RyuGin is the 3 Michelin star restaurant of chef Yamamoto in Tokyo. We had the pleasure to dine there in 2011 and it was one of the best and most memorable dining experiences we’ve ever had. So when I found out there is a branch of RyuGin in Taipei, I did not hesitate and booked a table right away for our trip to Taiwan. Please note that Michelin does not rate restaurants in Taiwan, but if they would this would certainly get at least two stars in my opinion, if not three. (You can book a table through the website. A credit card deposit is required. Reservations for a certain month are accepted from the 1st of the month prior, so reservations for February are available from January 1st, and so on.) RyuGin in Taipei is not a copy of the restaurant in Japan. It uses the same philosophy and menu structure (a modern version of kaiseki), but using Taiwanese ingredients. The 11-course degustation menu is TWD 7,150 (200 euros) with wine or sake or mixed wine and sake pairing for NTD 3,080 (86 euros). The wine pairing does not include aperitif or dessert wine, for which we spent an additional NTD 1540 (43 euros) per person. These prices are very reasonable compared to restaurants of the same level internationally, but for Taiwan it is 20 times what you would pay for a meal in a normal restaurant. This however is definitely not normal for Taiwan.
The menu includes a map of Taiwan, indicating where the ingredients come from.
The wine collection is impressive, especially considering that none of the other restaurants we dined at in Taiwan served wine at all (only beer and soft drinks).
The amuse bouche: red shrimp marinated in shaoxing wine. Wonderful texture and flavor. For an aperitif we had a Taiwanese sparkling wine made using a second fermentation in the bottle (like Champagne). It was very nice and very special.
First course: clams in a turnip soup with green onion oil, paired very well with a 2014 blanc-de-blancs champagne. The combination of turnips with clams was very nice. 9/10
Second course: tuna tartare with coriander, local caviar, and crispy tofu skin. The wine pairing was amazing with a Chablis Grand Cru from 2007. The wine was already very good, but the dish made it even better. 9/10
Third course: eel with tomato. A very intense tomato flavor and unctuous eel, paired very well with a sake. 9/10
The vegetable fern soup with bamboo, snap beans, and threadfin fish was very nice and did not come with a wine pairing.
The sashimi of squid, bonito, and red sea bream was of impeccable freshness, and paired very well with another sake. The bonito was to die for. 10/10
Taiwan makes its own bottarga, and here shavings of it were served together with butterfish and crown daisy. The combination of three worked very well together, and also with a very nice sake that was almost like wine. 10/10
Ox tongue (cooked sous-vide for 24 hours at 68C/154F) with radish and magau in a beef broth. There is usually no wine pairing, but on our request it was paired excellently with a 2007 Viré-Clessé. The tongue was very tender and juicy and this was very nice. 9/10
Squab, the breast grilled and the leg deep fried, served on rosemary with some smoke. Paired very well with a 2012 Hermitage. The squab was perfectly cooked and had a great flavor. 10/10
Koshi-hikari rice with clams, green onions, and tomato. 8/10
As by the Japanese tradition, the rice was served with pickles and miso soup. No wine pairing.
First dessert: different types of citrus, paired very well with an Auslese Riesling from Rheingau. 9/10
Red beans with leicha powder, paired with a ratafia (mixture of grape most and brandy) from Pinot Noir grapes from Champagne. Another great pairing. 9/10
From left to right: the sommelier, Kees, the chef, me, and the maître and our server. They did a great job.
As mentioned in the introduction, this is top cuisine at an international level. The dishes are very well balanced, elegant, and refined. No bold flavors here, but subtle and very detailed and allowing the ingredients to shine. 9.5/10 for the food.
The wine pairings are outstanding. All the wines and sakes were great by themselves as well as great pairings. This is very rare anywhere and very special in Taiwan where most restaurants do not sell wine at all. Even more special that millesime champagne and Grand Cru wines are included in a very reasonably priced wine pairing. 10/10 for the wine.
The service was very good. The meal was perfectly paced, everything was explained very well, and both the maitre and sommelier speak good English. 9/10 for the service.
Our high expectations were definitely met. We will certainly return next time we go to Taiwan.