of cucumber, Chinese yam (山芋), eggplant, diced scallions and seaweed (のり).

"Black custard" with aori squid ("アオリイカ" の黒い茶碗蒸し) - the bigfin reef squid (アオリイカ) was delicately scored and very tender.   The egg custard was made with squid ink and dashi (出汁) from the squid, as well as some yuzu (柚子) rind which lent its fragrance.  There was some acidity here, and I wondered if there was a shot of ponzu (ポン酢).  Garnished with scallion sprouts (芽ねぎ) and radish.  Very nice.

Poached Gillardeau oyster wrapped with shyabu-shyabu wagyu beef and grated celeriac jelly ("ジラルドーオイスター" と "のざき牛" セロリ大根おろしのジュレ) - the newest creation from Chef Sato.  The Gillardeau was very gently poached, and the beef from Nozaki Farm in Kagoshima (鹿児島) - obviously fatty and tender - was lightly cooked shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) style.  Topped with celeriac and apple vinegar jelly and finely chopped scallions.  Melt-in-your-mouth and mmm mmm good.

Charcoal grilled kinki with ichibandashi soup, night jasmine, winter melon and aka eggplant (炭火焼きんきのお椀 "夜香花" "冬瓜" "赤茄子") - apparently Chef Sato was inspired by the Chinese classic winter melon soup (冬瓜盅) to create this dish, and uses Tonkin jasmin (夜香花) in the soup. The ichibandashi (一番だし) was delicate as ever.  The kinki (喜知次) was exceptional.  Wonderful smoky flavors from grilling, and soooo fatty and yummy.  Could I please have another bowl?

Assortment of sashimi (本日のお造り盛合せ) - since I wasn't getting any tuna, My Favorite Cousin didn't, either...
Marbled flounder (真子鰈) - nice and a little chewy.
Sea urchin (雲丹) and scallop (帆立貝) - both from Hokkaido, topped with seaweed jelly.
Surf clam (北寄貝) - with sudachi (酢橘).
Homard bleu (オマール・ブルー) - cooked sous vide.

Grilled sweet corn and shrimp dumpling with mild yuba soy skin (炭火焼 "とうもろこし" を纏った海老真蒸 生湯葉と鶏出汁の餡) - the dumpling sits on a bed of yuba (湯葉), which was very delicate, and the broth was made with Longgang chicken (龍崗雞) from Guangdong.  Topped with deep-fried shredded corn husk, like a kadaif.

I loooove Japanese sweet corn, and here they've made a dumpling with shrimp paste and corn, so there's a blend of textures.  The grilling also imparts lightly charred flavors.  This was sooo delicious!  Just nibbling on the shreds alone brought happiness.

Large eel grilled over Binchotan charcoal ("龍吟 夏の名物" 大鰻の炭火焼) - I had this Taiwanese eel last year and loved it.  Loved the sauce (たれ), and of course looooved the sansho (山椒) powder on the side with that numbing kick.  The sansho leaves (木の芽) on the eel were nice, too.  Didn't really care to eat this with the "white wasabi"...

Simmered whole "Ezo" abalone with abalone reduction over shiitake mushroom rice ("蝦夷鮑" と焼き椎茸の御飯) - O-M-G... I looooooove this abalone.  Every time I come here and have this... it's just sooo soft and fluffy... having been scored until it resembles a set of gills.  I'm guessing that the scoring helps to speed up the cooking process, enabling the chef to cook it for a minimum amount of time and thereby avoiding it becoming too chewy.  The shiitake (椎茸) rice, as always, was nice with a subtle fragrance.  The seaweed (のり) on top made everything better.

Even the wakame (わかめ) was nice and came with jelly on top.

A cup of sencha (煎茶) to cleanse our palates before dessert.  My Favorite Cousin had never been here before, and admired the beautify of the tea cup.

RyuGin specialty -196°C peach candy and +99°C peach jam (ピーチキャンディ -196°Cの桃飴 +99°Cの飴炊き桃) - summer is peach season, and this is the best version out of all the variations I've had.

Of course you need to have it with the jam... to have both hot and cold sensations in one mouthful.  I wouldn't mind having another one of these... but of course I don't have the stomach space for it...

Physalis "Japanese lantern fruit" pudding (ほうずきプリン) - summer is also the season for the Japanese lantern (ほうずき), and here it's made into a pudding.  Nice acidity here.

Finally, Chef Sato prepared a special dessert for the two of us - Zenkoji anmitsu (善光寺餡蜜).  Zenkoji Temple is in Nagano Prefecture (長野県), where Chef Sato hails from.  This cup has homemade vanilla ice cream at the bottom, plus azuki beans (小豆), apricot, a layer of jelly on top, and some red perilla (赤紫蘇) flowers and muscovado (黒蜜). Yum.  Of course Chef Sato was very kind to send us this special dessert, but now my stomach was ready to explode...

A cup of matcha (抹茶) to finish the evening.

1995 Jos. Joh. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese - nose of petrol and white pepper.  Medium sweetness with good acidity balance.

This was an excellent dinner... and I'm ever so grateful to be able to enjoy Chef Sato's creativity.  The interesting part of Chef Yamamoto's philosophy at RyuGin is that the cuisine at each restaurant is different, as each one sources local ingredients.  Now I'm really looking forward to RyuGin opening in Taiwan, and see what they will create with the abundance of local produce there.

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