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Tenku Ryugin, Hong Kong


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#1 Bu Pun Su

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Posted 02 May 2013 - 08:56 AM


Hong Kong is known to be the paradise for foodies. They’ve had plenty of great Chinese/Cantonese restaurants (as expected) as well as French/Italian fine dining. However, somehow they lack top notch Japanese – compared to say Singapore’s Shinji, Aoki, Tetsuya etc. Nadaman, Nobu, Zuma etc. are fine but people won’t really come to HK and deliberately eat at these places. But, everything changed drastically last year when Seiji Yamamoto decided to open his famous Tokyo establishment, Ryugin at ICC (International Commerce Centre) Kowloon (also Sushi Yoshitake arrival at Mercer hotel - I will discuss this a few weeks later). Suddenly, Hong Kong is now a strong contender among big cities to have served best Japanese cuisine outside Japan.
 
I don’t yet have a chance to eat at Ryugin Tokyo, but I can tell that Tenku Ryugin is one of the best restaurants offering authentic Japanese kaiseki. Their 10 course items are about as interesting and delicious as Urasawa’s non sushi courses. Outside these 2 places, I cannot really think of a better restaurant serving kaiseki (excluding Japan of course). The restaurant is part of the elite Sky dining restaurants at ICC’s 101st floor offering striking views of Hong Kong skylines. The dining room is simple and a bit dimmed, dominated by wood and beige/light brown color. Food-wise, it’s wonderful! Among them that I liked a lot were:
 
-Soup of simmered abalone and scallop dumpling: the dashi is clear but flavorful, ichiban! The abalone, slow cooked for a few hours, is tender and delicious. The small scallop (maybe like kobashira) is sweet with nice texture
-The baby tune sashimi is unbelievable. Usually anything short of Chu-toro is never good enough for me (yes, I was not a big fan of maguro/akami sushi). But this yokowa sashimi, usually only available in Spring, is a bit oily, very soft and they melted in my mouth
-The tasty amadai is first deep fried (wrapped in kadaif aka ‘middle east pasta’) then grilled on binchotan – generating crispy ‘skin’ and soft flesh. The fish is not only beautifully presented, but is also quite rich in taste. Awesome ..
 
In addition to the fantastic dishes above, Ryugin also offered classical items such as
-Chawanmushi with uni; as long as you have the good quality organic egg and sea urchin, it’s not easy to go wrong with this kind of dish. The yuba made it a bit more interesting
-Sukiyaki served with succulent beef and fragrant French morels worked really well with the onsen tamago’s runny egg yolk and ‘sweet’ sauce. A nice thing to serve this kind of this in Spring
 
Prior coming here, I anticipated to try Yamamoto-san’s legendary dessert: candy pear dessert nitro-chilled to -196C and served with a sauce of the same fruit heated to a scalding 99C. Alas, it was not meant to be, but the replacement is not disappointing at all, in particular the fresh and sweet tomato under ‘glass candy’. The quality of the tomato is incredible.
 
Ryugin’s hospitality is led by Ms. Nakano. The service is professional, warm and impeccable especially when the Japanese maitre d’ herself is the main ‘waiter’ for your table. She knew what she’s doing and very passionate about gastronomy as well. Overall, I happily gave this place 94/100 for both food and service – by my Michelin equivalent standard that would mean a solid 2 ½*. However, if Otto e mezzo or Atelier Robuchon could get 3-star by HK standard, this place deserved to be at the same level. I’m confident Tenku Ryugin can attain it within 3 years
 
For more detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoo...-hong-kong.html
For pictures: https://picasaweb.go...inHongKongChina

#2 huiray

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 07:04 AM

Nice report.  I looked at your pictures and the detailed report also.  

 

How much, though?  The web site for the place does not show the price for the April-May "Spring degustation menu"

 

[Another blogger reports his meal for two w/ sake & matcha (February "Winter menu") set him back HK$8000... ]



#3 Bu Pun Su

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 10:19 AM

Hi huiray, thanks for reading

The price is still the same at HKD 1980+ without any drink

The hefty HKD 8000++ price tag (my guess it's for 2 people) possibly referred to the exclusive white truffle menu during winter



#4 huiray

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 03:53 AM

BPS, thanks for the reply.

 

HK$1980+ was what the blogger also reported for each person just for the food.  Yes, the meal he had was for two (with his mother) from his report - but no, it was for the "standard" February menu (which I also linked to above) and which he talks about dish-by-dish in his report.  No white truffles.  Just some slices of black truffles in that wagyu beef dish.  However, he had that special sake (HK$2800++) made for RyuGin - which he didn't think that highly of :-).  I wonder how much the matcha was...



#5 prasantrin

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 05:28 AM

I don't know about the HK branch, but matcha is included in the meal at the Tokyo branch. 

 

Water, however, was extra (and quite a hefty extra considering it's just water).


Edited by prasantrin, 05 May 2013 - 05:29 AM.


#6 Bu Pun Su

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 09:25 AM

BPS, thanks for the reply.

 

HK$1980+ was what the blogger also reported for each person just for the food.  Yes, the meal he had was for two (with his mother) from his report - but no, it was for the "standard" February menu (which I also linked to above) and which he talks about dish-by-dish in his report.  No white truffles.  Just some slices of black truffles in that wagyu beef dish.  However, he had that special sake (HK$2800++) made for RyuGin - which he didn't think that highly of :-).  I wonder how much the matcha was...

 

Just read the report - the sake cost more than the meal, no wonder it's that expensive :)

You should not worry about paying extra for any tea/matcha; they're included in the tasting menu

The stuffs you need to pay extra will be alcohol and water

Who knows that the diners at "Dining with Bogans" also ordered some aperitif (and/or digestif)?

The cheapest half-bottle sake cost close to HKD 500 if not mistaken

 

You should dine there if you have a chance

I enjoyed the Spring menu even though it lacks plenty of signature dishes such as the -196 C dessert and sea perch

Eel, another Yamamoto-san's famous dish, will probably be available in the summer


Edited by Bu Pun Su, 05 May 2013 - 09:26 AM.


#7 huiray

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Posted 05 May 2013 - 11:10 AM

Heh.  Yes, the sake dug a deep hole in his wallet. 

 

Nevertheless, this (in my mind) also illustrates how expensive fine dining is nowadays in East and SE Asia, regardless of cuisine.  Just the food alone at Tenku Ryogin at HK$1980 = US$255 is more than what it takes at Alinea in Chicago, for instance, at US$210 for 18 courses.  Then the high-end stuff in Singapore is as bad or worst, cost-wise, in terms of US currency at least.  One could consider it in many different ways, which could include different perspectives on the relative strengths of economies NOT in the West or the US...which might be uncomfortable to think about for some folks in the West...or on the relative eagerness of diners to shell out serious money in different places...  ;-)


Edited by huiray, 05 May 2013 - 11:13 AM.


#8 Bu Pun Su

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 01:34 AM

Yes, I tend to mostly agree with you that Asian gastronomy places are ridiculously expensive nowadays

Regarding your comparison, Alinea, Jean Georges and Eleven Madison tend to be the "cheaper" part

If we see Vegas Robuchon and Savoy, they're about as 'insane' as the ones in Asia ex Japan

 

But US most famous restaurants: per se/French Laundry are not cheap at all - their basic 9 course would cost around Usd 330 per pax after tax and tips

Moreover, they got plenty of catches:

-if one wants to replace the salad with duck liver, one had to add Usd 40++

-if one wants to replace the meat course with wagyu, one had to add almost Usd 100++

During the winter truffle season, 1-2 truffle dishes will cost at least Usd 150 extra

All of these "only" serving mainly US domestic ingredients. So, before the wine, the meal there can easily reach Usd 500

 

(Whereas) in Asia, we tend to get more dishes with Japanese and French ingredients, which I think are much better than US ones

For sure, Singapore is more expensive than Hong Kong since Singapore got zero natural resource/ingredients and additional 7% tax vs none in HK



#9 huiray

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 07:41 AM

Hmm, Per Se's cost is US$295 inclusive of service (=tips) although it excludes tax.  French Laundry is US$270 also inclusive of service (excludes tax).  I wouldn't say Alinea is at the cheap end, though.    This survey (although a year old) (the slideshow from there) of the 28 most expensive places in the US (average total bill (for two) inclusive of tax and tip/service) is interesting, I think.  In this survey Alinea is #6.  However, whether a place is well-regarded for the food is a different matter. :-) 

 

True, add-ons - and alcohol - raise the total bills a lot - but that would also be true for places in Asia, I think?  That HK$8000+ (>US$1000) bill at Tenku Ryugin touched upon upthread did include that special sake, after all.

 

Anyway, this is getting into nit-picking territory.  They all cost "a lot of money".

 

[I'm not sure I'd agree that Japanese and French ingredients are uniformly "much better" than US ingredients. :-) ]



#10 Bu Pun Su

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 07:01 PM

Hmm, Per Se's cost is US$295 inclusive of service (=tips) although it excludes tax.  French Laundry is US$270 also inclusive of service (excludes tax).  I wouldn't say Alinea is at the cheap end, though.    This survey (although a year old) (the slideshow from there) of the 28 most expensive places in the US (average total bill (for two) inclusive of tax and tip/service) is interesting, I think.  In this survey Alinea is #6.  However, whether a place is well-regarded for the food is a different matter. :-) 

 

True, add-ons - and alcohol - raise the total bills a lot - but that would also be true for places in Asia, I think?  That HK$8000+ (>US$1000) bill at Tenku Ryugin touched upon upthread did include that special sake, after all.

 

Anyway, this is getting into nit-picking territory.  They all cost "a lot of money".

 

[I'm not sure I'd agree that Japanese and French ingredients are uniformly "much better" than US ingredients. :-) ]

 

Haha, call me bias - French/Japanese ingredients > US ones any time such as:

Brittany lobster > Maine/Boston one

French morels > Oregon version

Pyrenees/Aubrac lamb > Colorado one

Riviera/Mediterranean (or even Passard's gardens) veggies > even California organic

Ohmi/Kobe/Matsuzaka beef > any Usda wagyu beef

and so on