November 8, 2012

85 on 101

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A dear friend of mine was kind enough to invite me to dinner tonight.  A group of us were gathering to open a few bottles with Neal Martin, the man behind the Wine Journal on  It's always interesting to meet people who have so much experience with different wines, and not surprisingly many of us try to offer up some choice wines from our cellars during these encounters.  I sometimes wonder if these critics ever just want to have a simple meal with a simple bottle of wine?

The venue of the gathering was RyuGin (天空 龍吟) on the 101th floor of the International Commerce Centre.  I was pretty excited about this evening, both because of the wines we would be drinking and also because this would be my first visit to the restaurant.  I had a wonderful experience at the honten in Tokyo on my last trip, although reviews on this place from my contacts had been rather mixed.  Now I would be able to find out for myself.

We took a menu featuring fall ingredients, made even more luxurious with the addition of white truffles from Alba…

Chawanmushi made with golden eggs and free range chicken broth, drops of aromatic oil - chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) is such a clichéd dish, but this is the luxury edition.  Lovely chicken broth made the steamed egg more flavorful, and shredded spring onion whites added a little more texture.  Of course the white truffle shavings was just decadent...

Poached oyster from Akkeshi Hokkaido, on fine puree of Japanese turnip, grated celeriac sauce - I'm familiar with the quality of oysters from Akkeshi (厚岸), since Gyodoike (魚道生) in Taipei also sources their oysters from the area.  The oyster was lightly poached, then topped with radish purée (大根おろし) and a generous amount of white truffle shavings.  The oyster sat on a bed of celeriac sauce.

There was also a cream of mushroom soup on the side, made with matsutake (松茸) and shiitake (椎茸) mushrooms.  Very thick and viscous.

White miso soup prepared with "ise ebi" lobster and its premium broth - the lobster was really delicious, with a nice and springy texture.  The pieces of yam are from Kyoto (京都).  The chrysanthemum greens (春菊) were folded and seemed to have had some lobster tomalley wrapped inside.  The broth was absolutely delicious, with a fine balance between the sweetness from the lobster and light, savory flavors of the miso (味噌).  More white truffles from Alba.

Fresh sea urchin, scallops and abalone seasoned with seaweed jelly - this is like one of those "3-in-1" creations that Taiwanese sushi chefs love to do… This was really delicious, but really challenging to eat.  After thinking a little, I decided the only way to do it - and isn't it just like me? - was to eat it in one big bite.  So I turned myself slightly away from the others, stretched my mouth wide open (or was it tall, since height mattered more?) and shoved the whole pile into my mouth.  I admit I felt a little like Pigsy (豬八戒) in Journey to the West (西遊記)...

The three different textures from the three main ingredients were arranged in perfect order: creamy sea urchin, followed by the slightly firmer scallop, and finally the chewier abalone with a good amount of bite.  The jelly was made with seaweed (のり) and apple vinegar.  Topping was a combination of white truffle, seaweed and alfalfa sprouts.

"Alfonsino" marinated in "yuzu" flavored white miso, eggplant, shaved chestnuts and endive confit - very interesting and yummy.  The miso cod is a dish one sees in many restaurants, but here they've decided to use splendid alfonsino (金目鯛) instead.  I didn't quite pick out the yuzu (柚子) flavor from the miso, but no matter…  Here you've got a mix of sweet and bitter flavors - sweetness from the miso and chestnut, while the endives and gingko (銀杏) nuts provided the bitterness that left my tongue tingling.  There was also a layer of eggplant sandwiched in the middle of the alfonsino.  Delicious.

Premium wagyu beef served in "sukiyaki style" with onset tamago and kujyonegi - O.M.G!  Can you say "melt in your mouth"?  I don't eat wagyu much these days, but this was absolutely heavenly.  Instead of serving us with grilled beef, doing it this way and leaving the beef on the rare side, with a soft-boiled egg mixed in with the sweetish sukiyaki (すき焼き) sauce, was perfect.  The greens and whites of kujyonegi (九条ねぎ) from Kyoto added extra fragrance.  A few more servings of this and I can die a happy man.

Exclusively seasonal "matsuba gani" crab served in porridge style with Japanese chives - very, very awesome.  The sight of this porridge in the clay pot was just awesome, especially with the truffle shavings on top.

I had to have 2 bowls of this… and wanted more.  The sweetness from the champagne crab (松葉蟹) was just awesome.  My friend wisely suggested that we pair this with the Madeira, as the oxidation in the wine is similar to Chinese Huadiao (花雕) wine, which we also drink while eating crab.

The marinated cabbage had a light sprinkling of chili powder.

"Mont Blanc" of Narutokintoki sweet potato and wasanbon sugar ice-cream - certainly a very interesting interpretation of a Mont Blanc, using the Narutokintoki (鳴門金時) sweet potato from Tokushima (徳島).  The wasanbon (和三盆) ice cream was delicious, and the yogurt cream was nice, too.

Now on to the wines… This was a truly special evening, with three of us supplying the wines including a small contribution from myself.

1988 Krug Clos de Mesnil - nose of honey, toasty oak, marmalade, savory mineral.  Later some coconut came out.  Nice acidity here, especially on the finish.  An amazing Champagne.

2002 Roulot Meursault 1er Cru Charmes - clean and crisp on the nose, with a little bit of flint.  The classic Meursault nose of toasty oak dominated, but this was much more elegant and "charming" compared to a Perrières.  Acidity was there but also a little bit ripe on the palate.

A very generous gentleman brought along a trio of amazing magnums:
1985 Le Pin en magnum - strawberries, sweet, a bit of ripeness, a little leather, animal, a little sweet grass, a hint of green pepper and smoke.  Later on toasty oak came out.  So smooth and light on the palate at first, but later on the body gained weight.  A beautiful wine, but not as exotic and flamboyant as some other vintages.

1985 DRC La Tâche en magnum - awesome.  Kick ass.  Nose of mushroom, leather, bacon fat, smoky, a bit floral, osmanthus, really sweet, marmalade, slightly nutty.  Acidity was a little higher than expected.  This was my favorite wine of the evening as the nose was just so open and beautiful, and I could forgive the palate for not being 100%.  Most definitely outperformed the last bottle I drank in Burgundy.

1985 Lafleur en magnum - minty, a little medicinal, forest, so sweet and more concentrated than the Le Pin.  Smoky, and later on savory mineral and soy sauce notes showed up.  Very lovely, a big wine.  Would love to see how this tastes in another 10 to 20 years.

1901 Adegas do Torreão Malvazia - walnut, caramel, ripe plum and vanilla.  Alcohol seemed to be milder than previous old bottles of Madeira I've opened.  Decanted before dinner and I had to move the decanter away from the table, since the amazingly lovely nose was interfering with my ability to taste the other wines.

What an awesome dinner!  Food was very, very good, and worthy of a place like RyuGin.  I look forward to coming back.  Of course the wines were amazing tonight…

P.S.  We adjourned across the harbor and tried to have a drink (or two) at b.a.r. Executive Bar, but they were already full and Hidome-san refused to let us in due to licensing concerns…  Oh well, another time...


Anonymous said...

How would you compare RyuGin to Wagyu Kasaike Dan, in term of quality of ingredient and chef's skills?

Peech said...

I love Wagyu Kaiseki Den, but wouldn't begin to compare the two as they are just on different levels For once the macarons tell the truth...


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