Ryu is an upscale Japanese restaurant located on 5 on the Bund, Shanghai. They had been gathering many accolades and great reviews from diners all over Shanghai, and had won Best Japanese Restaurant in Shanghai Restaurant Week 2 years in a row now.
Similar to Hakkasan, seats for Ryu in Shanghai Restaurant Week usually get snatched up within 30 minutes of launch. Hence I was really excited when my friend told me he had secured a dinner at Ryu for winners edition.
I apologize but I am going to be making many comparisons to Hakkasan in this review of Ryu, since Hakkasan is considered the Rolls Royce of ‘Asian’ fine dining on the Bund.
The decor at Ryu resembled that of Hakkasan — slick, modern, low profile lighting.
The ambience passed the criteria for a Bund restaurant with flying colours, with tables very comfortably spaced apart and comfortable seating. 9/10
Service was also top notch, with servers being very polite and attentive, providing very little interference during our meals. Dishes were cleared promptly inbetween courses, and courses arrived at a comfortable pacing. I liked that our Sukiyaki dish was prepared and served by our waitress at the table, and prior to serving, she actually asked me if I would like to taste the sweetness level of the stew; Whether or not we would like it to be tweaked. 9/10
One of the highlights of the Shanghai Restaurant Week set menus at Ryu was not only the quantity, but also the quantity. In total, we were served 9 courses. Compared to many other places who only serve a 3 course dinner, the 258rmb restaurant week deal really gave those places a run for their money.
Home-made Crab and Corn Beancurd with Hokkaido Salmon Roe and Sea Urchin
This was the amuse bouche. When one gets served uni, crab and ikura for an amuse bouche, you pretty much know that the rest of the meal is going to be epic, because the next courses are simply going to top the amuse. The uni was fresh and creamy, combined with the slippery tofu. A gush of extra salty umami flowed throughout the palate when the pearls of ikura burst in the mouth. 9/10
Steamed Egg Custard with Truffle and Abalone
This was Ryu’s Chawanmushi, which came in a pretty little bowl with the lid aligned properly, attention to detail passed.
The truffle was pretty much a gimmick, as with most applications of truffle in many restaurants. That said, the chawanmushi was superbly executed, well seasoned and delicate in texture. The piece of abalone was tender, not chewy and still contained the flavours of the sea in it. 8.5/10
Grilled Eel Kabayaki, Abalone and Seared Chestnuts
The english translation of this dish was erroneous; The seared chestnuts part was actually a cooked oyster. The piece of grilled eel, while small, was packed full of flavour. What really shoned through the dish was the abalone paired with the oyster.
The oyster was almost like some sort of a confit, whose flavour was superbly concentrated, and further enhanced by the subtle richness of the abalone bits. The umami simply keeps on stacking up. 9/10
Crispy Salad with Seared Salmon and Avocado, Sesame Dressing
Next up to cleanse the palate abit was this salad. The crispy bits came in the form of deep-fried chinese noodles. The salmon was lightly seared, and medium rare, allowing one to taste their freshness. If only there were slightly more of it, as there were only two pieces.
Nevertheless, the greens were fresh and crunchy, and went very well with the classic Japanese sesame dressing. A well executed, albeit conservative dish. The crispy noodles didn’t do much for the dish, in my opinion. 8/10
Spring Soup in Lucky Tea Pot with Hokkaido Sea Bream
This soup, as the name suggested came in the form of a tea pot, and employed a small japanese sake cup to consume it. It was a very clear but flavourful fish consomme, with just a bit of fishiness masked with the smokey flavours of bonito dashi.
It was, quite a nice palate cleanser and very comforting in this classic Shanghai Spring-Winter weather. A squeeze of lime brightened up the soup and instantly removed any hints of fishiness. 8/10
Ryu Wagyu Sukiyaki with Cotton Candy topped with Gold Leaf
This was Ryu’s signature, and had 3 keywords to sell the dish: Wagyu, Cotton Candy and Gold Leaf. The gold leaf was another classic gimmick, because other than the rarity, edible gold leaf has very little value in terms of flavour. What stood out, was the use of cotton candy.
The Sukiyaki pot came with a giant piece of cotton candy placed in it.
I pinched a piece of the cotton candy to have a taste as the fire was lit to melt and caramelise it. The cotton candy was denser than the usual cotton candy on a stick, and tasted less sweet.
About 1 minute in, the cotton candy had completely melted, and started to form a caramel in the pot. At this point, our waitress placed the beautifully marbled pieces of wagyu beef into it, and our noses captured the whiff of wagyu beef fat sizzling embracing the caramelised cotton candy.
Since this was a fully serviced dish, I allowed the waitress to do her thing. Unfortunately, I was appalled that she decided to fully cook the wagyu beef slices before serving each of us with 2 slices each. Sadly, at that point, the what-would-have-been-buttery beef slices had already been seared to rubbery slabs. The saving grace was that the muscle tissues still remained easy to break apart because of the intense marbling. However, 10 seconds on each side would have been more than sufficient and achieve the melt-in-the-mouth texture.
After we were served our beef, our server proceeded to place the vegetables, systematically into the pot, after she had deglazed the pot with the sukiyaki broth.
10-15 minutes later, I was asked to have a taste of the broth and vegetables, to see if they were sweet enough or overly sweetened for our liking. I had a taste, and gave her the go-ahead to split the contents of the pot evenly amongst the 3 of us. Lovely.
I always feel that eating Sukiyaki is a truly comforting thing to do; Very different from the Chinese hot pot. The vegetables were well cooked with the perfect degree of firmness / tenderness.
It didn’t take long before we cleaned our bowls empty. 8.5/10
Sakura Sushi Bowl with 17 Seasonal Ingredients
To be honest, I was already feeling surprisingly filled after the Sukiyaki dish. Yet, it was only the start of our barrage of mains. Next up was the sashimi course, which came in the form of a Chirashi Don.
It was beautifully presented, and truly contained 17 seasonal ingredients, ranging from Salmon, Tuna, Botan Ebi, regular Ebi, Tobiko, Uni, Eel, and more. Insane.
All of the ingredients, from the fish to the vegetables tasted fresh and bright. The rice was perfectly seasoned with the perfect balance of salt, mirin and vinegar and complemented every bite of seafood. One of the best Chirashi Dons I’ve ever had. 9.5/10
Question though, are you actually supposed to eat anything from the raw prawn head? I always wonder about that.
Last but not least, was the Sushi course.
We were served abalone, tuna and uni sushi that evening. The salmon was marinated, lightly torched and bursting with richness.
The abalone was cooked and tender, and seemed to have been paired with something else, possibly tuna.
The uni, was simply, uni. Paired with a fresh and crispy piece of nori, it was the perfect way to end the onslaught. 9/10
Home-made Nougat, Black Sesame Ice Cream
I love nougat, and the home-made version at Ryu simply knocked my socks off. It was a soft, cakey type of nougat, but still contained the milky taste that I love from nougat.
Black sesame ice cream is not really my cup of tea, but it was decent.
All in all, it was a very novel dessert, the nougat was something I’ve not seen on a plate in a very, very long time. 8/10