2016 Dining Recap

 

Having visited a handful of Michelin starred, World’s 50 Best and other top restaurants in Asia and Europe, 2016 was great dining year. My journey began at Hong Kong where I dined at Lung King Heen, the very first three Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in the world. Needless to say, it had an extremely high quality Cantonese food. The restaurants location on the fourth floor of the Four Season hotel boasts a panoramic view of Victoria Harbor. The two Michelin-starred Amber at Landmark Mandarin Oriental offers a terrific weekend wine lunch which consists of five courses paired with four glasses of wine. This was one of the best deals out there at 928 HKD for a restaurant at this caliber. Dinner at the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the only of the L’Ateliers with three Michelin stars) was also quite superb.

I waited in queue for hours at Tim Ho Wan in Sham Shui Po, which at that time was the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world (until that distinction was awarded to Singapore’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken in the summer of last year). The dim sum was tasty and I enjoyed every single dish that I had. Frog legs and chicken congee at Tasty Congee & Wuntun Noodle Shop in the IFC was nothing short of delicious. Even better was the chicken and fish congee at the concierge recommended Sang Kee Congee Shop in Sheung Wan. 208 Ducento Otto serves up wonderful cocktails while Angel Share Whisky Bar & Restaurant and its expansive list of whisky is a must-visit for enthusiast while in Hong Kong.

That same journey through Asia led me to Tokyo, Japan. I had my very first meal in this sprawling metropolis at RyuGin, Chef Seiji Yamamoto’s flagship restaurant which has three Michelin stars and ranked number 31 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant. The modern kaiseki that it serves is a reflection of the agricultural bounty of Japan. With each dish skillfully prepared, this was one of the best meals I’ve had. In Ginza, the Omakase at the three Michelin-starred Sushi Yoshitake did not disappoint. The fish and other seafood used in every single piece of Nagiris were extremely fresh. Sushi might be star of the show at this restaurant, but the cooked dishes were equally sublime. It was highlighted by the abalone liver sauce mixed with sushi rice which was a mind-blowing dish that still resonates in my memory.

Hideki Ishikawa is Japan’s most decorated chef/restaurateur with three restaurants under his belt totaling eight Michelin stars. He also has the distinction shared by the likes of the Robuchon’s , the Keller’s and the Ducasse’s to have two restaurants at the same with the maximum rating from the Michelin guide. At his eponymous Ishikawa, I was served a wonderful contemporary style kaiseki that shows simplicity with plenty of subtle flavors. I also visited Kohaku the other three star restaurant of Chef Ishikawa, which is located in the same area and within walking distance from each other. The kitchen is under Koji Koizumi a disciple of Chef Ishikawa. There are many of similarities between them, but the two are distinctly different at the same time. Kohaku is a more modern prepared kaiseki that incorporate foreign ingredients, which are not usually use in Japanese cuisine.

Japan is surprisingly home to one of the finest French restaurant outside of France. Others can argue that it might better than its home country due to the high quality of ingredients it uses produced by Japan. Many of the top French chefs has an outpost sprinkled throughout country, but a large number of them are concentrated in Tokyo. I had a superb tasting menu at Chef Pierre Gaganaire, Two restaurant Peirre Gagnaire Au Tokyo on the 35floor of the ANA Intercontinental, which was awarded two Michelin stars. Each plate were carefully crafted, using only the finest local ingredients. As a bonus, guests enjoyed the scenic view of the whole city as the backdrop while dining. In Roppongi Hills, I dined at Chef of the Century Joel Robochon L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Along with Paris, the Tokyo branch is one of the first L’Ateliers. Having previously gone to the Hong Kong location, these two Michelin starred restaurant are a lot more casual, yet the quality of food is equally top-notched.

Inside the train station in Ginza, resides a minuscule ramen shop called Kagari Echika, which has garnered a lot of following. They served me tasty bowl of ramen, with a broth that has a certain delightful creaminess. In Shinjuku, high above the mall of the train station is Tenichi, where I had some delicate fried tempura accompanied with fresh sashimi. While at Sushi Mamire, I was served with affordable yet enjoyable pieces of sushi and rolls. Pagliaccio Due in Shiba, is an Italian restaurant that serves pleasant dishes like the Seafood Rissotto, and the spaghetti with fish. Night caps in the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, were made lively with tunes from a funky jazz show. Soon after I feasted with the hotel famous weekend brunch. Finally, visiting Japan is not complete without trying the world famous Kobe beef. At Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511, I had a magical experience without breaking the bank. The beef was as good as advertised, and every bite was heavenly like cotton candy that melts in the mouth.

From Izakaya’s, to noodle shops, to high end kaiseki, sushi (as well as low end), and to fine French restaurants, I had the greatest time dining in Tokyo. The uncompromising use of quality ingredients in this city restaurant makes Tokyo the gastronomic capital of the world. The two weeks I spent there was simply not enough.

The next stop in my search and passion for fine dining was a short trip to Basel, Switzerland. I had the opportunity to dine at the three Michelin star, Cheval Blanc. The restaurant is located in one of Europe’s oldest hotel Le Trois Rois. Bavarian chef Pete Knogl, is in charge of the kitchen and under his leadership Cheval Blanc was elevated to culinary stardom. The tasting menu has global influences and shows the precision cooking technique of Chef Knogl. Each dish was light and has a fantastic complex combination of flavors and textures.

I couldn’t end 2016 without grazing the home front for some great eats. After all, no one can beat New York City in anything, (at least to a New Yorker that is). I had very good meals at the Upper East Side’s, The NUAA. This beautifully decorated restaurant serves refined Thai fare that’s geared towards the Western palate. Last year, I saw an onslaught of new eateries opening up in the Financial District improving the neighborhood’s restaurants scene. Among them is Eataly Downtown which opened to the public last summer. Much smaller than its older siblings in the Flatiron, this mega food market brought a slew of dining options that includes another outlet of the seafood haven, Il Pesce. The restaurant offers appetizing sustainable seafood prepared in the simplest form. As the last stop of my 2016 journey, West Village Carma Asian Tapas, served an unmatchable creative Far Eastern fare in small plate format. I enjoyed the way the kitchen recreated classic Chinese dishes, as well as using other Western ingredients that aren’t usually found in Asian cooking.

Though 2016 didn’t boast much of my hometown’s variety of eateries, it was a star studded year of dining in the international level. Overall, I would say it was great and successful year of eating. I’m looking forward to an even better 2017 where I plan to focus on New York City, its outer boroughs and state side. Hopefully, I can sprinkle few international trips here and there.

Kohaku ***

Counter

Kohaku
3-4 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo, Japan
+81 3-5225-0807

Paris, New York and Hong Kong, these three metropolis giants fall short to Tokyo when it comes to the largest concentration of restaurants with Michelin stars on the planet. Last year, when the guide elevated the Kohaku from two to three stars, it lifted the city’s record number of restaurants with three stars. It also made owner Chef Hideki Ishikawa the most Michelin starred Japanese chef with a total of eight. Running the kitchen at Kohaku, Chef Ishikawa tapped his disciple Koji Koizumi who had worked with him for many years at his namesake restaurant Ishikawa.

Dining Room

Kohaku resides along a small pedestrian only street in Kaguraza, Shinjuku-ku and within walking distance from its other sister restaurant Ishikawa and Ren. It has a modest exterior made from darkened bamboo sticks and a clean and simple interior adorned with natural wood. The restaurant is designed with a seven seat counter located by the entrance and a brightly lit dining room with uncovered tables, plain heavy padded chairs and floors covered in thick carpet.

Open only for dinner, Kohaku offers a single kaiseki for 19000 YEN. The meal started with Steamed Shrimp-Shaped Taro with White Miso Sauce. This was a bowl of white miso sauce with a floating ball of taro. The softened taro had plenty of starchiness infused with some nutty undertones. Deep-Fried Horse-head Fish and Ginkgo Nut, Home Blended Salt was next. With only three components this simple dish was perfectly executed. The fish scale and skin was extra crispy while the rest was kept firmed but also tender. Grilled Black-throat Sea Perch on a Sticky Rice was prepared nagiri-style like sushi. The sea perch was grilled impeccably with excellent texture and a pleasing burnt taste.

Snow Crab Dumpling in Clear Soup

Filefish and its Inner Covered with Chef’s Secret JellySnow Crab Dumpling in Clear Soup was the following course. Drenched in the subtleness of the clear soup, the dumplings distinct crab flavor shines brightly. The watery soup also provided moisture without mushing the dumpling. I was then served Filefish and its Inner Covered with Chef’s Secret Jelly. In Japan it was said that file fish is as good as fugu, but slightly cheaper and is often use as an alternative. This was definitely interesting and unique at the same time.

Charcoaled-grilled Spanish mackerel and Knead Lotus Root, Scattered Sliced Truffle.

Kinme Snapper Garnished Shitake Mushroom

The kaiseki continued with Charcoaled-grilled Spanish mackerel and Knead Lotus Root, Scattered Sliced Truffle. The mackerel had a nice charred outer layer as well as having a pleasant charcoal aroma. Shaving of black truffles (which was not commonly used in Japanese cooking) provided a touch of intense earthiness that worked perfectly with the mackerel. Kinme Snapper Garnished Shitake Mushroom came after. The snapper was served sashimi style and was incredibly fresh. Complementing the bright clean taste of the snapper was the smokiness of the shiitake mushroom.

Just Harvested Bamboo Shoot and Prawn, Soup of Ground Milt and SHOGOIN Turnip from Kyoto Just Harvested Bamboo Shoot and Prawn, Soup of Ground Milt and SHOGOIN Turnip from Kyoto was a bowl of thick lightly creamy soup filled with Japanese delicacy, and had plenty of fascinating subtle flavors. For the rice course Steamed Rice with Snow Crab and Queen Crab Roe, Pickled Vegetables and Miso Soup was served. Like my previous dinner at Ishikawa, Chef Kozuimi showed me a pot of rice with crab meat and covered in crab shell before mixing and presenting it in a smaller bowl. At this moment my appetite was satisfied from all the previous courses, and this filling blend of snow crab and rice erases any traces of hunger. Accompanying the rice were a side of pickled vegetables and miso.

Then finally, dessert came in the form of Caramel Ice Cream, Rum Mousse and Jelly with Fried Tofu Skin. This was not as sweet as I expected. It had some savory aspect with a tiny bite of alcohol that goes along with its cold element. Fried tofu skin was cleverly used for added textures.

Caramel Ice Cream, Rum Mousse and Jelly with Fried Tofu Skin

Though Kohaku has very good wine list it has a better sake collection. Prior to starting the meal I asked Chef Koizumi for a sake recommendation. He chose a bottle of cold sake that was on the dry side but wonderfully elevated each course.

This particular kaiseki focuses on fish, seafoods and vegetables. Red meat or any land proteins were nowhere to be found. The cooking was uncomplicated with modest flavors and only uses top notch seasonal ingredients. Chef Koizumi stayed within the boundaries of Japanese taste profile while also adding some of his own touch of modernity.

Sake

The Japanese is known for delivering incredible hospitality which I had experienced at Kohaku. When I was making the reservation I mentioned that I have a time constraint due to another engagement. What they did was simply unexpected. The restaurant opened half an hour early to allow me enough time to savor and enjoy my meal without being rushed. I made sure that I arrived on time and when I entered the restaurant, Chef Koji was waiting to welcome me at the counter.  For the next half an hour, the restaurant was all mine, and was one on one with the chef. The staff gave me their undivided attention, and even when it started to fill up the attentiveness did not falter.

Chef Hideki Ishikawa created Kohaku to be the casual version of Ishikawa. On my visit there was no indication of such. Though there are some small similarities between the two each have their own individual identity. Chef Koizumi and the staff at Kohaku are extremely capable in delivering a three star dining experience.

 

Ishikawa ***

Counter
Ishikawa

5-37 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo, Japan
+81 3-5225-0173
Official Site

Hideki Ishikawa is rarely mentioned when it comes to the list of great chefs of Japan. He has stayed under the radar in the cooking world but further investigation revealed that he is one of Japan’s most decorated chefs. He currently has three restaurants with a total of eight Michelin stars combined, more than any other Japanese chefs. With two of his restaurants garnering three stars each, Ishikawa holds that distinction with only handful of people. The headquarters of Chef Ishikawa’s star studded dining portfolio is his name sake restaurant the three Michelin starred Ishikawa in Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku where he leads the kitchen on a daily basis.

Ishikawa

The restaurant is on a small side street behind the Bishamonten temple and has an unassuming façade of black wooden fences. There is a small Japanese garden that’s noticeable before reaching the sliding door entrance of Ishikawa. As soon as I walked in, there was a loud greeting from the chefs marking my arrival. Inside there was a Zen like atmosphere, the lights were dimmed and hushed throughout the space. The interior is designed with different chambers providing privacy and intimacy while dining. Adjacent to the entrance in the front resides the counter with a smooth wooden top. It only seats seven guests and it is where I requested to be seated.

Dining Room

Ishikawa is only open during the evening and exclusively offers one kaiseki menu for 19000 YEN. To start the kaiseki meal I was served the Appetizer-Monkfish Liver, Shrimp and Shrimp, Covered with Egg Yolk Sauce. The monkfish liver had a fabulous creaminess that went well with the density of the shrimp.  Adding extra richness to the dish was the thick egg yolk sauce covering both the monk liver and shrimp. Deep-fried – Silver Pomfret, Oba Herbs and Sliced Lotus Root, Garnished with Arrowhead followed after. Thick lotus root fried in tempura style with tender fish filling had an incredible crispiness. Salt and sauce garnishes that it came with gives the lotus root two different types of perspective.

Appetizer-Monkfish Liver, Shrimp and Shrimp, Covered with Egg Yolk Sauce

Deep-fried – Silver Pomfret, Oba Herbs and Sliced Lotus Root, Garnished with Arrowhead

Next was the Soup-Rice Cake and Leeks, Soft-Shelled Turtle Stock with a Hint of Yuzu Citrus. There was plenty of bright subtlety in this clear soup while also having a lingering citrus acidity. That was followed by Sashimi- Sea Bream and Fresh Sea Urchin, Garnished with Fresh Seaweed and Japanese Herbs, Steamed Abalone with Stock Jelly which arrived in three separate tableware. The sea bream sashimi was extremely fresh and light with a certain mildness. Chef Ishikawa personally buys sushi grade fish at the market. The sea urchin was enormously buttery while the steamed abalone covered in jelly had an attractive taste.

Soup-Rice Cake and Leeks, Soft-Shelled Turtle Stock with a Hint of Yuzu Citrus

Sashimi- Sea Bream and Fresh Sea Urchin, Garnished with Fresh Seaweed and Japanese Herbs, Steamed Abalone with Stock Jelly

Sashimi- Sea Bream and Fresh Sea Urchin, Garnished with Fresh Seaweed and Japanese Herbs, Steamed Abalone with Stock Jelly

The meal proceeded with Charcoaled-grilled-Congers Eel and Shrimp Shaped Taro. Grilled wonderfully with charred outer layers that gave the eel a beautiful charcoal taste while having the inside soft and grainy. Next was the Delicacy-Snow Crab and Simmered Turnip. Served cold was a tasty crab meat in magnificent lucid broth. For a small offering it was filled with some terrific flavors.

Charcoaled-grilled-Congers Eel and Shrimp Shaped Taro

 Delicacy-Snow Crab and Simmered Turnip

Then came the Hot Pot- Thinly Sliced Japanese Wagyu Beef and Seasonal Vegetables which were filled with paper thin sliced of scrumptious Wagyu beef in hot broth of vegetables. Infused from the beef fat and fresh vegetables, the broth was packed with fantastic savory flavors and aromas.

Hot Pot- Thinly Sliced Japanese Wagyu Beef and Seasonal Vegetables

The Steamed Rice-Steamed Rice with Black-throat Seaperch, Miso Soup and Pickeld Vegetables. Chef Ishikawa presented me with a pot of rice with two large pieces of sea perch on top. He proceeded to mix it up before serving in a bowl. This was a very good and filling dish that would satisfy any one if one is still hungry after all the courses were served. There was plenty of rice left that I was asked if I would like to take it home. Miso soup with tofu and mushroom and pickled vegetables accompanied this rice dish.

Steamed Rice-Steamed Rice with Black-throat Seaperch

Steamed Rice-Steamed Rice with Black-throat Seaperch

For the sweet course the Dessert-Roasted Soybean Flour Mouse, Floating on Soybeans Soup was served. An interesting starchy dessert with a controlled amount of sweetness I myself liked. As to any ending on a kaiseiki, green matcha tea is served at the end to help with digestion.  

The meal progressed in an order that was extremely pleasing to the palate and where the ingredients are the star of the show with some appearing twice in different plates. Using ultra seasonal ingredients the chef was able to get their full potential. Each course was consistent with subtle flavors, the cooking technique is simple, yet there are so much thought and detail put in them. This terrific kaiseki was further improved with the sake’s from the restaurants list. I left it to Chef Ishikawa what would be the appropriate pairings. The different types of sake that he chose and their own distinct intensity asserted the individual plate.

Dessert-Roasted Soybean Flour Mouse, Floating on Soybeans Soup

There was a sense that I was coming to someone’s home when I came here. I was treated in a more personal level by Chef Ishikawa and his staff but at the same time their service was very proficient. The chef interacted with his guests at the counter and spoke enough English to converse with a foreigner like me. A show of nice gesture before starting the meal there was a printed menu in English with my name on it where I was sitting at the counter. Throughout my meal the chef and his staff were engaging and Chef Ishikawa himself was involved in serving the food.  Even at the end as I exited the restaurant Chef Ishikawa was waiting outside in the street to utter his goodbyes and see me through until I’m out of his sight.

Green Matcha Tea

Kaiseki is an elaborate Japanese culinary masterpiece in which Ishikawa exemplifies. At Ishikawa I was treated with a terrific kaiseki meal that had a balance of taste, textures and colors. The kaiseki is Chef Ishikawa own expression of contemporary style of cooking blended with traditional methods of simplicity. As great as the food was at the restaurant the chef and staff hospitality was remarkable, they created an environment where I was able to enjoy all facets of dining. Ishikawa is as good as any restaurant out there, a great destination dining that warrants to be on any food lovers list of places to visit in Tokyo.

 

 

 

RyuGin ***

Dining Room

RyuGin
7-17-24 Roppongi, Minato
Tokyo, Japan
106 0032
+81 3-3423-8006
Official Site

It is the uncompromising standard of the Japanese culture of using only the finest ingredients in their culinary master pieces that has produced world renowned restaurants biggest names in the culinary world. Japan is booming with multitudes of up and coming places to wine and dine. Tokyo, the capital, is not only the gastronomic epicenter of the nation, but also in the world. The city has more Michelin stars than anywhere else on this planet, and holds the record with thirteen restaurants awarded the three-star status. One particular three star restaurant that piqued my interest was RyuGin in Roppongi.

RyuGin

The restaurant opened in 2003 by a very talented chef, Seiji Yamamoto, who previously spent eleven years at the ultra-traditional  Aoyagi in Tokyo. RyuGin received two stars in 2009 from the Tokyo’s Michelin guides inaugural edition and then the third star in 2010 which it has maintained since. Regarded among the top dining destination the restaurant is constantly included in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and in Asia’s 50 Best.

Tea Room

Japanese restaurants require guests to be on time when it comes to their reservation and many do not have a waiting area for those arriving early. RyuGin is different, when I arrived about ten minutes early I was escorted to a second floor waiting area, also known as their tea room. The cozy room had a live owl enclosed behind the bar. When my table was ready the hostess led me to a quiet dining room with no windows. The atmosphere was nothing short of serene. A thick black cloth covered the table and chairs with wooden backrests were surprisingly comfortable. The space is small, with only eighteen seats, and has a separate private room with its own sliding door. Like many Japanese three Michelin starred restaurants in Tokyo, this lacks the opulence interior that their western counterparts have. Only open during dinner service, RyuGin offers a keiseki menu at YEN 27000(a shorter version for YEN 21000 also available only after 9 pm).

Dining Room

“Beginning with a variety of Sensation. Seasonality, Aroma, Temperature, Texture and Assemblage” was the appetizer course which started the meal. It came in two parts, first was the Cod Milt, Turnip Yuzu. This bowl of Japanese delicacy had an interesting custard like texture. The milt’s richness was complemented well by the yuzu tea zest that serves as the broth. The second was a salad, Surf Clams, Assorted Vegetables and Dried Sea Cucumber. The mildness of the clams where fittingly mixed with wonderful vegetables. Dried sea cucumbers were added to give the dish some crunch.

The next course was “Longing for The Moment, Winter Story. Bathing Hotpot”Matsuba Crab and Seiko Crab. This was a flavorful hot pot with two delicious type of crab meat. Served on a separate plate was a crab claw with exposed meat, I was instructed by my server to dip it in the hot pot for the meat to absorb the crab infused broth. Extremely fresh bonito, red rock fish and squid sashimi makes up the “Sashimi: A Message from the Coast of Japan. Richness of the Sea, Tidal Current” Ocean Delicacy Displayed in 3 Plates. This seafood pleasure had an assortment of features, like the vibrant reddish meat of the bonito which has a unique taste while the red rock fish was full of beautiful fatty flavors. The squid on the other hand had a slight sweetness that went along with the rubbery textures.

Matsuba Crab and Seiko Crab Matsuba Crab and Seiko Crab Sashimi Grilled Sea Pech Seasoned with Assortment of Chilli Powder and Sprinkled Chestnut

That was followed by “Binchotan- A Powerful Scent of Charcoal grill” Grilled Sea Pech Seasoned with Assortment of Chilli Powder and Sprinkled Chestnut . The sea perch was grilled elegantly maintaining its delicateness. Chestnuts and other herbs not only gave the fish an additional crust, but also exuded an appealing fragrance. Giving this course a different aspect was shark fin fried tempura style with shiso leaf and uni, a terrific crispiness which had excellent flavors that included some slight herbal notes.

Goemon Tofu

Then came “What’s inside once you open the lid… A sense of relaxation” “Goemon Tofu” “Sprinkled Chestnut”. The attributes were very much akin to tofu, but more refined and of greater quality. Chestnuts added texture and also provided the tofu its distinct sweetness.

Famous Sanuki Olive Beef with small balls

The meal continued on with the “Grace of the Hometown as Ambassador of Kagawa’s Heritage” Famous Sanuki Olive Beef with small balls, a tribute to the prefecture of Kagawa, home to olives and high quality beef called sanuki that had been fed part of olives. This outstanding dish was prepared by smoking the beef in olives, giving the gorgeous meat an extra touch of smoky olive flavor. There was a side of olive salt which was interesting and quail eggs which was unexpectedly good when eaten with the beef.Sea urchin Rice. National Flower of Japan “Chrysanthemum” SoupA rice dish towards the end followed by a soup was the typical order in a keiseki meal. It was combined in “The land of Rice plant. Pleasure of eating off the same trencher “New Rice”.Sea urchin Rice. National Flower of Japan “Chrysanthemum” Soup. Served on a round wooden tray was a rice bowl topped with decadent Hokkaido sea urchin and a bowl of miso soup. The soup had a clear and clean taste. For visual appeal and aesthetic, in the soup was a piece of tofu that was methodically cut in a shape of chrysanthemum, homage to Japan’s national flower.

Mandarin Sanshou Hot Sake and Cold Sake Sweet Flavors

Moving on, the pre desert course was a mouthful to read off the menu, but did not disappoint. The “Lusciousness. Coolness, Warmth, Playful Spirits, Nostalgia and Temptation” Sunshine Filtering through Foliage, Mandarin Sanshou definitely lived up to its name. On the plate was a perfectly peeled mandarin with black tea ice cream and sprinkled with sanshou. It has a nice contrast of spiciness and sour sweet the small cubes of Japanese cheese were spread throughout balancing the sweetness of the sauce made from wasanbon. This was a simple dish but with a lot of complexity. For dessert, Oryzae “National Fungus” Pride of Japan. Hot Sake and Cold Sake Sweet Flavors . An inventive method in creating a soufflé made from sake. The soufflé had an airy texture was served warm where the sake could be profoundly recognized, the same can be said about the ice cream. There was a good sweetness in both while also having a slight bitterness. Chef Yamamoto showcased the versatility of sake by using sake as the main component of a sweet dish was a stroke of genius. Finally ending the meal was a fantastic bowl of matcha tea.

Matcha Tea

Every plate of each course in this kaiseki menu is chef’s Yamamoto reflection of the agricultural richness of Japan. The flavor profiles are strictly Japanese, subtle and minimalist but prepared with modern techniques. There was a high standard of cooking and creativity shown. The quality of ingredients is second to none as they only use the finest seasonal ingredients that were sourced locally and throughout Japan. From the food preparation to kitchenware all the way to the sequences of dishes that follows the traditional kaiseki there were many intricate details that were executed with precision. Accompanying beverage pairing, consisting of eight glasses of European wines and sakes were paired brilliantly.  Each drink brought a different dimension of taste at the end of every bite.

WIne Pairing:

Throughout my meal I was served by an English speaking staff who also handled a large majority of foreign guests that were dining during my visit. Its Japanese counterpart was equally pleasant and tried their best to communicate at a rare time when they were the ones that brought my food. Service was focused yet at the same time approachable with a willingness to engage in quick conversation without taking too much of the guests time. On my way out I was handed a parting gift, a bottle containing water from Mount Fuji. Before reaching the exit Chef Yamamoto came out hurriedly to say his goodbye, thanking me and to see me out the door. The chef and the staff at RyuGin exemplify the humbleness of Japanese hospitality.

Water from Mount Fuji

Many self-proclaimed amazing restaurants rely on their aesthetics for measure, but the great ones will always rely on the food they serve. Authentic gems such as New York’s Eleven Madison Park, Peru’s Central and Italy’s Osteria Francescana, all serve muti-course menus that tell tales of their roots. Chef Yamamoto’s creations are grounded by his culture, and yet his ability to embrace the modernity that surrounds him, and express this fusion into his ingredients, has garnered him many praises. His accomplishments throughout the years created a mini restaurant empire that includes the two Michelin starred Tenku RyuGin in Hong Kong and Syoun RyuGin in Taipei. His devolution still lies in Tokyo where he continues to run the kitchen. With a plethora of great places to eat in Tokyo it was very difficult to choose one, but without the journey of trying many other places, I wouldn’t have experience the magic of RyuGin. It has left an incredible impression on me, and will consider my dining experience there one of the most unique and unforgettable.