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Ryuzu

4 Chome−2−35, Roppongi, Tokyo, 106-0032, Japan

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Chef Ryuta Iizuka opened this French restaurant in Roppongi in 2011, having worked with some multi-starred chefs in France and also in Japan under Joel Robuchon. Ryuzu was awarded a Michelin star in the 2012 Tokyo guide and a second in the 2013 guide, which it has retained ever since. The restaurant is in a quiet side street near the Midtown development, and is down a lengthy flight of stairs at basement level. Inside is smartly decorated, with an open kitchen and well spaced tables covered with crisp white linen, seating 35 diners. Noise levels were moderate despite the wooden floor. Three different tasting menus were available, priced at ¥8,000 (£54), ¥13,000 (£88) and ¥17,000 (£115). 

The wine list was substantial, mostly though not entirely French. It started at ¥7,500 (£51) and there were a decent number of choices. Sample references were Claude Riffault Sancerre Les Boucads 2016 at ¥8,000 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for ¥3,831, Domaine Dupont-Fahn Meursault Les Clous 2014 at ¥16,000 compared to its retail price of ¥4,232, and Domaine Louis Carillon et Fils Les Perrieres 2015 at ¥33,000 for a wine that will set you back ¥15,715 in the high street. For those with the means there was Domaine Leflaive Les Pucelles Puligny Montrachet 2006 at ¥72,000 compared to its retail price of ¥36,375, and Guigal La Mouline 2007 at ¥84,000 for a wine whose current market value is ¥50,325. 

The meal began with nibbles of smoked salmon stuffed with pickled olives, which was nice, and a green olive Madeleine, which was a little dry and could have had more olive flavour (14/20 average). This was followed by cold pumpkin soup with ricotta. I think this would have been better served hot, but it nonetheless had good flavour (15/20). Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen and had good texture, served hot (17/20).

The first course was a pair of cold rolls of aubergine and Pacific soury or samna, prepared with beef stock and stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes. This came with dots of garlic mayonnaise, tomato sauce and fish liver sauce as well as parsley oil. This was very pleasant, the stock boosting the flavour of the fish and aubergine, the sauce going well with the rolls (16/20). This was followed by another cold dish, lobster coated in a thin sheet of daikon radish. The lobster was tender and had been cooked with vanilla, whose scent came through but was not too powerful. This shellfish came with citrus sauce and also a tartare of lobster and avocado, which was a good combination (16/20).

The signature dish of the restaurant is shiitake mushroom tart made with filo pastry and involving pancetta and lardo. The pastry was delicate and mushroom duxelle was excellent, its flavour nicely lifted by the smoky hint from the pancetta (18/20). Pike conger eel or hamo was next, served with ginko nuts and hamo soup. This fish, fiddly to prepare, is very popular in Japan and it has a quite a mild flavour (15/20). On the subject of peculiarly Japanese ingredients, the waiter was insistent that I try some sea snail with parsley. This is essentially a whelk, flavourless and chewy, but again seemingly a delicacy here whose appeal eludes this particular western palate. 

I preferred butterfish aka sablefish or silver pomfret, served with excellent matsutake mushrooms from Bhutan. This came with brown butter sauce and a nice seasoning of black pepper (17/20). Wagyu beef was A5 fillet, and was not too buttery despite its high marbling grade, served with excellent girolle mushrooms, potatoes cooked in stock, lotus root, beans and okra. The beef was good but I almost preferred the vegetables, the lotus root perfectly cooked and the okra in particular a delight, crisp and flavourful without even a hint of the sliminess that so often occurs with it (17/20).

For dessert, pear sherbet and pear ice cream came with lemon tea ice cream and little pieces of pear, which was pleasant and refreshing (16/20). Chestnut cake was rather too hard though, served with yuzu and also matcha sauce (14/20). Better was a grape dessert with two different grape varieties, with grape jelly and grape sherbet. The grapes had plenty of flavour and the texture combination worked well (16/20). Finally there was a selection of mignardise. Strawberry jelly was excellent, as was passion fruit tart with delicate pastry. There was also kipferl, a German vanilla biscuit, which was fine, and a good canele with a good custard centre (17/20 mignardise). Coffee was a Tokyo brand called Horiuchi and was very good, rich yet quite mild flavoured. 

Service was excellent, the waiters friendly and attentive, as well as speaking good English. The bill came to ¥62,370 for two with a bottle of champagne and a couple of glasses of red wine between us, which works out at £212 per person. To be fair you could eat much cheaper than this if you went for a shorter menu and shared a modest bottle of wine, a more typical bill with that approach coming to around £95 per person. The restaurant was packed out on this Sunday night. Overall this was a good meal, though for me it was in strong one star territory rather than quite being two star level.

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