March 22, 2015

The end of a chapter

Pin It

At a dinner earlier this month, I received word that Chef Hideaki Sato was leaving Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟), a restaurant much beloved by myself as well as the Tiggers.  This came as a big shock to me, and I immediately checked with Chef Sato on his departure date.  When I was told that he was due to leave at the end of the month, I quickly organized a last dinner with the Tiggers.  It is, after all, their favorite Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong.

Tonight's menu read a little like a "greatest hits" collection, with a number of my favorite dishes sampled over the last 3 years.  I was only too happy to be able to taste them again one last time...

Deep fried sea urchin from Hokkaido wrapped in seaweed (レアに仕上げた浜中の "海水雲丹" サクサク磯辺揚げ) - I've had this before, and didn't really like it on previous visits.  Sandwiched between nori (のり) seaweed and then wrapped in rice paper before deep-frying.

But tonight I think I appreciated it a little more...  Even though I still prefer the sweetness from raw sea urchin, tonight the sea urchin inside was barely cooked, so the flavors only changed slightly with the heat.

Spring vegetables medley with abalone and hokki clam served with grapefruit sorbet (春野菜のお浸し 生薑と木の芽の香り 長崎"煮鮑" 北海道"北寄貝" グレープフルーツのムースソルベともに) - I always love coming here in the spring, as the chef showcases a selection of spring vegetables.  Tonight we had sugar snap peas, rapeseed flowers, cabbage, and another type that the local staff failed to tell me.  The abalone from Kyushu was pretty delicious, as were the surf clams (北寄貝)... especially when taken with the sansho pepper leaves (木の芽).  There was a pool of dashi (出汁) at the bottom, and there was a hint of ginger, too.

The little quenelle of grapefruit sorbet on top was really incredibly refreshing, and worked well with the other ingredients.

"Black custard" with hotaru baby squid (イカ墨茶碗蒸し 富山"螢烏賊" 色彩大根を添えと) - one of my favorite dishes over the last few years.  The squid ink adds an extra layer of flavors to the steamed egg custard, and the acidity from the ponzu (ポン酢) in the dashi just made everything so deliciously perfect... along with a hint of yuzu (柚子).  The different colorful radishes on top adds a little crunchy texture.  The firefly squid from Toyama Prefecture (富山県) were just absolutely incredible.  I can't even begin to describe how much I loved them... just bursting with flavor, quite literally!

Charcoal grilled amadai soup with leek and turnip (焼甘鯛のお椀 "ボロネギ" "聖護院かぶら") - probably the biggest disappointment tonight.  The filefish was definitely over-cooked, so the texture was a little tougher and chewier... especially the skin.  Which was such an incredible shame!  The flavors from grilling were nice, though.

For the first time that I can recall, the soup base wasn't made of ichiban dashi (一番出汁), but made with the other parts of tilefish like the bones... etc.  This gives the soup a wonderful sweetness.  A little bit of kuzuko (葛粉) was used to thicken the soup slightly, and some yuzu rind was used to impart the familiar fragrance.  The Shogoin (聖護院) turnip and the leek were pretty nice, too.

Assortment of sashimi (本日のお造り盛り合わせ) - I do love the way this is presented... with a little "painting" done with salt.

青森"鮃" - the olive flounder from Aomori Prefecture (青森県) was pretty nice, and a little softer than I expected.
大分"アオリイカ" - scored numerous times to deliver the desired soft texture, this bigfin reef squid from Oita Prefecture (大分県) was taken not with soy sauce, but with marinated nori seaweed.
氷見"寒鰤" - winter is the best season for yellowtail, and this was from Himi (氷見).  Now I've had a lot of yellowtail in my time, and I gotta think that this was close to the best that I can remember... Very, very soft and tender... which made me wonder how long this has been aged.

Charcoal grilled alfonsino covered with roasted rice (煎り米を纏った"金目鯛"の香煎焼き 金柑のガリ) - another of my favorite dishes here, and served with marinated kumquat tonight.

The alfonsino itself was pretty juicy and succulent as usual, but the best part was of course the layer of crispy, roasted rice.  Just beautiful!

Wagyu ribeye sukiyaki with smoked green asparagus ("のざき牛" リブアイ "燻製緑アスパラ"のすき焼き 温泉卵を絡ませて) - from Nozaki Farm in Kagoshima (鹿児島), I asked for this to be prepared to the temperature that the chef prefers.  This was, of course, just so silky and amazing.  Nice smoky flavors in the asparagus from Tochigi Prefecture (栃木県).  And that soft-boiled egg with the sukiyaki (すき焼き) sauce... I could eat another 3 bowls.

Riced cooked with "sakura leaf" topped with deep fried "sakura shrimp" (龍吟 春の名物 静岡駿河湾 "桜海老"御飯) - yet another of my favorites, and definitely a favorite of the Tiggers'.  In addition to the usual deep-fried sakura shrimp, which were crunchy and amazingly delicious as always, there was also a sprinkle of plum (梅) powder on top.  Soooo yummy... but I wanted a double-portion.

The yamaimo (山芋) was soaked in plum marinated, and came with a cherry leaf.

A little sencha (煎茶) to clear the palate.
RyuGin specialty -196°C mandarin candy and +99°C mandarin jam (昔懐かし....... -196°Cのみかん飴 +99°Cの飴炊きみかん) - I've never had the mandarin version before, and it was kinda nice.

Broken up and with jam added.  As the jam was spooned on top, I started hearing crackling noises, and once I put the first spoonful in my mouth, I realized that the chef had added pop rocks at the bottom.

Almond ice cream with strawberry and sweet red beans covered with meringue (苺とアーモンドのアイスクリーム メレンゲのドーム) - with some strawberry powder on top of the meringue dome.

Cracking open the dome revealed the almond ice cream underneath, which was pretty nice.  You get both the sweetness coming from the meringue, the ice cream, and the red beans... as well as the acidity from the strawberries.

And as always a cup of matcha (抹茶) to finish.

An absolutely stunning meal.  I couldn't be happier than I came tonight, but also a little apprehensive.  What will the new menu look like after Chef Sato's departure?  I'm sure Chef Seiji Yamatomo has chosen a worthy successor, and I look forward to checking out the style in the coming months.

But I also look forward to seeing Chef Sato and Takano-san at their new restaurant in Central.  Simple, healthy French cooking with Japanese ingredients.  お楽しみ!

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map