September 19, 2016

Sky dragon soars to new heights

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L was in town again, and this time she actually managed to give the Great One and I enough advance notice so we can plan a decent meal together.  The original request was for Ta Vie 旅, but since Sato-san was away in Bangkok we decided to go with Tenku RyuGin (天空龍吟) instead.  I'm spending more time with Sato-san these days because he's physically just so much closer, but I mustn't forget to show the younger Seki-san some love, too.

We found it a little incredible that L has never been to ICC, and panicked a little when she realized she would have to cross the harbor for dinner.  Thankfully she didn't arrive too late, although I didn't succeed in getting her to buy us dinner...

Cold simmered abalone with abalone liver sauce, shirodatsu, udo and fresh sea urchin (煮鮑とその煮凝り  肝酢  うにと芋茎と独活の海苔和え) - the abalone from Ezo (蝦夷) has always been one of their best items here, and we would start with it tonight.  Simmered for 6 hours, scored, and served with yuzu (柚子) jelly to deliver a refreshing bite.  There was a little bit of abalone liver sauce on the side, and I dipped my second piece into it for a change of flavor profile.

Everyone loved this, and so did I... except that I thought the pieces were a little too big and thick.  For some reason, I found the pieces of abalone a little harder than chew on than normal.  Yes, it was tender and surely they cooked it long enough, but it just didn't quite do it for me tonight.  Maybe I shouldn't have put a whole piece into my mouth and tried to chew on it... Guess I'll actually bite it in half next time.

On the side were sea urchin tongues resting on top of shredded Japanese spikenard (独活) and white taro stem (白だつ), along with some shredded nori (海苔).  Pretty good.

Kegani crab hot egg custard served with bamboo fungus and red vinegar (毛蟹あん茶碗蒸し  衣笠茸と紅酢) - this was simply a beautiful dish.  A luxe version of chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) with shredded Japanese horsehair crab (毛蟹) meat that was fresh and sweet.  The soft tofu skin (湯葉) melded seamlessly with the silky egg custard, and the flavors all worked really well together, too... except for the crunchy cubes of ginger pickled in red vinegar.  That was a little out of place and completely unnecessary.  Without it, this would be a delicious bowl of comfort food that I'd be happy to eat a few bowls of.

Premium foie gras served with fresh figs, sesame cream sauce and wafer (イチジクとフォアグラの最中) - WOW!  A stunning dish!  I've had the foie gras and fig combination from RyuGin a couple of times, but this was an even better version.  Ripe and sweet figs, topped with perilla flowers and drizzled with some 30-year old balsamic vinegar, sat on a crispy monaka (最中) wafer filled with a layer of foie gras pâté dressed with some sesame cream.

Everything came together flawlessly.  The sweetness of the figs, the hint of acidity in the balsamico, the fragrance of the rich sesame cream, the smooth pâté, the toasty fragrance of the monaka, and the beautiful shiso.  Everyone raved about how beautiful this was, myself included.  Such happiness in every bite.

Kijihata grouper, matsutake mushroom in kijihata broth (きじはたと松茸の椀) - the redspotted grouper (雉子羽太) was beautifully scored and simply poached in the ichiban dashi (一番出汁).  There was a block of tofu that had a richer flavor profile, and a fresh matsutake mushroom (松茸) with that beautiful fragrance.  A small piece of yuzu rind added a little extra citrus perfume.  Clean, pure, and elegant flavors here.

Assortment of sashimi (本日のお造り) - there were four different types of seafood tonight, and none of them tuna!  Yay!

Homard bleu (オマール) - the flavors of the slow-cooked French blue lobster was so pure, with a hint of smokiness and topped with apple vinegar jelly.  Nice and firm texture, too.

Surf clam (北寄貝) - very nice.  The second piece at the bottom was fatty and creamy with some briny shellfish flavors.

Golden alfonsino (金目鯛) - wow!  This has always been one of my favorite fish here, but tonight the crispy skin was paper-thin and just perfect, with lovely smoky fragrance.

Pacific saury (秋刀魚) - beautifully made into a cylindrical box sushi (箱寿司) along with some sesame.  Loved the acidity as it worked with the fatty fish.  Served with a square of pickled green apple on the side with a little kick from ginger.

Ryugin style charcoal grilled amadai served with crispy scales (甘鯛うろに焼き) - what's not to like about a delicious piece of tilefish that was perfectly cooked to retain its succulence?  And just look at those crispy fish scales on top!  Loved the ripe fruit tomato on the side, too... along with the shredded perilla leaves.

Hot shabu shabu Miyazaki wagyu beef (野崎牛サーロインのしゃぶしゃぶ  焼なす  ポン酢のあん) - O-M-G.  They've always done an amazing job with their Japanese beef here, but this was another perfect dish.  The slices of marbled beef were perhaps 1/8 of an inch thick, and had been lightly blanched so that they were just soooo tender.  The grated horseradish didn't provide as strong of a kick as I had feared, but meanwhile the grilled eggplant underneath was beautifully smoky.  The acidity of the ponzu helped balance out the fat.  In fact, these were less like slices of beef and more like thin pats of butter...  Just. awesome.

Grilled Japanese eel served with steamed rice (鰻丼) - the eel from Aichi Prefecture (愛知県) was very, very nice.  No hint of muddy flavors here, and so the light sprinkle of sansho pepper (山椒) and sansho pepper leaves (木の芽) just accented the flavors a little.

The pickles that come with the rice are usually very good, but tonight they were amazing.  While the little radish was nice, it was the young Japanese pumpkin (南瓜) that surprised us all - by being just absolutely crunchy.  The Great One loved it so much that they brought her more of it.

RyuGin specialty -196°C peach candy and +99°C peach jam (-196°Cの桃飴  と  +99°Cの飴炊き桃) - I love peaches, and I've had the signature dessert here numerous times... including the peach version.  However, I never would have thought to comment out loud that this looked like a perky nipple on a breast... unlike my friend the Great One here.

Hello Kitty decides that she'd rather skip this dessert, since it's too sweet for her taste, so guess who got to have a pair of boobies peaches?  Unlike those clichéd chocolate molten lava cakes, I don't think I'll ever get tired of RyuGin's signature frozen desserts with the warm jam on top.

Melon and sake kasu (酒粕とメロン) - this was also a dessert I've had before.  The mousse made with sake lees (酒粕) was very light and fluffy... almost ethereal.  It's topped with some melon and lemongrass granité which gives it a slightly different texture as well as perfume.  At the bottom are chunks of crunchy and very, very buttery biscuits that are almost too rich at this point of the evening.  Thankfully the rice papers on top were so light and flimsy they resemble the translucent wings of an insect.

I brought along a nice bottle of wine for dinner. I know L only likes to drink red wines, but the seafood-dominated menu here works better with whites, so I decided to bring out one of my favorite whites from California.

2003 Kongsgaard The Judge - opened 40 minutes prior to decanting.  Nice and ripe, with sweetness, a little marzipan and cotton candy, toasty corn.  Nice acidity here but soooo elegant and well-balanced.  Just drinking beautifully now.

A fantastic evening.  Dinner here has always delivered, but I have to say tonight showed that things were getting even better.  I think Seki-san is really knocking them out of the park these days, and it doesn't hurt that the ladies find him cute...

Finally, as I commented on social media before dinner, it's so nice to be able to go to a place where they know all your preferences without the need for you to explain over and over again.  They know not to serve me any tuna without me having to raise the issue.  Many thanks for the fantastic service - and for waiving the corkage.

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