Mom and I celebrated her birthday at Ryu of Japan after reading an awesome review by Boots in the Oven. My parents' favorite cuisine is Japanese. Dad can't get enough of sashimi and sukiyaki while mom can't do without hamachi kama.
We decided to skip ordering dinner entrees altogether in favor of several courses of appetizers.
We began with a small dish of monkfish liver, which unsurprisingly has a texture similar to foie gras but on the drier side. It was quite delicious but I kept wishing I could pair each bite with a carb like rice or baguette!
Ankimo (monkfish liver)
The Ryu Special was basically a trio of sashimi (tuna, salmon, and yellowtail) rolled up in cucumber. This was light and summery, delicious but hard to keep intact.
Ryu's Special - salmon, yellowtail, and tuna sashimi wrapped in cucumber with shiso and roe
Agedashi tofu is as standard as udon at Japanese restaurants but Ryu's is heavenly. The broth that the fried pieces of tofu was soaking in really made this dish sing.
I was a bit underwhelmed by the ginger eggplant. It was good, but a little bland even with the lovely curling bonito shavings.
Nasu No Shogayaki - ginger eggplant with bonito shavings
Mom and I always reminisce about the whole grilled squid served at the cafeteria in the Japanese department store, Shirokiya, in Honolulu. I grew up scarfing down Shirokiya's smokey ikayaki. We were super excited to see ikayaki on Ryu's menu, but this version just can't compare to Shirokiya's. It's a bit tough and although it's grilled, Ryu's ika doesn't have that intense smokiness present in Shirokiya's version.
Ikayaki - grilled squid
No Japanese meal is complete without hamachi kama for my mom. This was simply prepared with a sprinkle of salt and grilled. This dish never falters.
Hamachi Kama - yellowtail collar
The next few dishes were fillers for the meal. The trio of sashimi were fresh, the spider roll was a bit heavy on the eel sauce but otherwise quite satisfying, and the hotate hokkai was my one regret. Instead of whole scallops, we got scallop bits that were indiscernible among the bigger chunks of chopped krab and smothered in spicy mayo. It was a wreck.
Salmon, Tuna, and Yellowtail Sashimi
Hotate Hokkai - broiled scallops with roe and mayo
But rather than leave you with a bad impression, the overall meal was delicious and affordable. I've complained about how I can't seem to find a traditional Japanese restaurant that doesn't break the bank in Austin, and Ryu has given me a reason to stop whining.
Happy Birthday, Mom!