4F, Omiya Bldg, 4-3-2 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
It is mandatory, at least for me, to end my Japan trip with a tremendously outstanding kaiseki meal. Not on a super high budget, I was happy to have found one 2 michelin starred restaurant, Ren, that serves an excellent kaiseki meal (10 courses) for 13600 yen after tax. Though not highly publicised, Ren** is actually from the venerable Ishikawa group that owns the eponymous Ishikawa*** and Kohaku** restaurants. Indeed, with 7* tugged tightly under Ishikawa’s belt, Ren has thrilled us greatly, especially so with its seemingly simple ingredients and cooking techniques. Lets examine why!
Our first course- Simmered turnip covered with cod milt (soft roe) drizzled with Yuzu Citrus. The overall taste was lifted by the yuzu citrus to give the creamy milt and tender turnip a refreshing edge.
How often do we get to see our snow crab slowly grilled in front of us! The freshness of this Crab meat is reinforced by simmering the meat in its own naturally sweet juice. And its seafood flavour is perfected with a thick creamy roe topping.
A slightly simpler dish over here, though I believe much effort has been put in, this deep fried bamboo shoot and Kinme Snapper tasted perfect as the moist naturally sweet meat was encapsulated in a crispy, ethereal batter.
Having not had turtle in my life before, this turtle soup came as an epiphany to us. The most outstanding thing that came through was the smooth, tender texture of the turtle meat that is cleverly complemented by the springy crunchy Julienne vegetables in this clear broth. Flavour was intensely tasty without a single hint of MSG.
Looking simple, this Kyoto Taro was actually steamed till the flesh is slightly molten followed by a quick frying to lock the moisture in. This beefy piece of taro was then grilled till a light syrupy texture was formed and the excess oil is removed at the same time to the point that you wouldn’t suspect any frying was involved! Without any seasoning, this taro tasted excellent on its own and I believe that justified the 2** already.
This may perhaps be the most polished bowl of hotpot that I’ve ever had! Glossy and moist Simmered Spanish mackerel was exquisitely topped with the thinly sliced whale skin and perhaps the silkiest tofu you can ever have. This highly flavoured Potherb mustard infused soup was savoured to the last drop.
But what thrilled us the most was how finely this piece of Japanese cucumber was chopped into. It was indeed Japanese art on display as these slim slices were not separated from each other at all. You could imagine how crunchy the overall texture this cucumber could be!
And that’s the humble head chef for us that day who made the effort to communicate with us in English. Don’t be surprised if you were to bump into him at the first floor as he will run all the way down from the 4th to bid you goodbye! Just like all head chefs in Tokyo, they do indeed command lots of respect in the kitchen as you could witness the sous chef and younger chefs returning to get his opinion on the flavour of the soup, or what more should be done to make it an excellent experience for the customers. I guess what earned Ren the stars was really the ability to exhibit the refinement of simple ingredients with finesse!
PS: Do take note of the really small 蓮 sign written in the background! This is how inconspicuous these Michelin restaurants are!
Verdict: Definitely, an excellent restaurant!