This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Asia with one of my best friends. Little did I know, I was about to have an insane experience at a Michelin restaurant in Japan. I have never been to Japan and have always dreamed of visiting Tokyo and connecting with the Asian half of my roots. Japan is a powerhouse of critically acclaimed restaurants and constantly prove so as Tokyo and Kyoto rank first and second on the list of cities with the most Michelin stars. 

There are 12 establishments in Tokyo that hold the title of being a three-star Michelin restaurant. I had the great honor of visiting one of these restaurants during my time in Japan. Ryugin is a restaurant based mainly on the idea of "kaiseki," which is the term for a multi-course, traditional Japanese dinner. The chefs also utilize fairly unique techniques such as molecular gastronomy and even practices of modern medicine. One of the most famous examples was when an eel was sent through a CT scan in order to discover the optimal way to cut it. Chef-owner Seiji Yamamoto was named as the top 5th best chef in the world by French magazine Le Chef, so you know this man is killing the game. 

Keeping Calm: Walking Into Ryugin

When you enter Ryugin, you walk through a waiting area where you are met with a thick yet pleasurable scent of incense. The reception workers take your coats and bags and then lead you through a dimly lit corridor into the main dining room. The dining room is filled with beautiful art and the tables are set with gorgeous embroidered floral table runners and antique Japanese plates. 

The Rules

At the beginning of the meal, your waiter lets you select your sake glass for the evening. The tableware at Ryugin consists of priceless antiques: from crystal glasses to hand-painted dishes, the restaurant enforces strict rules around customer behavior. For example, It is encouraged that you do not take any photos. If you must snap a shot in the restaurant, you must do so in a way that is at a safe distance from the dishes. This is partly to establish a form of accident prevention since the plates and cups are old and presumably super expensive. Additionally, they really want patrons to be in the moment and intake the food through all of their senses--not their cameras. These rules are probably common for any three-star Michelin restaurant in Japan or any establishment who takes their food seriously. I really wanted to be in the moment and be respectful at Ryugin, but I really wanted to have photos to look back on so I snuck a few in of some of my favorites. 

Appetizers: Basically I Ate Shark

The meal starts out with two appetizers that are focused on contrast: one is hot and the other cold. The above dish is uni (sea urchin) wrapped in seaweed and lightly fried which sits atop a bed of pureed edamame. The bowl on the top right is a cold sweet corn soup with a salted rim. I personally love uni so I was ecstatic when this came out. The buttery smooth uni mixed with the crunchy exterior was truly glorious.

My favorite part of this appetizer was actually the soup. The flavor was so naturally sweet that it tasted like the freshest, smoothest, most flavorful corn I have ever had. Adding the salt on the rim was truly genius as it contrasted the sweet and creamy soup. 

When the second appetizer was announced and placed in front of us, I had a "deer in the headlights," what do I do moment. The dish was shark fin soup with yam and water chestnuts. I do not support the practice of harvesting shark fins, yet most parts of Asia regard shark fin as a culinary delicacy. In Japan, it is considered rude to leave food on your plate because it is a sign of waste. I really did not want to be rude and get shamed during my first experience at a Michelin restaurant in Japan so I ended up eating the soup.

Shark fin is interesting in that it tastes and looks like clear glass noodles. The water chestnuts in the soup were really crunchy and delightful. Overall it was an enjoyable dish flavor-wise, yet I hope I will not have to encounter shark fin again.

Fish Courses: Dinner and a Show

Samantha Yoshino

This is a sashimi dish that consists of three different types of fish. Each plate of fish had its own unique topping ranging from mustard to radish to chives. My favorite was the white fish on the green plate because it had jellied soy sauce as its topping. I haven't had soy sauce in any form but the sauce so this was a really fun experience for me. Also, can we just appreciate the presentation here, I wish all my food looked as pretty as those little sashimi plates. 

Samantha Yoshino

This next dish is one of Ryugin's signatures and is referred as "Swimming Ayu Fish". Each tiny fish is skewered, sprinkled with salt, and grilled with a special white charcoal. The hot stone is placed in front of you first and then the waiter brings out this basket that literally looks like a huge crystal basketball hoop that is packed with leaves and fronds and even has a mini birdcage looking structure on the top. Somehow there is also smoke billowing out from somewhere in the basket--at this point, I just shut up and enjoyed the show.

The fish rested on a metal grate that sat on top of the basket. The waiter carefully placed each fish on our hot stones making sure to stand them up in a way that made them look like they were swimming. The waiter instructed us to first eat the head, then the body, and finally the tail in which we were to dip only the tail in the special sauce. I was excited because I never ate a whole entire fish, eyes and fins and all. The flavor was really unique: slightly bitter yet toasty and salty. The best part of the fish was the crispy tail with the sour tasting watermelon sauce, I would pay some big bucks for that bite again. 

Meat Courses: I Ate a "Flower" and Wagyu Beef

Samantha Yoshino

This dish was one that was most simple, yet it quickly became one of my favorites. I believe this course was minimalistic in order to highlight the prime Sanuki Olive Wagyu Beef.  All I have to say is that sometimes, less is more. I have never had beef that was so soft and tender and straight up melt-in your mouth, mind-blowingly good. I would come back just to eat that amazing Sanuki Wagyu.

Samantha Yoshino

This was one of the last courses of the meal. The waiters put out pickled veggies and a huge clay pot full of chicken rice that we got to serve ourselves. However, the star of the show here is the beautiful "Chrysanthemum" soup. This dish is a homage to the national flower of Japan, the Chrysanthemum. It is essentially a miso soup with a meticulously cut block of tofu that is formed into a blooming Chrysanthemum flower. I felt bad eating the flower but when I did I discovered a super creamy and delicious piece tofu. All I have to say about this course is: Umami

Desserts: When You're Ballin' You Get to Have Two

Samantha Yoshino

Japan is famous for its popular alcoholic drink, sake. I enjoyed quite a few cups of this drink during my time at dinner and I can only describe it as a cross between hard alcohol and dry white wine. This is just my interpretation, alcohol snobs please don't come for me, I am an innocent. 

However, while drinking sake is fun, I prefer intaking this beverage in dessert form. Pictured above is a fluffy sake soufflé accompanied with a creamy, sweet sake ice cream. The flavors in this dish were extraordinary and grabbing a little warm soufflé with some cold ice cream sent me into a sake coma. Also, eating this dessert with a mother of pearl spoon probably made the experience 10 times better.

Samantha Yoshino

The other dessert was shave ice with grapes and a berry drizzling sauce. The fruit in Japan is like twice the size of the fruit we have here. Some of the grapes are seriously almost the size of ping-pong balls.

After this course, we finished the meal with a bowl of super high-quality matcha. I am a matcha fiend and this flavor has been all-the-rage for the last couple of years. Yet while most places over-sweeten their matcha and lose the flavor of the tea, Ryugin keeps it super simple by allowing the matcha to speak for itself. What you end up with is a truly creamy and delicious bowl of comfort.

Extras: This Michelin Restaurant in Japan Doesn't Play

This is the water cup that Ryugin gives you. It is a glass that somehow has a mini version of the famous Mt. Fuji carved into the bottom. I do not know how this was created but all I have to say is shout out to the creator of these glasses. Drinking Mt. Fuji water from a Mt. Fuji glass made me feel bougie AF. 

Samantha Yoshino

Quick sidenote: The bathroom in the place is insane. Someone could probably live out of there. There was flavored water, hand cream, and even oil blotting sheets for crying out loud! I am the oiliest person ever so I really appreciated this. I don't know who is in charge of this, but whoever it is needs a raise. If all restaurants could copy what this Michelin restaurant in Japan is doing with their bathrooms, the world would be a better place. 

At the end of the meal you get to take home your chopsticks and the menu as souvenirs of your meal. I've never heard of a restaurant offering presents at the end of the meal so I was super pumped because, you know, free stuff people!  

Dear Ryugin...

After consuming this amazing meal and experiencing one of Tokyo's top restaurants, I can truly say that I have crossed off a major goal on my bucket list. My first experience at this three-star Michelin restaurant in Japan is one I will never forget.  Ryugin is a restaurant where the creativity and craftsmanship of the food truly show the pride that is behind this amazing establishment. The people of Japan and those within its restaurant world excel not just because they use ingredients of the highest quality, but because the chefs and creative minds in the kitchens truly care about what they put on your plate. The world along with myself applauds Chef Yamamoto and his talented team. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to experience the true masterpiece that is Ryugin.

Chef Yamamoto, I hope we meet again. 


An Ever Hungry Fan


I would like to thank Mr. Glenn Tsunekawa for generously taking me and Shelby to this awesome Michelin restaurant in Japan. I will seriously never be able to repay your kindness. Also, I want to thank Ms. Yurina for gifting us the beautiful Mt. Fuji glasses, I will treasure mine forever! 

Want to Dive Deeper into the Michelin Star World? Check out these articles: 

This is How Difficult it is to Earn a Michelin Star

Meet the Only Man to Have Eaten at Every 3 Michelin-Starred Restaurant

Why Being a Michelin Inspector is Basically Like Being a Spy