This was my surprise birthday dinner! Since I had completely ruled out Japanese restaurants while researching for restaurants to try in Hong Kong (good Japanese food does not come cheap in Hong Kong), I was completely unprepared but pleasantly surprised when I was shown in to this restaurant. Despite the glamour of its two Michelin star status, the setting was simple, save for a great view, it being situated 101 floors up. It claims to offer traditional but unique kaiseki cuisine. Unique it was indeed! And yet it retained all the clean, seasonal and delicate aspects of traditional kaiseki that the Japanese pull off so well.
This is the first overseas branch of the Tokyo restaurant, which boasts a full spectrum of Michelin stars.
We weren’t given a choice on the food. Everyone had the tasting menu.
The tasting menu consisted of 10 dishes, which change according to season:-
- Cold noodles topped with white shrimp, caviar, abalone and abalone liver sauce
- Foie Gras flavoured with porto and wasanbon sugar served with fresh figs and sesame cream sauce
- Charcoal grilled Alfonsino with matsutake mushroom in ichibandashi soup
- Assortment of sashimi
- Charcoal grilled Amadai brushed with Miso-yuan sauce
- Cold Kegani crab egg custard with grated fresh apple vinegar
- Wagyu beef shabu shabu, lotus root cake and onion ponzu sauce
- Steamed rice topped with Ikura salmon roe
- RyuGin Specialty -196 °C pear candy and 99 °C pear jam
- Chestnut ice cream with roasted chestnut biscuits
We chose to have sake to go with our dinner and they presented us with a choice of sake cups which I thought rather lovely. Weakness for tableware.
Chilled sake this time.
First course: Cold noodles topped with white shrimp, caviar, abalone and abalone liver sauce
This to me was the star of the night! I’m not usually a fan of cold noodles but this blew me away. Something about the delicious salt brine of the caviar mixed with the sweet creaminess of the shrimp and dashi scented savouriness of the liver sauce coating those perfect cold noodles. The herbs, which I’m guessing is mitsuba, adds a heightened flavour to the dish and the abalone is cooked to a tender perfection. Now that I’ve tasted it, I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to satisfy my newfound craving for it 😦
Mmmmm….Second course: Foie Gras flavoured with porto and wasanbon sugar served with fresh figs and sesame cream sauce.
I loved this as well, but it could be because I’m partial to foie gras. Popped the entire thing in my mouth. It tasted like peanut butter. Delicious but the foie gras to fig ratio could be better. The fig came dangerously close to overpowering the foie gras. Overall a nice mouthful (or two, the second is not pictured here).
Third Course: Charcoal grilled Alfonsino with matsutake mushroom in ichibandashi soup
Now this is what I’d expect from a top notch kaiseki restaurant. This is quintessentially kaiseki to me. The soup is clear, clean and yet flavourful. Ichiban dashi just refers to the basic stock that is used in most Japanese cuisine, made from katsuobashi (dried bonito flakes) and kombu (kelp). I had to look up the Alfonsino’s more familiar Japanese name, Kinme. It’s a type of sea bream, thus its taste is of a white-fleshed fish with enough fat to keep it tender but not as fatty as the cod. Well balanced fish cooked just right with a lovely charcoal aroma from the very slightly charred skin.
Fourth Course: Sashimi, standard offerings of hirame (I’m guessing here), akagai, hotate, ebi and saba sushi.
They’re all good and fresh, although special mention has to be made for the akagai and the saba sushi. I’ve not had the akagai cooked lightly like this before and I think it vastly improves its flavour and texture, making it easier to eat. The saba sushi is also done well, meticulously balancing the vinegar seasoning with the usually strong tasting fish. Absolutely nothing fishy about it, perfectly fatty and good use of seasoning.
Fifth Course: Charcoal grilled Amadai brushed with Miso-yuan sauce
All I can say is that the chef knows how to cook his fish well. Juicy and thinly glazed, it has none of the cloyingly sweet miso glaze I was dreading when I first saw the menu. I also liked that crisp that came along with it, it’s like a healthy ikan bilis cracker.
Sixth Course: Cold Kegani crab egg custard with grated fresh apple vinegar
This dish is your usual chawanmushi, except that its cold. The crab meat didn’t do much for me, and the orange stuff on top of the egg custard could be smoother. However I did like how it tasted of kaffir lime zest and juice, although it could have just been from the grated fresh apple vinegar. Interesting combination.
Seventh Course: Wagyu beef shabu shabu, lotus root cake and onion ponzu sauce.
I thought this was good! My dining partner said it could be more tender. If it were done yakiniku style, with the same sauce and garnish, I think it would be perfect. Needed a little boost to further melt the fat, but delicious otherwise. By this time I was too full to do justice to the lotus root cake, but I didn’t really fancy it much anyway after taking a small taste of it.
Eighth Course: Steamed rice topped with Ikura salmon roe
This is standard fare in kaiseki. The rice course comes out right at the end before dessert. While I’m not wowed by this course, I do love my ikura on warm fluffy rice rather than on cold, vinegared rice. Very satisfying and comforting along with the most delicious soup! The depth of flavour in this unassuming soup is unrivalled so far!
Ninth Course: the RyuGin Specialty -196 °C pear candy and 99 °C pear jam
It comes shaped as a beautiful, frozen pear which you tap and break into the insides before the waitress ladles the warm pear jam (which is more like poached pears) on top.
I love pear and I loved how the differing temperatures of the two components came together in a pleasing mixture to show off the pear ingredient. Very clever. My dining partner is harder to please though.
Tenth Course: Chestnut ice cream with roasted chestnut biscuits.
This tasted like chestnut ice cream, with chestnut shavings and roasted chestnuts cooked in some kind of alcohol. I loved this and would have finished the lot had I not been bursting at the seams. Dining partner didn’t seem to like it however. Not a fan of chestnut it seems (or the bill, since I didn’t pay for dinner hahahaha!!)
Conclusion, I really liked it! Fresh ingredients cooked well and on the mark, sometimes with a twist. The chef skirted with his cooking techniques, pushed boundaries and yet managed to execute the dishes with such finesse. The sake helped it all to come together I must say. And there’s nothing like an authentic Japanese meal to end a wonderful day.
I can’t speak for the value for money aspect of the dinner as I still do not know how much it cost. Ignorance is bliss.
Opening Hours / 12nn-3pm (Private Lunch Only) 6pm-9:30pm (Dinner Last Order)
Address / 101/F, ICC, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon
Reservation Telephone no. / 2302 0222
Number of seats / 48 ( including 2 private rooms, 1 for 4 guests and 1 for 12 guests)
Parking / 4 hours Free Parking