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Ryugin or Kanda?

Help! I was able to secure reservations at Ryugin + Kanda. Which one should I visit while in Tokyo? Note - My husband is not the most adventurous eater and he will be dining with me.

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  1. There are a lot of reviews of Ryugin on this website, and some of Kanda. Probably best to just do a search and see what people said (Ryugin has been discussed so much that probably all arguments are already out there). The two restaurants are quite similar now as Ryugin has gone more traditional over the past year or two than was previously the case. On a good day, Ryugin is to me far superior to Kanda. The only problem is that occasionally, it is merely very good; there is just a tad of inconsistency. But I'd still pick Ryugin.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Asomaniac

      BTW, what do you mean by your husband not being a very adventurous eater? There will be raw fish and likely some unusual items from a foreign visitor's perspective at both Kanda and Ryugin.

      1. re: Asomaniac

        He doesn't eat cooked seafood, and he is not super adventurous with raw fish (i.e., he eats white fish + tuna but no sea urchin, eel, roe, etc.). Will he have a problem? Is the chef adaptable, or is it a complete waste of money for him to eat there?

        1. re: Foodie Fiend

          Excuse the pun, but I think you're cooked. Both Ryugin and Kanda are nothing but a succession of raw or cooked seafood dishes, punctuated by some vegetables and perhaps a meat dish or two. All cooked on fish stock or with some fish or another as a side.

          Don't know if the chefs would be amenable to doing something for you, but personally I wouldn't bother doing so, the opportunities for miscommunication and making an arse out of yourself are high. And even if they were to do it with a smile, you'd be imposing on them in ways that go beyond what is "allowed" in Japan.

          1. re: Uncle Yabai

            First I want to say that my post in favor of Kanda was mainly to let you know that I think that they make good food and that going there wouldn't be a bad choice. Ryugin sounds great and I hope to eat there next time I'm in Tokyo. I've eaten expensive kaiseki at well known places that weren't that great, and I think you're lucky to have narrowed it down to these two restaurants if you're spending the kind of money that you are.

            That said, if your husband suspects he might not like some things that could be served, I worry that you might be be slightly disappointed. Even if you enjoy your meal, spending 50,000 yen on dinner should always result in an incredible experience, and if he doesn't love his food, you might not have as much fun as you should. I think Uncle Yabai is correct in saying that requesting certain accommodations might create an odd feeling before your meal, although I'm sure they could make due. The thing is, after taking many people to Japan I can tell you that some of my friends (who will eat anything) were slightly disappointed in kaiseki in Tokyo given the amount of money involved and considering all the other great food they had in Japan. If you are eating in a historic inn, after an outdoor bath, overlooking a beautiful garden, and in your own private room, yes - it is guaranteed magic; but lets face it, in Tokyo you are eating in a box and you have to adore the food to get your money's worth. Consider this: You can eat sushi in Tsukiji, soba at Kanda Yabu or another historic soba-ya, and still spend 30,000 yen on tempura at Kondo for the same price. I guarantee you will still remember those meals for the rest of your life, and there's almost no risk of disappointment. Even though I loved Kanda that's still close to a coin flip for me!

          2. re: Foodie Fiend

            "He doesn't eat cooked seafood, and he is not super adventurous with raw fish"

            I say skip the kaiseki and go for shabu shabu at a top-notch place (Seryna in Roppongi or something along those lines) or a top-notch Kobe beef place (and you'd still have a money left over for other food.) If your partner doesn't eat seafood, bringing him to kaiseki is a fruitless excercise. He won't be happy, you wont be happy...

            1. re: gkanai

              True. Shabu-shabu, suki-yaki (minus the raw egg), teppanyaki or a great beef place like Dons de la Nature (not a French restaurant, despite the name) might be more enjoyable for him.

              1. re: gkanai

                Thank you. Which do you think is the best Seryna in Tokyo? Roppongi, Ginza or Shinjuku?

                1. re: Foodie Fiend

                  I think you want to go to the Seryna Honten, which is the "main" one. I think that's Roppongi. It's a bit old school (they're something of an institution here). I haven't been to Ginza or Shinjuku so I can't say for sure.

        2. I've never been to Ryujin, but the best meal I've ever had in Japan was at Kanda. That said, many dishes were subtle and I don't know if someone who very familiar and kind of obsessed with the ingredients would have enjoyed it as much as I did. I guess that's true for many kaiseki experiences though. From the (many) reviews I've read about Ryujin, I would have to say that even if it has gone more traditional many Japanese chefs would still consider it more of a fusion style. If you're not excited at paying a $50 for a freshly dug Kyoto bamboo shoot just grilled with salt, then Ryujin may be a more enjoyable experience for you. And example of what I mean: I had a dish of hamaguri clams and fresh wakame "shabu shabu" that was one of the best dished I have ever had in Japan in my life. For someone who doesn't eat wakame and hamaguri all the time, this probably would have been extremely boring, but the quality of ingredients was truly extraordinary. Also, I sat at the counter at Kanda and I was unimpressed with the atmosphere, although Kanda San was VERY nice to us. Still, as far as flavors go, the food I had at Kanda was IMHO the best representation of the flavors that true Japanese technique produces that I have ever experienced. For what it's worth, I'm a professional chef and I have trained in Japanese food for many years. That doesn't really mean anything other than the fact that I care more about some things more than a non-professional, and my palate, for better or worse, is kind of skewed. I don't think you can really go wrong either way. Also regarding your husband, I didn't have anything I consider really "adventurous" there. Have fun!

          13 Replies
          1. re: brandon g

            Sorry, I don't know why I keep writing Ryujin instead of Ryugin.

            1. re: brandon g

              Kanda is excellent. Even the sushi rice there in my view matched the sushi rice at some of the very best sushi restaurants (Kanda served a piece of mushroom sushi when I went).

              Having said that, last time I went to Ryugin, it was very strictly traditional kaiseki. There was absolutely nothing that could be considered fusion style. Chef Yamamoto gradually phased that out completely. I thought that was a great shame because there are many incredible kaiseki places around, but there was only one Ryugin. But it was still an unbelievable experience..

              1. re: Asomaniac

                Is it only a set menu at Ryugin + Kanda, or can you do a la carte?

                1. re: Foodie Fiend

                  Ryugin now offers a la carte again (they used to and then stopped). BUT: only from 9pm, and you can't reserve in advance.

                2. re: Asomaniac

                  I found the whole experience at Ryugin is still very different from traditional kaiseki. Such as dishes which he uses dry shrimp to make a jelly sauce with egg custard combined with uni, and the red wine used in the strawberry parfait with a ovened presentation. The chef's way of cooking really makes it stand-out from the big selection of restaurant in Japan.

                  1. re: skylineR33

                    We had none of that. We had something very Japanese with wasanbon for dessert, no strawberry parfait and red wine sauce. Went with Uncle Yabai last time round, our resident kaiseki expert, who also felt it was extremely traditional kaiseki. When did you last go? If recently, maybe Yamamoto still mixes it up once in a while.

                    1. re: Asomaniac

                      Hi Asomaniac, I was there last week. It is really an unique outstanding meal I think. The dessert is a new creation according to what the chef said, he even draws out a design diagram for it, it tastes so good ....

                      But yes, it is not what it was before.

                      1. re: skylineR33

                        anyone knows what is inside ryugin's alacarte menu??

                        1. re: Lucil

                          I would have thought everything that is in the set menus - at least that was the case a few years back when they used to have a la carte. Not sure if that has changed; might be worth checking on the Ryugin website.

                          1. re: Asomaniac

                            From my understanding, there is no more a la carte at Ryugin ... there is only one menu priced at around $23000, unless I remember incorrectly.

                            1. re: skylineR33

                              Incorrect. They have recently introduced a la carte again. See also their website. But only for diners after 9 p.m. and tyou cannot make a reservation if you want to go a la carte, so you can pop in after 9 provided seats are available, but if you have reserved, you would only have had the menu option.

                              1. re: Asomaniac

                                i see, I was there before 9pm so they said there is no a la carte.

                                1. re: skylineR33

                                  Ryugin did use to be a lot more user-friendly - back in the day when it was very innovative, they had three set menus at very different prices, plus a la carte as well. There was some sort of restriction on a la carte, but I think it was 7:30pm. Then they got rid of a la carte completely and introduced the one single menu. Maybe some long term customers kept pestering them about reintroducing a la carte, or they get such request from many new customers.

              2. I was a little disappointed with Kanda - there were some very nice dishes, but on the whole I did not feel I got good value for Y23k. For that sort of money I would much rather eat at Mizutani & Butagumi, both of which I love.

                Last time I was in Tokyo I was going to eat at Ryugin, but I was slightly put off by my Kanda experience so in the end I didn't go.