With Hong Kong’s proximity to Japan, how can I not try at least one Japanese restaurant? RyuGin caught my eyes since they’re the first overseas branch of the 3 Michelin Starred Nihonryori RyuGin in Japan and earned 2 Michelin Stars themselves within 6 months of opening in 2012.
Since I had a scrumptious kaiseki meal at Hayato just a few months ago, I was really looking forward to this meal.
Located in the International Commerce Centre, the tallest building in Hong Kong, RyuGin sits a floor below Tin Lung Heen on the 101st floor. It’s quite a cloudy night but the view isn’t too shabby.
Course #1: Charcoal grilled shirako spring roll with Yunnan ham and shiso leaf
The exceptionally light and crispy tempura batter encloses a silky smooth cod milt, creating the perfect contrast. On the other hand, the use of Chinese Yunnan ham and shiso leaf flavored the spring roll with smoke, salty goodness, and bright notes of pungent grass and mint.
We all know what’s coming up
Seaweed is presented separately to ensure maximum crispiness.
Course #2: Saba sushi
Bits of pickled ginger are embedded for texture contrast and acidity enhancement to counter the fatty marinated Saba. The fish is also lightly torched to release its aroma and oil. Mixing it in are bursts of toasted sesame seed nuttiness and the oceanic flavor from the roasted seaweed.
Course #3: Hot egg custard with hamaguri clam sauce
Egg custard is beautifully cooked and its texture is every bit as velvety smooth as the rendition I had at Benu. Multiple ingredients are used to add subtle flavor and texture contrast so the essence of the egg custard won’t be lost in the mix. There’s bamboo pith for its tender and slightly crunchy texture; fresh yuba for its light soy bean flavor and slight chew; chives for its mild onion notes. However, try as I might, I simply can’t detect any clam’s inherent brine as advertised so the dish came out a touch bland to this palate.
Course #4: Pear with sumiso
Two pieces of plump and juicy pear is marinated in miso and dressed with sumiso and a touch of yuzu to enhance its freshness and acidity. There’s also pine nuts added for a touch of savory note and micro change in texture. Lastly, Chrysanthemum petals and black pepper contributed a touch of bitterness, fragrance, and complexity. As simple as this dish sounds, it’s actually one of my favorite bites of this trip. Salty, sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, umami. The two simple bites lit up my tastes buds!
Course #5: Kue grouper in ichibandashi soup
This clear dashi has a hint of smoke while leaning heavier toward its fresh grouper and shitake flavors. The fish is on point with its firm but flaky flesh. Nonetheless, the star of the dish is the tofu delivered from Japan. It’s more silken and custardy than any silken tofu I’ve tasted and yields a superbly pure soybean flavor.
Course #6: Abalone, shiro ebi, caviar, handmade soba noodle
An amazingly complex tasting cold dish. First of all, there are well steamed abalone slices that are tender yet retaining great bounce. Secondly, the inherently sweet raw shrimp is julienned so it can be mixed and picked up along with the dense but bouncy soba noodle. Third, when all the ingredients are mixed, the soba is nicely dressed with a mild abalone liver sauce and bursts of briny caviar flavored the dish nicely. On occasions, the natural buckwheat flavor and texture of soba is intensified and contrasted with nuttiness and crunch of toasted buckwheat. Finally, to add brightness and kick, baby shiso is used sparingly to avoid overwhelming the dish.
Course #7: Charcoal grilled amadai with crispy scales, ume plum fish sauce
I wish RyuGin offers nodoguro but this grilled amadai will do. It’s first grilled with binchotan before the scales are deep fried twice. Result? The scales are shatteringly crispy and light and much more refine than the crispy scale mullet I had at the Las Vegas Guy Savoy outpost. On the other hand, the amadai’s flesh is perfectly cooked with supple and juicy flesh. It’s also simply dressed with a ume plum fish sauce to add acidity and further savory notes.
Skewered gingko nut is lightly grilled and yields a slightly gummy texture and bitter notes to clean your palate.
Course #8: Muscat grape with wasabi jelly
Deceptively simple but very complex dish that’s essentially a sweet and savory palate cleanser. Wasabi jelly is mixed with dashi to offer savory notes and a mild kick that’s countered with chopped, skinless, and sugar-sweet Japanese muscat grape. They’re topped with aromatic dill and pickled cucumber to add freshness to the dish.
Course #9: Charcoal grilled smoked pigeon breast
The bird is first smoked with straw before grilling it with binchotan. The flesh is smokey and perfectly cooked while the crispy skin is deeply savory with a touch of sweetness from a soy glaze. The pigeon is certainly flavorful enough on its own but a soy-wasabi sauce is offered as a dip that complemented the breasts nicely.
More pretty pottery.
My server showed me the next course before bringing it back to the kitchen to be plated.
Course #10: Steamed rice with snow crab, miso soup, fermented hairy crab roes, pickled cucumber & daikon
The beautifully cooked rice, a mix of 80% Koshihikari and 20% of “I-couldn’t-make-out-what-the-chef-said”, is infused with crab stock. Although the crab flavor isn’t very apparent in the rice itself, eating the rice together with the shredded sweet snow crab is just fantastic. The texture of the rice is spot on with just the right amount of chew. The dish is also lifted with a touch of citrisy yuzu zest.
The miso soup, with Shimeji shrooms & fried tofu, has a touch of Chinese influence with fermented beancurd added for flavor.
The more interesting of the 3 items here is fermented hairy crab roe coated with bonito flakes. It’s super bouncy and snappy. Imagine having extremely firm flying fish roe that are packed super tightly together with very intense pops with each bite…It’s slightly salty, funky, and bitter.
Trusty green tea
Course #11: Melon, sakekasu
In the dessert are toasted coconut crumble, melon ice, melon sorbet, sake mousse, and sweet rice crisps. The contrasting texture and flavor of each element is incredible. Balance is also superb between the savory and sweet elements of the dish. Finally, I do wanna note that the sake mousse added just enough acidity to bring everything together nicely.
Course #12: Chestnut sponge cake, white truffle mousse, almond bubble
This seasonal savory sweet dessert ends the meal on an extremely high note. There are fluffy chestnut sponge cake, a light chestnut mousse, chopped fresh chestnut, slices of aromatic white truffle, almost savory tasting white truffle mousse, almond bubble, and crispy cookie crisps. The intensely earthy white truffle and truffle mousse complement the various chestnut elements exceptionally well, lending a ton of depth to the dish.
Tenku RyuGin is one of my two favorite meals of this Hong Kong trip and ranks right alongside the exquisite experience I had at Robuchon au Dôme. Although I’m a fan of LA’s Hayato, this kaiseki is on another level. Admittedly, this isn’t a totally fair comparison since Hayato sticks to traditions while RyuGin leans toward n/naka’s style of contemporary kaiseki with fusion elements and charges 40% more.
101/F, International Commerce Centre
1 Austin Road West
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong