Relae *

Dining Room

Relae
Jægersborggade 41
2200 København N, Denmark
+45 36 96 66 09
Official Site

Voted as the world’s best restaurant three times, the two Michelin-starred Noma single handedly brought New Nordic Cuisine to mainstream and in the process transformed Copenhagen into a gastronomic hub. The kitchen serves as a talent incubator producing an impressive list of alumni. One of its most prominent alum was Italian born chef Christian Puglisi who was the sous chef for more than two years before leaving in 2010 to open his own restaurant, Relae in Copenhagen’s trendy section of Norrebro.

Prior to Noma, Chef Puglisi worked at then three Michelin starred Taillevent in Paris, and the world renowned El Bulli in Spain. With his strong pedigree, it was no surprise that Relae was a success from day one. The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 201,1 and presently occupies the 39th spot of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant (it debut in 2015 at no. 45). In addition, it was crowned the International Food Made Good Champion 2016 Winner and was the recipient of the Sustainable Restaurant award in 2015 and 2016.

Relae is situated along a charming cobblestone street filled with boutique stores and coffee shops. This subterranean restaurant has an open kitchen in the front with counter seating on the side that can accommodate up to six guests. The dining room has low ceilings, white walls, linen less oak tables and Scandinavian dining chairs.

There are only two types of dinning option available, the seven course “Ralae Experience” for 895 KR and a shorter “Relea Menu” for 475 KR. I had the “Relae Experience” on my visit.

Radish and preserved strawberries kick things off. This was a piece of red radish topped with strawberries and covered in sorrel leaves. The crunchy radish and its mustardy taste were complemented nicely by the strawberry sweetness. The sorrel leaves yields a pleasant sour note. The sour dough bread with spicy olive oil was freshly baked, warm and extra-tender in the middle.

Onion and birch, was a preserved half onion in birch water. The onion has a distinct sweet oniony taste and lucid texture that was wonderfully lifted by the birch water’s clean flavor.  This was followed by Oyster, spinach & juniper; a finely chopped spinach with chunks of luscious oyster hidden beneath. Its profound maritime presence was greatly enhance by the acidity of the oyster emulsion dressing.

Next up was a cup of lumpfish roe, celeriac & almond; a Danish delicacy at their peak from January to May.  The delicate roe was brilliantly combined with the almond cream subtleness. Mussel and ramson had plenty of deep oceanic essence while also having a defined garlic undertone. Providing an extra layer of saltiness was the mussel juice. The meal continued with a humble plate of potato, parmesan and black pepper. Slice potatoes drenched with five year old melted parmesan cheese.  By absorbing the aged cheese the potatoes was subdued in its sharp tanginess to create the right balance.

Hindsholm pork and spring greens was the main course. Hindsholm pork is a  type of pork that lives twice as long as a common hog and their meat are considered to be the finest in Denmark. In this dish, the pork meat was roasted to perfection, it was succulently tender and extremely flavorful. The combination of raw and cooked green vegetables on the plate were a delightful addition. Served on the side, was the Buckwheat tart with pig head meat and pig mayo. The tart was ultra-rich and fatty but was pleasing at the same time.

Fresh cheese, blueberries and black olives was a buckwheat pancake folded in half stuffed with fresh cheese. This has an interesting mixture of savory and tartness that worked fittingly with each other.

Dessert came in the form of yoghurt and citrus, served cold to sooth the palate.  The yogurt was blanketed with dehydrated orange which provided texture as well as the citric flavors that complemented its sourness. To finish was the mushroom and caramel. It had an appealing earthiness that was beautiful paired with the sweet caramel.

In this tasting, the food was unfussy yet skillfully prepared and vegetable heavy. Every plate is simple looking, there were no more than four ingredients used at a time. With this minimalist approach they were able to create a unique combination of taste that my palate had never experience before. The produce and other ingredients were highly seasonal, organic and local. The same goes for their wine list which consists of naturally grown wine from continental Europe.

There are no wait staff at the restaurant, the chefs that prepare the food also serves them. The staff is completely competent and friendly. Their informal service was the perfect fit for the restaurant laid back atmosphere. In the dining room, diners enjoy their food in the music of Nas, Biggie, Jay Z and other hip hop heavyweights.

With the success of Relae, Chef Puglisi has not only become one of the most recognizable chef in Denmark, but also one of the most successful restaurateur. He established his own mini empire in Copenhagen that includes Manfred a wine bar (located directly across the street from Relae), Braest an Italian restaurant, and a bakery Maribelle which all follow Relae’s concept of sustainability. As of last year, Chef Puglisi had turned over control of his flagship to his head chef Jonathan Tam to focus on his growing numbers of restaurant and other projects. With this changing of the guard, Relae continues to thrive and progress. Chef Tam was able to maintain what his predecessor has achieved. It remains a gastronomic stop in Copenhagen for all travelling gastronomes.

Copenhagen is in the top ten most expensive city in the world. To eat and drink at their top tier restaurant, one will need to have a deep pocket while the affordable ones are still pricey compared to New York City.  The wine and spirits at any eateries are marked up brutally. It makes me wonder how people can afford such a high price tag. Relae on the other hand allows diners to experience high quality food at a reasonable price.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester ***

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
53 Park Ln, Mayfair,London
W1K 1QA, UK
+44 20 7629 8866
Official Site

Alain Ducasse is one of the most decorated and influential chef/ restaurateur in the world. He holds an astronomical 18 Michelin stars (only bested by Joel Robuchon), including three restaurants in different cities with three stars; a feat that he was the first to accomplished. This was no easy task, but Chef Ducasse remarkably managed to achieve this twice. His dining empire stretches continents and his restaurant can be found in every major global city like New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo. In London, he has the three Michelin starred Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, and Rivea in the Bulgari Hotel.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester opened its door in 2007. Within two years, it was awarded two stars by the Michelin guide. A year later the ultimate third star came; joining the ranks of Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, The Waterside Inn and The Fat Duck as the only restaurant in the UK to have three stars. Taking charge of the kitchen from day one and responsible for the restaurants ascession to the top was head chef Jocelyn Harland; who has since been dispatched to lead Le Meurice in Paris in early 2016. Sous chef Jean-Philippe Blondet, a veteran of the Ducasse restaurant group was promoted to head chef. He was tasked to maintain the Ducasse standard and under his leadership Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester retained its three stars in the current UK Michelin guide.

This flagship restaurant of the iconic Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair has an understated interior, with a touch of contemporary elegance. The dining room is surrounded by wooden paneled walls;, the tables are dressed in beige and white cloth, and the chairs are draped with lush leather. Its center piece, “Table Lumiere”, a private table for up-to-six guests is surrounded by fiber optics strand. Separated from the main dining room next to the windows is another area with additional tables. The space has plenty of natural lights, and Hyde Park serves as its background. Chandeliers shaped in metallic leaves stretched from one end to the other and hangs above its tall ceiling.

A la carte, tasting menu and a seasonal tasting menu are offered for both afternoon and evening while a special three course is available for lunch. On this visit, I had the seven course tasting menu for 145 GBP that started with a handful of gourges or cheese puffs. Soft and airy cheese puffs are flavored with either paprika or pepper was nice to snack on while waiting. First course was the Dorset crab celeriac and caviar. Thinly sliced celeriac rolled and stuffed with tasty crab meat are topped with caviar. The caviar topping was a great way to elevate the crab meat, giving it a bite of saltiness. As a bonus, a extra crispy crab claw fried in tempura batter is added to the already savory plate.

Next were the Guinea fowl and duck foie gras terrine rhubarb.  The terrine was scrumptious and had delightful richness. Providing a certain tartness to complement the terrine was the rhubarb. The third course, saute gourmand of lobster truffled chicken quenelles, was the signature dish of the restaurant. Lobster, chicken and pasta drowning in cream sauce packed of wonderful deep savory flavors. This course was the highlight of the meal.

Line-caught sea bass cucumber and juniper came after. The sea bass was firm yet delicately tender and was seasoned beautifully. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same with the cucumber on the plate as it was a tad too salty for my palate. For the main course, I was served the Milk-fed lamb green peas and mint.  Perfectly cooked lamb chops were extremely succulent and flavorful. Along with the peas and the green vegetable puree on this dish, the mint accompanied the lamb fittingly.

The cheese course was an Assortment of four French cheeses with varying types of textures and sharpness. Served with different condiments, the spicy puree worked particularly very well with all four cheeses.

The sweet course started with Mignardises & Gourmandise; consisting of macaroons, homemade caramel candy, coated almonds and chocolates all presented at the same time while desert followed shortly. Marking the end of the meal, I was served Berry contemporary vacherin that was mightly sweet and almost syrupy. However, the sweetness was wonderfully subdued by the vacherin, and its savory and acidic features. There was also a cold aspect to desert that was quiet refreshing.

With the exception of the cucumber in the sea bass course, this was a very good meal where the cooking standard is equally as high as the execution. I find their Modern French cuisine to be light and satisfying. In each course, the individual components worked together harmoniously, striking the right balance on the plate. To go along with this tasting, I requested for the 95 GBP wine paring that included Alain Ducasse’s own champagne label. The pairing was perfect, all seven individual glasses enhanced the flavors in each course it was paired with. The restaurants wine list is plentiful and consists of predominantly French wines and some from continental Europe and Australia. I was extremely surprised to see US wines on their list.

The service was polished and faultless. The multicultural staff exudes calm and confidence. They worked the busy dining room flawlessly and discreetly, glancing unnoticeably at every table often assuring diners were properly looked after.

Wine Pairing:

This was my first foray to an Alain Ducasse establishment. The service and the setting is what I anticipated. The food, though it was very good it just did not exceed what I was hoping for.  Perhaps it was the name associated with it or the three Michelin stars that set my expectation too high.  Nevertheless Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, is still worthy of the label as one of the finest dining venue that London has to offer.

 

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.

Cheval Blanc ***

Dining Room

Cheval Blanc
at Grand Hotel LES TROIS ROIS
Blumenrain 8
CH-4001
Basel, Switzerland
+41 61 260 50 07
Official Site

Having the headquarters of the two largest pharmaceutical company in the world, Novartis and Hoffman-La Roche, Basel is known as the world’s pharma capital. The city offers more than that, it has a well preserved old town and a dining scene that is underrated compared to other Swiss cities like Zurich and Geneva.  When the restaurant, Cheval Blanc, received the coveted third Michelin star last year, it single handedly put the city of Basel in the global stage of gastronomy.

Grand Hotel LES TROIS ROIS

In charged of the kitchen is German chef Peter Knogl who trained under three Michelin starred chef Heinz Winkler at Tantris in Munich. Chef Knogl came to Cheval Blanc in 2007 and in a matter of months it received its first Michelin star, the second one came a year later and finally the third star was awarded in 2015.  The restaurant also received 19 points from the GaultMillau and was voted as the 2015 best restaurant in a hotel in Europe by the Prix Villegiature. Chef Knogl French haute cuisine with Mediterranean and Asian influence had earned him the title as the best chef in Switzerland in 2011 and 2015.

Entrance

A la carte and two types of tasting menus for lunch and dinner are offered while special lunch set menus are also available. I had the longer tasting menu priced at CHF 220.

Tasting Menu:

Ragout de couteau de mer Textures de champignons, Peta Negra

The meal began with an array of snacks starting with Espuma Jalapeno.  I was instructed to use the spoon and to start from the bottom where a piece of shrimp buried below a chilled jalapeño cream.  Macaron/foie gras de canard, orange, Garam Masala had an airy texture with a touch of orange zest and spices that was in tune with the buttery foie gras. Ragout de couteau de mer, chopped razor clams presented in its half shell had an abundance of deep maritime essence.  Textures de champignons, Peta Negra, mushroom cream on top of crispy chip with some Peta Negra had a very good earthiness. These tasty small bites were a fantastic intro.

Kingfish, avocado, radish and Miso Langoustine, white asparagus and port

The first course was Kingfish, avocado, radish and Miso. Fresh and delicate kingfish had a sublime citric acidity. Avocado puree and radish on the plate worked in harmony together with the fish to create vibrant flavors. Next was Langoustine, white asparagus and port. Firmed and meaty langoustine sat  on top of beautifully poached white asparagus bathed in thick sauce with port wine. The sauce renders hints of sweetness that is infused into the langoustine which also had a hint of sour note in the background.

Filet of red mullet, crispy scales, saffron, black and vinaigrette of tomatoes

Third course was the Filet of red mullet, crispy scales, saffron, black and vinaigrette of tomatoes. The mullet was cooked precisely to have a crispy skin side including the scales keeping the inner part moist and soft. Enriching the fish was the sour acidity of the vivid yellow foam sauce.  Continuing on was the main course of Saddle of suckling lamb, flavored with sweet pepper and ginger. The juicy lamb had a deep scrumptious flavor that was asserted by the strong saltiness of the sauce which was made from its own juices.  Other components gives the dish extra dimension of sweet and spicy.

Saddle of suckling lamb, flavored with sweet pepper and ginger

The cheese course was supposedly a Selection of soft and hard cheeses from Maitre Antony in Ferrette but instead I requested for an all Swiss cheese. I was served with some excellent cheeses from different parts of the country with their own distinct sharpness but with similar firm textures that are common with Swiss cheese.

Cheese Course

Before moving to the sweet course I was served a refreshing palate cleanser of pinacolada. That was followed by a pre-dessert of Mango passion fruit, rice crispy and pannacotta which was a combination of tropical fruits. For dessert I was served Composition of Gariguette strawberries with lime cress. Using special Gariguette strawberries from France which has longer shape than common strawberry and has a sweet candy like taste it was prepared in different ways with varying textures and temperatures while keeping its natural taste. This was an excellent dessert.  To finally conclude the tasting were more sweets that include the mignardaise which was made up of tiny pastries and the petit four which was a collection of Swiss chocolates.

Chef Knogl was in the kitchen on my visit and his standard of cooking reflected on this tasting menu. One after the other every plate in every course has a level of consistency that is inviting to the palate. Each dish was light and has complex textures and taste prepared meticulously. There was a mixture of quality seasonal and foreign ingredients used exquisitely to create superb flavors combinations.

Composition of Gariguette strawberries with lime cress.

Their wine list is vast and comprised mostly from continental Europe. I opted for the 110 CHF wine pairing and made a special request to only have Swiss wine.  The sommelier came through masterfully in choosing red and white wines from different regions of the country. The paring was in symphony and enhances each course in the tasting.

Mignardise Petit-fours

The restaurant’s staff was properly trained and well verse. They were formal yet extremely pleasant and welcoming. Service was restrained. The servers observed from a distant providing a senses of privacy and allowed me to focus and savor my food one bite at a time without too many intrusion.

Wine Pairing:

Wine Pairing

Located in the middle of the old part of Basel, Cheval Blanc is housed inside Grand Hotel Le Trois Rois, one of the oldest hotels in Europe and the most prestigious accommodation in the city. The restaurants interior is induced with class and a hush atmosphere. The dining room’s high ceilings with crystal chandeliers and tall windows overlooked the Rhine. Its clean white walls are decorated with oil paintings. A marble table serves as a centerpiece while the ten uniformed round tables covered in neatly pressed white cloth with each having its own candelabra are distanced properly from one another. Paired with the tables were classic wooden purple velvet chairs.

Dining Room

When a restaurant received plenty of accolades and is considered among the best in the country it sets high expectations. Cheval Blanc had exceeded mine and then more. It was perfection, Chef Knogl prepared a fantastic meal complimented with the finest Swiss wines and a staff focus in providing superior hospitality. I had a complete dining experience well worth the third Michelin star it received last year. Covering all aspect of a top tier dining destination Cheval Blanc exemplifies Swiss culinary excellence.

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.

 

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon **

The Counter

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
2F Hillside, Roppongi Hills
6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Tokyo, Japan
106-0032
+81 3-5772-7500
Official Site

In 2003, super star chef Joel Robuchon came out of retirement to launch the first L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Tokyo. The success led to outpost in major cities like London, Paris, Hong Kong,  Shanghai, Singapore and will soon re-launch in New York. The concept of the L’Ateliers dining style was inspired from the chef’s admiration of Japanese dining. This typical setting is where the guest sits around the counter behind an open kitchen providing the front row seats to their meal. Most of the meals consists of small plates which is an influence from Spain’s notorious tapas. Coincidentally, Spain is where Chef Robuchon currently calls home.

The Restaurant

Located in the upscale development of Roppongi Hills,  L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon has earned two Michelin stars. He ensures that this standard is kept by leaving it in the hands of Japanese chef, Kenichiro Sekiya. Chef Robuchon expects nothing but the best as he maintains his accolades along a string of other venues in Tokyo, all of which totals seven Michelin stars.

Dining Room

His taste for high quality does not end with the combining the styles of Europe and Asia into his dishes, his knack for class flows into the designs of his venues. L’Atelier for one is designed with a long glossy dark mahogany counter that stretches the length of the space providing guests with a sense of ease and comfort. These warm tones are paired with high chairs with short back rest, accented with two top bar tables.  The interior color scheme is a theme of L’Ateliers black and deep red branding. This particular location also houses, La Boutique de Joel Robuchon, which is a pastry and bakery shop.

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner where one can find many set- menus to choose from. A popular choice is the a la carte, in which guests are able to design their meal from a large number of items in the menu.

On the night of my visit I came with a dining companion and we each ordered a different set menu. We were thrilled to be able to sample multiple dishes. To start the meal, we had morsels of fried quinoa balls, very similar to what I had in the Hong Kong branch a week ago. Then came the renowned L’Ateliers breadbasket, a carb monger’s delight for sure. For the appetizer we had LA BETTERAVE-Beets and apple duo served with an herb salad and a green mustard sherbet. The distinctiveness of the beets was perfectly paired with the intensity of the green mustard sherbet. The cauliflower mousse served on snow crab with caviar had a wonderful consistency. Its luxurious topping of caviar presented a deep salty undertones to this excellent dish.

LA BETTERAVE-Beets and apple duo

Cauliflower Mouse

The soup courses like LA CHÂTAIGNE- Chestnut cream soup with smoked bacon and celery had a lavish blend of creaminess. LES RAVIOLES-Duck Liver ravioli in a warm chicken broth, with herbs and spicy cream had a marriage of many savory flavors with just the right hint of herbal and spicy presence.

For entrees, LA PINTADE -Roasted guinea fowl served with pastoral salad and natural gravy was roasted with fantastic crispiness. The inner part of the meat was moist and juicy. An accompaniment of the world famous Robuchon mash potatoes was served with this dish. LE CHEVREUIL-Roasted venison accompanied with stewed red cabbage, brown butter sauce, and venison had to be prepared with utmost love. The scrumptious venison meat seemed to have been painted with gorgeous colors that were indicative of its bursting flavors.  LE BLACK COD – Black cod with Yuzu Daikon velouté, spice scented oil, was a beautiful tender piece of fish that had a bit of sweetness while also having a citrus and spicy notes.

LA PINTADE -Roasted guinea fowl

 LE CHEVREUIL-Roasted

 LE BLACK COD - Black cod

To top it off, the cheese course offered were intricately concocted of cheeses imported straight from France. I allowed my server to choose it for me, I was served with three types of cheese with different textures and pungency. The desserts that I had was the Chocolate soufflé which was made to order. This chocolaty delight was served warm and had a soft spongy textures. EL-ANDALUZ -Strawberry marinated with lime, tequila sherbet and tomato-strawberry coulis was fruity and cold that also had a noticeable refreshing tequila presence.  Who wouldn’t want a tequila presence in everything, much less dessert?

The service was interactive and relaxed. The well-trained staff in their black and red uniforms managed the restaurant guest that comprised of both foreigners and locals effortlessly. We had a French man served us through the whole dinner who had a friendly personality and conversed in perfect English. He was extremely helpful and honest when it came to his recommendations. The Japanese servers that occasionally came to us were pleasant and tried their best to communicate.

 EL-ANDALUZ -Strawberry Marinated with Lime

Chocolate Soufflé

The different L’Ateliers serves similar dishes all across the board, but the Tokyo location on the other hand might have a slight edge from others due to the quality of ingredients that it uses. The dishes were not only presented with such class but the combination of taste and quality was effortlessly served, and of course, welcomed.

Sweets

I found that the dining at this restaurant was less of the upper class nature and approachable compared to the Hong Kong outpost (which have three Michelin stars and the only other L’Ateliers ive been to) where I dined a few days prior. This casual and yet interactive atmosphere at Tokyo’s L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is quite enjoyable.

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.

 

 

 

Pierre Gagnaire **

Dining Room

Pierre Gagnaire
at ANA Inetrcontinental Tokyo
36 Floor
1-12-33 Akasaka, Minato 1070052
Tokyo, Japan
+81 3-3505-1111
Official Site

In Tokyo, French is a cuisine that is well represented. Some may even argue that of the shear top quality of ingredients that Japan produces, French food is slightly better here than anywhere else; even in France! The crème de la crème of French chefs have set up restaurants in this city, like the super star chef Pierre Gagnaire, who’s been in Tokyo for quite some time now. He first opened Pierre Gagnaire a Tokyo in Aoyama back in 2005, before closing it three years later. In 2010 after a two year hiatus he returned to Tokyo in partnership with the Intercontinental Hotel Group to open Pierre Gagnaire at the ANA Intercontinental hotel in Minato-ku. Immediately the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars which it maintained ever since. Executive Chef Yosuke Akasaka leads the charge in this kitchen. He has worked with Pierre Gagnaire at his eponymous restaurant in Paris and was also the head chef at the old Tokyo location.

Pierre Gagnaire

Occupying the 36th floor of the hotel, Pierre Gagnaire offers a fantastic view of the city and Tokyo Tower through its massive windows. In the afternoon, the restaurant has plenty of natural lights while at night the bright lights of Tokyo serves as it’s the back drop. The spacious dining room has tables that were covered in neatly pressed linens, and they are distanced far apart enough from one another for a more intimate setting. Comfortable royal purple velvet chairs and curved banquets with tall back rest were paired with the tables. Wood panel walls adorned with beautiful artwork adds to the sophistication of the interior.

Dining Room Dining Room

There are many set menu options in addition to the a la carte. On my visit I had the “Petit Esprit de Pierre Gagnaire” for YEN 22500, which consisted of five courses. A series of canapes  started the meal, beginning with Roots vegetable soup:salpicon of Botan shrimps and lotus chips. This soup was rich with wonderful flavors of root vegetables. It also had a little sourness that was palpable. Sauerkraut in Espuma, red cabbage and apricot salad, cubes Gewurtzraminer was a cup of thick savory creaminess. Buried underneath, was the apricot salad bursting with a unique musky sweetness. Green brandade, petals of cod, thin slice of red/black radish was a salty dish, but with a nice light watery crunch coming from the radishes. It also offers a hint of bitterness that balanced out the salt. Chaud-Froid of chicken from Nagoyakochin perfumed with tarragon, salmon eggs and campari yogurt sauce, is a creation in which each tiny piece of chicken was carefully selected, as they are usually the finest and priciest in Japan. This type of chicken comes from Nagoya and is an epitome of what a bite of luxury taste like. To cleanse the palate, there was a refreshing citrus Champagne sorbet flavored with lime and frozen clementine.

Petit Esprit de Pierre Gagnaire:

The first course was the Abalone slice and poached in shellfish broth-Saffron braised turnips. Excellent tender chewy abalone had a terrific apparent marine taste.  Next was the Brittany sole  roasted in Sarawak pepper, small shrimp Shimaebi seared with Cognac Galette of Satoimo endive leaf. It had beautiful well rounded flavors with some spiciness. The sole has firm, yet soft textures. All the elements in the dish were in synch with each other.

Abalone slice and poached in shellfish broth-Saffron braised turnips Brittany sole roasted in Sarawak pepper, small shrimp Shimaebi seared with Cognac Galette of Satoimo endive leaf.

For the main course I was served the Lamb Saddle cooked in crepine perfumed with marjolaine flower, cauliflower puree and black garlic, green lentil gnocchi. Scrumptious lamb meat was prepared with a lot of care and has plenty of flavors that were complimented greatly with other component on the plate such as the puree and the sauce.

Lamb Saddle cooked in crepine perfumed with marjolaine flower, cauliflower puree and black garlic, green lentil gnocchi

Quelques dessert de Pierre-Gagnaire was a composition of different desserts served at the same time. This tantalizing platter was highlighted by the chocolate cake. The cake was rich, sweet with layers of different types of chocolate while the rest of the dessert was chilled, refreshing and fruity. The petit fours were enjoyable small bites of sweetness that ended this meal.

The “Petit Esprit de Pierre Gagnaire” was a superb tasting menu. A fusion of French cooking technique and high standard Japanese ingredients morphed together to create fascinating flavor profile. Both small and large plate exhibits focus and details. The servings were adequate that left me satisfied rather than full. There was no set wine pairing, but the wine list is vast and was made up of primarily French wine from different regions of the country. The restaurant also had a decent wine by the glass offerings that were reasonably price. Wanting red for this meal the sommelier recommendation of Bordeaux Pauillac was on point.

Petit Fours

The restaurant is very formal but with Japanese sincere hospitality. The service was particularly attentive and faultless. English were spoken well that servers were able to explain each of the courses and answered my questions clearly.

Bordeaux Pauillac

In the Far East Pierre Gagnaire has a restaurant in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul in addition to his others in Europe. It was said by those that had visited all three the Tokyo location is the better one. What separates it from the rest is the superior quality of ingredients that are being used, but also an extremely skilled chef in Chef Akasaka. The chef is very well capable in upholding Pierre Gagnaire cooking standard and mirrors the excellence of a living legend.

Sushi Yoshitake ***

 

Sushi Bar

Sushi Yoshitake
3F, Suzuryu Bldg
8-7-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku
Tokyo, Japan
104-0061
+81 3-6253-7331
Official Site

Reserving a top sushi restaurant in Tokyo is a task in itself and some are just nearly impossible to get in. A lot of them require a concierge from the hotel where you’re staying to make the reservation and most of the time, using the same service provided by a premium credit card is not acceptable. For the three Michelin starred, Sushi Yoshitake in Ginza, there were no exceptions and I had to go through the same concierge process. Sushi Yoshitake is one of the only three sushiya in Tokyo to receive the maximum rating from the guide, and is regarded amongst the top sushi restaurants in Tokyo.

Sushi Yoshitake

The restaurant received three stars in 2012 when it was first featured in the Michelin Guide. This was an incredible accomplishment by chef and owner Masahiro Yoshitake. Soon after, he opened a sister restaurant called Sushi Shikon in Hong Kong. Sushi Shikon debuted with two stars in 2013 and earned its third star just a year later. Having two restaurants dubbed with three Michelin stars simultaneously is a rare achievement for any chef. This is an honor that Chef Yoshitake shares with only a handful of other chefs in the world.

The restaurant

Sushi Yoshitake is on the third floor of a nondescript building on a side street. The place is small, clean and serene. It has a smooth natural finish counter made from a single slab of wood that only seats seven patrons. Behind the unique counter is where Chef Yoshitake does his magic along with his two other chefs. They wait patiently until all the guests on the reservation list arrive before they begin preparing for the meal. There is only one omakase choice for 24000 YEN. It is served daily for two evening seating; one at 6pm and the other at 9pm.

The omakase started with a series of appetizers that began with Steamed Egg Custard with Puffer Fish Soft Roe. A seasonal Japanese delicacy with its nice eggy and custard features combined to create an interesting unique taste. Next was Today’s Sashimi, fresh cuts of rockfish. With the skin side charred it added some nice textures and burnt taste to the fish natural flavors. The next dish was Tender Octopus, braised in sweet sauce, the octopus meat was firm yet tender that requires very minimal effort to breakdown. The sauce coated the octopus with color and some sweetness.

Steamed Abalone, Liver Sauce was the restaurant’s signature dish. The steamed abalone had several good textures, but the highlight of this dish was the sauce from the abalone liver. I could only describe the creaminess as heavenly as it takes your palette into this wonderful experience of flavors. Dipping the abalone in the sauces enhances it. After finishing the abalone, the chef added sushi rice to what’s left of the sauce and I was instructed to mix them together. The mixture produces another divine savory aspect to the sauce, not to mention a whole new dish in itself. 

I was then served Grilled Tilefish, perfectly grilled it was moist and tender while the skin was particularly crispy. Also on the plate was a half sliced Japanese lime, and by squeezing a few drops the mild taste of the tilefish is enhance. To follow was Steamed Clam with Sake and Canola Flower. Sliced clams soaked in sake and covered with green vegetables (similar to a broccoli stem) had a good subtle poise of bitterness and also a light floral oiliness. This was the last of the small dishes and marks the end of the first half of the omakase.

The sushi part of the omakase began with Ika – Squid, a fine piece of squid had smooth and chewy textures. Tai- Sea Bream followed after, its slightly sweet and delicate taste were well balanced. I was then served Yellow Tail which was completely off the menu. The flavors combined were absolutely delightful and just downright tantalizing.

Now the good stuff, Chu Toro-Medium Fatty Tuna, it had terrific equilibrium of delicious fattiness. O Toro-Fatty Tuna on the other hand just melts in your mouth. Tremendously soft and fatty that was sublime.

Kohada-Gizzard Shad, though also rich as the previous pieces, it has an oily content with a compress taste. Akgai-Ark Shell, had a clean ocean presence as well as having a tiny sourness in to it. Kuruma Ebi- Prawn came after, poached in a way that gave the shrimp a nice density that is tender at the same time. Uni-Sea Urchin was enormously buttery and amazingly delicious. Anago-Sea Eel, dashed with sweet soy sauces gives the eel’s grainy texture a wonderful sweetness.

Next was Tamaki- Tuna Hand Roll, crunchy seaweed stuffed with sushi rice and tuna. Chef Yoshitake used a lean tuna meat in this light and yet satisfying roll. Tamago-Egg Custard was perfectly done with cotton like softness and a delicate taste of sweet eggs. To end the omakase was Owan-Today Soup which was a miso soup. This was a cloudier version with strong seafood infused flavors. Enticed after seeing other guest ordered an additional Maki Roll I too requested for one which Chef Yoshitake pleasantly obliged. He used similar cut of tuna with the one used in the “Tamaki” to make six filling pieces.

This omakase was nothing short of outstanding. The hot and cold plates were terrific. The abalone liver sauce was exquisite and one the best dishes I’ve ever had. The sushi was on another level of excellence. Every fish and seafood was extremely fresh and clean. The rice held tightly together and renders a fabulous sour vinegar taste, providing an umami explosion in the palate. I let Chef Yoshitake choose the sake for me as the restaurant offers a range of reasonably price bottles as well as pricier wines. He picked three kind of sake in different temperatures and came in different type of carafes. All three were on point and went very well in the stages of the omakase.

With only seven guests at a time, the staff were able to give us their undivided attention. The service was friendly and authentic. A young Japanese man dressed immaculately in two piece suit assisted the guests while Chef Yoshitake and two of his assistant interact and prepare the meal behind the counter. Chef Yoshitake spent time living in New York with his wife explaining the western friendly attitude towards foreigners at the restaurant. As the night went on, and the omakase coming to a close, the atmosphere became more relax and engaging. The few local diners that were left started a conversation with me and soon Chef Yoshitake joined in.

Chef Yoshitake

Chef Yoshitake performs all dining phases at the restaurant. He does the slicing, rice cooking and the sushi making. He only uses the finest seasonal ingredients available that he procures directly from his distributor rather than from the market. He serves Edomae style sushi that is less traditional compare to other top sushiya in Tokyo. His sushi preparation and cuts are precisely made to be a perfect marriage with the flavor profile of his rice. His curing methods provide an extra depth of taste. Even with another world class restaurant Chef Yoshitake can be found behind the counter at Sushi Yoshitake at any day of the week. He consistently maintains the standard of the restaurants to stay on top in a city full of great suhiyas.

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.