Sunday, 22 February 2015

Decadent Celebration

The memorable Monkfish liver dish that started the kaiseki at RyuGin
About a month ago I bumped into Hideaki Sato, chef de cuisine at RyuGin in Elements. He told me in a few months he was leaving the restaurant he helped earn two Michelin stars.

So YTSL and I decided to celebrate Chinese New Year with a splurge by dining here one more time.

The weather has been unseasonably warm so when we arrived on the 101st floor of International Commerce Centre or ICC, it was pretty foggy outside which was a pity, but not unusual!

Delicate flavours in the chawanmushi dish with sea urchin
Nevertheless, we were looking forward to having a memorable meal -- for over HK$2,000 ($258)! -- and for the most part the kaiseki lived up to its billing.

To start off the meal, we had Monkfish liver or ankimo from Hokkaido, that for some more discerning palates is even better than foie gras and I have to agree.

It was presented in cubes with spring onion in mustard and miso sauce, garnished with thin slices of radish and orange zest. The flavour of the akimo was delicate yet full of rich foie gras-like flavour that wasn't heavy, and had a smooth texture.

This was followed by another favourite dish, hot egg custard topped with yuba, or tofu skin, and sea urchin. YTSL savoured the uni and wished she could have had more! The yuba added another texture to the smooth-tasting chawanmushi, and of course the sea urchin gave the dish a depth of flavour with its taste of the sea.

Fantastic slow-cooked abalone with radish sauce
We also enjoyed the next dish that was presented in a bowl covered with a giant abalone shell. Inside was simmered abalone, sliced horizontally and topped with grated radish sauce that perfectly complemented the seafood.

The texture of the abalone was unlike Cantonese braised abalone. Here it was like a thick meaty mushroom, but with that distinctive abalone taste that wasn't covered in a thick sauce.

Next came the charcoal grilled amadai in a broth with leek and winter turnip. We were advised to drink the soup first, which seemed a bit bland, but had a comforting taste, before eating the fish, that was overcooked.

Now halfway through the meal we were given a long plate with four different sashimi and the wooden plank the small dishes were presented on was decorated with a landscape of sea and mountains in salt!

Signature charcoal grilled Alfonsino topped with roasted rice
On the far left were two slices of flounder that were not very flavourful, but then they were followed by thin slices of geoduck that I haven't had much of a chance to eat since it's so expensive. But it was wonderful to be able to taste the fresh crunchiness. Next were small firefly squid that you popped into your mouth and didn't need any soy sauce because it had lots of flavour packed inside. Finally the yellowtail that is now in season was delicious.

Then we moved onto one of RyuGin's signature dishes, the charcoal grilled Alfonsino covered with roasted rice. We had this same dish when the restaurant opened in Hong Kong about three years ago, and this time it was accompanied with a light teriyaki sauce that seemed a bit redundant, as the fish was cooked perfectly, the smooth taste of the fish contrasting with the crispiness of the roasted rice on top. Nevertheless, we savoured each bite.

The Japanese onsen tamago with marbled wagyu beef
Another favourite of the evening was the wagyu ribeye sukiyaki with onsen tamago. Thin slices of the prized marbled beef were placed in a bowl with some onions, leek and radish and a Japanese slow-cooked egg. When we poked the egg, a brilliant orange yolk burst out, and mixed together with the beef was a double protein dose that was divine. The egg white was silky soft and contrasted with the crunchy semi-cooked onion slices and pickled radish.

If that wasn't enough -- I was practically full at this point -- the main event came, Matsubagani crab, with a small dollop of the crab roe on top, on a bed of shiitake mushroom rice. Unfortunately the crab was also on the bland side despite the large chunk we were given, while the rice was delicate and hearty.

We had two desserts, the first one the signature hot and cold one. For the lunar new year, the flavour this time was mandarin orange, and we were presented a small bowl with one shiny golden orb with a small mint leaf on top.

Our mandarin orange dessert before it was smashed!
We had to break open the "fruit" to find very cold -- minus 196-degree powder packed inside before the server gave us two spoonfuls of 99-degree mandarin jam that we had to mix together with some pop rocks. The effect was very audible! We could hear the pop rocks zinging away in each others' mouths, while the hot and cold mandarin dessert was lots of fun to eat. However we both agreed we preferred the signature strawberry dessert we ate the first time.

Nevertheless, the second dessert was also delightful. After breaking a gorgeous perfect globe-shaped meringue shell that was light and crunchy, underneath was some almond ice cream with slightly sweet red beans and chopped strawberries. It was another play of textures and tastes in the mouth.

Another gorgeous dessert covered by a meringue shell
Overall we were very satisfied with the dinner, save for the few disappointing dishes. Service was impeccable and attentive. We came relatively early at 7pm, with the last table seated around 8.15pm. The outfits patrons wore ranged from hoodies to studded platform heels!

In a way RyuGin is one of those places where you can only go once because the dishes are not traditional kaiseki and are a memorable surprise. Also the dessert is so unforgetable the first time to be topped by successive ones.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the dining experience, and wish chef Sato all the best in his new endeavours!

101/F, ICC, 1 Austin Road West
2302 0222


  1. Wow, that was a detailed write-up!

    Just one correction: monkfish liver is known as ankimo (not akimo) in Japanese.

    And wow re noticing the design on the dish that the sashimi was served on. I, on the other hand, just fixated on the sashimi itself!

    Last thing: pretty good geoduck can be had a for a fairly reasonable price at Senryo when it's in season - like now! :)

    1. Thanks for catching the spelling mistake! It's important to have a detailed write up to remember it again later! Though the pictures will definitely bring back the memories!

      Oooh geoduck... !!!! When I was a kid, my mom used to buy it often because it was 99 cents a pound!!! It was one of those foods non-Chinese people didn't eat! But after the Hong Kong invasion in Canada the late 80s I haven't had many chances to eat it!