Dinner @ RyuGin 祥雲龍吟 (Taipei, Taiwan)

February 21, 2018 in Japanese

After having just visited Taiwan in September 2017, it was an impromptu decision to return (so soon again) in January 2018. But no matter how impromptu a trip may be, I always have my list of restaurants-to-try ready. Keke. And for my second (short) trip to Taiwan, I decided to check out MUME and RyuGin (for restaurants which require reservation).

Reservation request was sent by dropping the restaurant a message on their ‘contact us’ page with 1.5 months advanced notice given. And within 2 working days, I received a response via email. To secure our reservation, we were required to pay a deposit where the amount was 50% of our selected menu. Noting that we had to order the same menu, I chose the 10-courses regular menu (NT6500) over the 7-courses short menu (NT4200).

  

RyuGin is located in the same building as RAW, but at level 5. Upon entering the restaurant, my Mom and I were brought to the (waiting) lounge where we were served tea before the staff led us to our table.

Having pre-selected our dinner menu, we started our 10-courses dinner (NT6500) with:-


1) Dish #1 (above) – Caviar, little silver fish, skin tofu, mizuna.


  

2) Dish #2 (above) – Eel, tomato. Tomato was super sweet, and eel was fresh and firm. I liked how the savory sauce pulled the entire ensemble together. I could easily do at least 5 of these. So, so good!



3) Dish #3 (above) – Clam, sweet potato leaves, lemon. I felt it was ingenious that fat, juicy clams were served on a crunchy deep fried sweet-potato-leaf-cracker cause it introduced different textures into the dish. Pretty good.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Threadfin, bamboo, burdock, snap beans.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Squid, sweet shrimp, fatty tuna, hairtail.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Tile fish, crown daisy, mullet roe.


7) Dish #7 (above) – Abalone, sea urchin.


  

8) Dish #8 (above) – Squab, rosemary. The skin was beautifully executed; Very thin and crispy, and most importantly, tastefully seasoned. And to keep the ‘smoked rosemary’ going, a small piece of charcoal was placed beneath the rib bone.


9) Dish #9 (above) – What’s supposed to be clam, green onion and tomato on koshi-hikari rice as mentioned on our menu, we were served tilefish tempura instead because of my Mom’s preference not to have shellfish (her skin may flare). And it was amazing! When the staff brought the pot to our table to mix it in front of us, we could hear the distinct crackling sound (of the fried tempura batter). It was music to our ears. I liked how I would bite into the crunchy bits of the batter and into the softer but firm texture of the fish. A must try!


10) Dish #10 (above) – Sanbokan.



11) Dish #11 (above) – Leicha powder, strawberry.

12) Dish #12, Complimentary (above) – A little something for us to bring back.

And because my Mom and I had (Taiwanese) desserts an hour before our dinner, we were feeling pretty stuffed by the time we reached our main course of rice. And one could tell how much we must have enjoyed the dish when my Mom couldn’t resist asking if the restaurant would pack our remaining rice. But for only 2 small bowls that we ate in the restaurant, it was disappointing that we were only given 1 small takeaway box cause I dined at other kaiseki restaurants and they would pack 1 portion for each diner.

  

Extra disappointing because the tilefish tempura was truly amazing and I wanted more. The batter remained crunchy even 24 hours later even thought it’s mixed into the rice.

I would recommend RyuGin if I do not need to take into consideration of the cost; Food was undeniably good but at a high price. I am fine with green tea being chargeable, but I was slightly put off to know that it was non-refillable. But! Their 十四代 sake-pairing menu sounded like a good deal. If I wasn’t paying for 2, I would most likely have gone for that.

RYUGIN 祥雲龍吟
No. 301, Le Qun 3rd Road, 5F, Taipei City, Taiwan
+886 2 8501 5808, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 6
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon

UPDATE: Restaurant was awarded 2 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Taipei 2018.

Dinner @ Kagurazaka Ishikawa (Tokyo, Japan)

August 26, 2017 in Japanese

Wanting to have at least a kaiseki meal in my February 2017 trip to Japan, I decided to head over to Michelin-starred Ishikawa. And I admit I got really excited knowing I need not rely on hotel concierge to make reservation. And as mentioned on their website, I called at 4pm as it’s after 3pm that they have a English-speaking staff who could take reservation for non-Japanese speaking customers.

With only 1 menu, I started my ¥22,000 dinner with:-

1) Dish #1 (appetiser) (above) – Japanese duck and winter spinach.


2) Dish #2 (deep-fried) (above) – Soft-shelled turtle, shiitake mushroom, lotus root and mitsuba green.


3) Dish #3 (soup) (above) – Hard clam and freshly-harvested bamboo shoot.

4) Dish #4 (sashimi) (above) – Flatfish and fresh sea urchin, garnished with fresh seaweed and Japanese herbs.

5) Dish #5 (sashimi) (above) – Yellowtail mixed with grated white radish.

6) Dish #6 (sashimi) (above) – Seared Spanish mackerel.

7) Dish #7 (charcoal-grilled) (above) – Horsehead snapper and shrimp-shaped taro.

8) Dish #8 (delicacy) (above) – Blowfish milt and snow crab covered with sticky crab sauce.


9) Dish #9 (hot pot) (above) – Kinme snapper with seasonal vegetables.



  

10) Dish #10 (steamed rice) (above) – Steamed rice with scallop. Miso soup and pickled vegetables. It was nice that chef-owner Hideki Ishikawa would present the claypot rice personally to every group of customers. Even to the extent of mixing the ingredients up. One may or may not be able to tell from the photographs chef Ishikawa san was a loud person with big actions. If I could, I may even use the word ‘eccentric’ to describe him. Haha. It was a side of him which I wasn’t aware of and that made my dining experience somewhat new and fresh too. I was very entertained by his gestures. And he speaks good English too; Communicating really well with locals and tourists.

11) Dish #11 (dessert) (above) – Fresh strawberry, molasses agar and crushed rum jelly on coconut soup.

The fact that I was presented with a claypot fully filled with rice, it isn’t difficult to guess that I didn’t finish my dish. At the end of my dinner, the staff passed me a paper bag containing a rice ball (onigiri) as they handed me my outerwear.

  

And it’s to note that preparation of the dishes were done by the kitchen staff rather than chef Ishikawa san. Although chef Ishikawa san do regularly head into the kitchen to check. How do I know? Being seated at the counter, I saw a kitchen staff handing him a bowl for chef Ishikawa san to try for his nod of approval.

Would I recommend Kagurazaka Ishikawa? Well… In all honesty, I was expecting more since it’s after all a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars. But stars aside, I do acknowledge it’s a restaurant worth checking out although it doesn’t rank high on my list of top-restaurants-to-visit in Tokyo.

KAGURAZAKA ISHIKAWA 神楽坂 石かわ
5-37 Kagurazaka Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 新宿区 神楽坂 5-37 高村ビル 1F)
+81 3 5225 0173, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 17:30 – 00:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Sun

UPDATE: Restaurant was awarded 3 Michelin stars by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2018.

Dinner @ Kappo Shunsui

June 21, 2017 in Japanese

Hitting a dead end in my search for sushi restaurants, I texted my IGGF (InstaGram GirlFriend) if she knew of any new ones. And that was when she shared a picture of a gold door. However, that was all that she knew of the new Japanese restaurant. Now, I pride myself as a search guru. So… The challenge (to identify it is) on. Keke.

Unfortunately, nothing turned up when I google-ed ‘new Japanese restaurant’ and ‘golden door’. No! Die, die must find out. So I analysed the photo (of a mere gold door) and concluded it should be located in an old shopping mall based on the faint reflection of the shopping mall interior. Hmm.

And fate had it that I was meeting a friend at Cuppage Plaza that night. Just when my friend and I were at level 5 and making our way to the carpark after dinner, I caught a glimpse of a familiar-looking wallpaper at level 4. One can say I was on full alert mode. Ha! Excused myself to check it out and there it was… The Japanese restaurant which my IGGF and I were looking for. Kappo Shunsui!

Unfortunately, due to my IGGF’s and my conflicting schedules, we were only able to meet for dinner 3 weeks later. And it was a huge bummer when we saw posts of Kappo Shunsui appearing on instagram just days before our visit due to the restaurant having conducted media invite. Secret, no more. Sob.

My IGGF and I arrived at the restaurant at 7pm. I honestly loved how low key the exterior was. Reminded me much of Japan. Pressing the console was akin to pressing a door bell where the staff would be alerted to open the door.

Opposite to the minimally designed exterior, the interior was designed with much attention put to the smallest details. The corridor to the toilet had floor lights in addition to ceiling lights. And yes, they have their own toilet which was nicely furnished too.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), my IGGF and I ordered:-

1) Omakase, $249 comprised of:-


(A) Dish #1 (above) – Simmered octopus, broad bean, seaweed, potato lotus, and jelly made with bonito broth, soya sauce and vinegar.

(B) Dish #2 (above) – Pike eel.


(C) Dish #3 (above) – Sashimi assortment of torched barracuda, kingfish (hiramasu) and red snapper (tai). My favourite was the barracuda! We saw head chef Tomo Watanabe spritzing some liquid over the dish before it was served to us. And out of curiosity, we asked the staff what it was. The staff humorously replied “Ajinomoto.” Hahaha. But of course, that’s just water.

(D) Dish #4 (above) – Medium fatty tuna (chutoro) and vinegared gizzard shad (kohada) sushi.

(E) Dish #5 (above) – With ponzu sauce, grated radish and chili, we were served long tooth grouper (kue) and vegetables in a pot of simmering soup.


(F) Dish #6 (above) – Grilled arctic surf clam (hokkigai). And for this dish, we were treated to a (mini) performance where head chef Watanabe san slammed the clams onto the counter and exaggeratedly sprinkling salt into them before grilling it over charcoal. It was a good thing I finished my soup cause some salt went into my pot. Ha. And we loved how he put the grilled clams onto shell-looking ceramic plates. And yes, we were told the ceramic items were all head chef Watanabe san’s personal collection. Nice.


(G) Dish #7 (above) – Tomato with tomato jelly and micro tomato. How cute! And yes, we were told hand-squeezed tomato juice was used to make the jelly. A really refreshing taste. I enjoyed it much.


(H1) Dish #8 (above) – For the meat dish, my IGGF was served beef from Omi. We were told the slab was grilled on the surface before continuing to slow cook it for 1.5 hours in dashi stock. And she couldn’t stop raving about it.


(H2) Dish #8 (above) – And because I don’t eat beef, I had a fish dish instead. Was told it’s a family of cod; Abura bouzu.


  

(I) Dish #9 (above) – Claypot rice with braised red snapper head. And we gasped to know we each had half a head to ourselves! Such generous portion! We were loving it, of course. Haha. I normally share fish head with friends cause I am not too good at eating it. So for the first time, I was taught to eat the ‘correct’ parts; The jelly parts around the eye. Yummy! No more peaceful sharing of fish head in the future. Haha.


(J) Dish #10 – Almond pudding with cherry from Yamagata.

2) Homemade ‘warabimochi’ with ‘hon-warabiko’, $12 (above)

For all the excitement that my IGGF and I built up leading to our visit, I was glad the dinner didn’t disappoint. We left happy and satisfied. =)

Head chef Watanabe san couldn’t speak much English. So we depended on the waiting staff for translation. And it was through the staff that we learnt head chef Watanabe san moved from Japan (Tokyo) to Singapore with the aim of achieving a Michelin star. “Japan too tough. Too many stars,” the staff said. Haha.

But back in Japan, head chef Watanabe san opened an izakaya which was on Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand list for 3 years (2015 to 2017). “Chef’s dream was to do multi-course (kaiseki),” the staff further explained. Ahhh… And hung on the walls (near the entrance) were extracted pages from the Michelin Guide. Evidence? Keke.

Do I recommend Kappo Shunsui? A big yes from me!

KAPPO SHUNSUI 割烹 旬水
5 Koek Road, Cuppage Plaza, #04-02, Singapore
6732 0192, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tue – Thur, Sun : 18:00 – 01:00
Ambience: 7
Fri – Sat : 18:00 – 02:00
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon