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Mar 5, 2012 11:09 PM

Les Creations de Narisawa or Nihonryori Ryugin?


I am torn between dinner @ Narisawa or Ryugin? Perhaps Narisawa for lunch? This is my first trip back to Tokyo is a very long time and have been itching to go to Ryugin for quite some time now - however, I understand his food has become more authentic than avante garde. I feel Narisawa is more modern, which I prefer, but can't find a sample menu anywhere.

Currently I have reservations at Quintessence, Restaurant Joel Robuchon & Sant Pau for lunch. Looking to add a big time spot (Narisawa, Ryugin and something much more traditional) to the dinner line-up. Any suggestions???

Thank you in advance!

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  1. Narisawa is the most grossly overhyped restaurant I have been to in Tokyo.The definition of Emperor's New Clothes. The dinner I had there was laughable in view of the inflated price and foreign (and Japanese) press accolades. Using certain now slightly outdated "cutting edge" techniques like liquid nitrogen inappropriately and gratuitously etc. Ridiculous. The food was actually quite good, but for the price there are many much better places around (I would happily recommend the place if dinner cost half of what it does cost).

    Having said that, maybe they do good lunch deals. I went for dinner.

    Ryugin on the other hand I really like. The OP is right that the cooking has become more traditional than it used to be, but the food is excellent. The only downside is that, inexplicably, they have off-days from time to time and it's hard to see why, given that whenever I experienced a bit of an off-day, the owner-chef was actually in the kitchen so they do not suffer from the problem common to many top restaurants where the chefs become celebrities and spend more time on TV than in the kitchen of their restaurant.

    14 Replies
    1. re: Asomaniac

      After your reply and further research, I've decided to forget about Narisawa. Any suggestions on a top-tier traditional Japanese spot? Might cancel at Robuchon (Worth it?); very excited about Ryugin & Quintessence....

      1. re: Big C

        Good idea to cancel Robuchon. Nothing wrong with it, but also nothing particularly amazing or special about it. The food is consistently fine, but totally generic. It could be a Robuchon anywhere in the world. There are many much more exciting options that are unique to Tokyo, including lots of top class French (if you want to swap like-for-like).

        For a traditional Japanese lunch spot I probably don't know what the best places are as I do not tend to do lunch at formal places, unsually just dinner. Having said that, I really like an Okinawan take on kaiseki for lunch in Akasaka. It is called Akasaka Tantei. Here is an English language link that has the address:

        They do a very nice kaiseki lunch for 4,500 yen (or bento for 1,990 or something like that, but I would recommend the kaiseki).

        1. re: Asomaniac

          every day i check the japan boards, and every day the name of a new restaurant pops up that makes my to-go list longer. haha.

          very intrigued by akasaka tantei. thanks for the rec asomaniac! will put it on my list =)

        2. re: Big C

          Have you already taken the trip? I went to Narisawa and RyuGin on the same trip and had dinner at both places. I can appreciate both. I really liked RyuGin and my gf thought it was the best meal of the trip for her. It's more traditional - including the presentation - but you can still see some non-Japanese touches like liquid nitrogen.

          I find Narisawa a little more philosophically "wacko" which leaves me thinking "what the ???" That said, the food tasted great and the dessert trolley was just… My dinner included more than one course where he insisted on turning spring onions into black carbon and using it to flavor the dish. There's liquid nitrogen, but also an ancient technique of basting beef in hot oil to slow-cook it. This place may be a little too much for some to handle.

          I reviewed both meals on my blog - Diary of a Growing Boy - in August 2010.

          1. re: Peech

            Actually leaving for HK tomorrow then Taipei...will be in Tokyo by next Tuesday. Cancelled my Narisawa reservation after talking to some Chef friends who've gone. I'm opting to go with something more traditional, but haven't narrowed down my selection yet....looking for something kappo style (i.e. ishikawa)....keeping my Ryugin reservation.

            Actually a big fan of your blog...great 411.

            1. re: Big C

              thanks for the compliment. Hope u enjoy HK, Taipei and Tokyo

              1. re: Peech

                So after two Michelin stops in HK...Tim Ho Wan & Ye's safe to say the standards in HK are nowhere near Western Michelin standards.

                Only good thing about Tim Ho Wan was it was cheap (Pork buns where not that great)...and Ye Shanghai was the upscale atmosphere. Still have Bo Innovation & Lung King Heen on the list...along with many casual stops, where I figure I will find more satisfaction. I am expecting a much higher standard for Tokyo....hopefully I will not be disappointed.

                1. re: Big C

                  Bo Innovation will also disappoint you. It will disappoint anyone with actual taste buds and a sense of proportion (value for money wise).

                  1. re: Asomaniac

                    darn! I knew I was missing something… now I know it's taste buds… how will I be able to go on?! =)

                    1. re: Peech

                      If you liked Bo Innovation, maybe you went when the chef was actually there, or after they lost a Michelin star which may or may not have given them the kick up the backside they needed, I don't know. What I do know is that the food must have been a damn side better than when I went.

                      When I went they served smelly raw fish, i.e., the opposite of fresh, very poor quality ingredient in a very expensive restaurant - unforgivable - and lots of bull***t pseudo-innovative nonsense that's passe, like a massive ball of something in liquid nitrogen, very large sized and therefore much too big to put into your mouth in one go, given how cold it was.

                      Some dishes were good, some were awful, the wine matching was very hit-and-miss (with more misses than hits) and the whole thing was very overpriced for what was served.

                      Hard to know whether they got so many accolades because this type of restaurant in quite unique in the Hong Kong context, rather than purely for the quality of the food served. I hope that they just had an off-day when I went (and I am not willling to risk going again for that money given that I could be spending it at The Chairman instead), though I have heard and read many reviews that were similar to mine so my expereince does not seem to have been unique. Out of all sub-par experiences in highly rated restaurants I have had, Bo Innovation competes for number 1 spot (with Hamadaya in Tokyo) as the most disappointing and overpriced experience. Bleh!

                      1. re: Asomaniac

                        I had a solid meal @ Bo. It was innovative but not amazing; definitely nobody else doing what he's doing out there w/ some of the Cantonese inspired dishes. Chef Alvin was there and cooked for the group I was in. At the end of the day, it is all about flavor and some of the dishes just didn't come together but I do respect what they are doing from an innovation standpoint.

                        1. re: Big C

                          Sounds a lot better than my experience. I wouldn't complain that loudly if things had been solid. Maybe I was just particularly unlucky. Alvin wasn't there when I went, though that should ideally not impact on the food (and they should never ever serve old, smelly raw tuna). They need to get a new sommelier as well (preferably one who knows how to combine food with wine) if they still have the one they had when I went.

                  2. re: Big C

                    @Big C: You went to the wrong places. Typical for tourists who depend on Michelin Guide on Hong Kong.

                    1. re: Big C

                      If you are still unsure about where to go in Tokyo -- maybe consider an amazing tempura experience at Mikawa? You'll want to go to the Mikawa in Monzennakacho ( the one run by Saotome-san). Saotome-san is the original Mikawa master, though I have not tried the other -- I believe the chef at the original location is his son.

          2. I just returned from a week in Tokyo. While I did not try Narisawa, we had an excellent meal at RyuGin. Certainly strongly recommended. Our taste runs towards modernist cooking, and I'd add 2 options to this list. We had an excellent meal, perhaps a bit more traditional and definitely harder to describe, at Kodama. This chef places a bit less emphasis on the photo ready composition of the plate, but the experience and the taste of the food are extraordinary. The fact that this place was not packed and is rarely mentioned on Chowhound surprised me.

            Our best meal in Japan was at Aronia de Takazawa. I'm not recommending it for those who do not like a meal that strives to tease your intellect at the same time it pleases your mouth. But I'd love to hit the lotto and eat here every couple of weeks. It was much more intimate and personal an experience than RyuGin (the overhead video camera there really creeped us out - I'd rather wait a bit longer for my overpriced glass of mineral water to be filled). Great cooking, service, and vibe - you really understand the chef is intimately involved in every detail of every plate, and you get all the benefits.

            1 Reply
            1. re: marcf

              I will be at Ryugin tomorrow....very much looking forward to it. Ended up choosing Ishikawa and will be there on Saturday.

            2. Try both! I made it to Aronia de Takazawa, RyuGin and Les Creations de Narisawa. They were all unique and I don't think I would be able to pick between them. Good luck!

              I reviewed them here: