Friday 7 December 2012: Daisan Harumi Lunch
Reservation: made via credit-card concierge (Amex has a service that does this) which coordinated with hotel reception (I stayed in an average 3-star hotel btw and they managed just fine ). Reservation was secured about a week in advance.
Location: thank the lord for google-maps. I took the train to Shiodome station, then walked towards Shimbashi station (the closest to the venue I think) and then used the map. The restaurant is ensconced on a small road behind a 7-Eleven. I passed by it, but all the writings were in Japanese, though I did notice a “Best Restaurant” award displayed on a window. I showed a local passerby the name for confirmation but he dropped from the sky (weird…he couldn’t read Kanji?) so I just walked in and it was the right place.
Ambiance: I read some chowhounder review complaining a bit about the décor, but I am a big fan for tiny Japanese places, which is what DH is. There is a counter sitting about 8 people and a small table nearby. The place was full, barring 3 reservations (one of which was mine). Clientele all Japanese, mostly suits on lunch break.
Food & Beverages: upon seating at the sushi-bar, a staff asks what you’d like to drink. I opted for water and green-tea, both of which are regularly refilled, and the latter of high-quality. There are 2 sushi-chefs, I was served by the slightly more junior one, who actually spoke a bit of English.
Damage: JPY 10k all-in, saw most people paying in cash so I did the same.
Synopsis: definitely a very good meal as per above . Now what I’m left pondering is, however, the following: I’ve seen very similar fish- cuts served in various Tsukiji sushi restaurants for prices around JPY 3,500 / 4,000, of which I had one a few days after. I’m wondering: how much fresher and/or tastier than Tsukiji can a Tokyo sushi-meal be? And is the marginal increase in quality/flavor (maybe my palate is not refined enough, but to me it wasn’t very noticeable) worth the more than double price (or even quadruple if you go to Mizutani / Jiro)?
December 8 December 2012: RyuGin dinner
Reservation: made via credit-card concierge (Amex has a service that does this) which coordinated with hotel reception (I stayed in an average 3-star hotel btw and they managed just fine ). Reservation was secured about a week in advance, which may explain why I only got the crappy 10pm table. I arrived at 9:40pm-ish only to be told the previous customers were “on the slow side” and thus to comeback a bit after. In the end I think I started at around 10:15pm.
Location: very easy to find, it’s at most a 5 minutes walk from the Roppongi subway station, on a street near a Family-Mart and a Meidi-Ya supermarket.
Ambiance/Staff: beautiful, cozy place. Something interesting: admittedly it’s a small sample, but the restaurant was almost fully foreigner (everyone armed with bazookas-cameras to take pictures). Only the table in front of me was Japanese. All the staff has a perfect mastery of English, in fact mine was a very polite French lady. They all have an earphone “secret-service” style, and there is also an “eye in the sky” (a camera) on the ceiling.
Food & Beverages: I was served a complimentary glass of good Moet to start (not sure because of the table being late or if it’s customary). An envelope meanwhile contained the menu for the day, labeled “Winter Menu”. I had read that there were a few different selections but maybe that has changed.
1. Seasonal vegetables with pine nuts dressing: served in a classic small Japanese appetizer bowl, this was a good, decent starter (7) though nothing special.
2. Premium “Uni” from Hokkaido in lace wrapping flash fried with “Burdock Root” and Mushroom Soup: ok, I was pretty excited by this as I don’t get to eat “Premium Uni” every day, yet this dish disappointed me. I find uni spectacular in itself (ideally raw). This was lightly battered, and its favor was strongly masked by (I think it was) shiso (or some other herb / spice). The chefs seems rather into this spice as it came on many dishes. The mushroom soup on the side was “standard perfect execution”, silky, though the disappointment from the uni didn’t allow for a full enjoyment. (6.25)
3. RyuGin special: premium monkfish liver in white miso sauce with sea scallops: the staff informs this is one of the signature dishes, and it surely was. The creamy sauce was super full of flavor, and the monkfish liver was spectacular too. Hopefully it won’t be heresy comparing it to foie gras of the sea (9)
4. Matsuba Crab from Sanin served in Crab broth: the staff encourages one to lift the lid off of the small bowl and inhale the crab aroma. Gimmicky perhaps but good. A lumpy piece of crab meat rests on top of a crab-meat ball. (7.5)
5. RiyGin Sashimi: one of the best dishes alongside “3”. The cuts were:
6. Deep water kinki fish from Hokkaido charcoal grilled, grilled eggplant stuffed, and pickled apple with ginger flavor: great smokiness and texture, though this dish didn’t blow me away. There was also a lovely small caramelized onion. (7.5)
7. Simmered cod-fish roe and fried tofu-ball with mizuna: soupy version, the cod-fish roe had an interesting texture though flavor-wise didn’t leave a lasting impression, as the tofu ball wasn’t particularly tasty. (6.25).
8. Wagyu Beef Filet with 7 thinly chopped veggies: good, decent “melt-in-the-mouth” feeling (though not crazily so). The staff encouraged it to mix the beef with the veggies for flavor contrast. Hmm. (7.5)
9. Rice with Chinese cabbage, miso soup and pickles: this is the classic (carbohydrate) “filler”. I found the pickles and soup delicious, the rice nothing to write home about. Perhaps being a bit full starts to raise the bar even more. (6.25)
10. Tangerine Candy: this is a very gimmicky dish, which was nonetheless fun to eat. It first comes in the form of a perfectly shaped tangerine candy, which you are encouraged to break. Inside there is a very cold tangerine powder which is mixed with a hot jam. It creates a funny fizzling sensation in the mouth. (7 for the fun).
11. Baked “ginjou sake, Oyaki soufflé” with “salt” soft ice cream: I’m not much of a dessert person and I was full by this time, but this was easily in the top 3 of the dinner dishes which should attest how good it was. The soufflé was of mind-blowing richness, and it complemented the creamy “salt” ice cream beautifully (9).
Lastly a “matcha’ is served, which is a gorgeous round bowl of extremely concentrated green-tea. This has the caffeine to wake one up after an 11-course meal ;-)
Damage: JPY 25k inclusive of 10% service charge. I did not have any booze nor mineral water (the staff was rather cool in not pushing San Pellegrino down your throat). All major credit cards are accepted.
Synopsis: this meal was a xmas present to myself, so while definitely not cheap, I have no regrets overall (in specific, just wished the uni had been better and perhaps a bit of less shiso used on other dishes too since the underlying ingredients are great on their own). The attention to detail was ubiquitous (even the toilet paper was perfumed), and the staff escorts the guests all the way out to the street. Definitely recommended at least once and, as I type this, I would probably not mind going again in the future. They also have a branch in Hong Kong, Kowloon side (the tower with a lot of banks).
Details and reviews will of course follow, inputs appreciated of course.