Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ryu, I choose you! Tapas attack! It's super effective!

I'm pretty sure I've used the 'I choose you' joke already, but whatevs. Pokemon is classic, yo.

Ryu is a tapas-inspired Japanese fusion restaurant located in Outrement, conveniently situated on Laurier. Their menu consists mainly of small, appetizer-like dishes of both the hot and cold variety, as well as a selection of maki rolls. 

Ryu is one of those restaurants that makes me want to simultaneously curl up in a ball of pleasure while braining myself on a concrete wall. The former is due to the almost epiphany that my taste buds underwent. The latter is due to the equally soul-quaking experience of seeing the bill. [See: poor student]

Accessibility - Grade: B-
Okay, this restaurant isn't that accessible. If you take the metro to Laurier and walk, it'll be about a 20 minute walk. Alternatively, you could take the metro to Place-des-Arts and take the 435 bus to the Laurier, in which case, the restaurant is right there. Either way, it'll take you around 15-20 minutes from a metro.

Service - Grade: A-
Is there such thing as having service being too good? Because that's kinda what happened here. When we first sat down, a waitress came by and explained the whole menu and concept to us with a smile on her face and warmth to her voice. She made recommendations, joked and chatted a bit, then left us to our devices. Then, another waitress came to take our order. After that, we were practically waited on hands and feet.

I think it had to do in part with boredom, since there was about 10 staff members, with five of them being waitresses, while there were only 4 or 5 tables with people. And we were the first ones in, so we were practically lavished with attention. They would bring us napkins when we spilled something before we even realized we had spilled anything. It's like they were constantly monitoring us, ready to spring into action when needed, all the while smiling cheerfully. Creepy? A bit.

...Big Sister is watching youuu!

This restaurant is pretty! The decoration is relatively simple and zen, yet classy, clean and sophisticated. Definitely a nice place for a date. They have outdoor dining too, if you're into that. But since the ambiance is really nice, I guess you should dress up when you come here.

Food - Grade: A-

Tuna Tartare
Did this confuse you too? Because it looks like a dessert. But it's not. Mindblown? Okay, maybe it's just me...

The Tuna Tartare was the first recommendation our waitress made, and boy am I glad we took her suggestion. The dish consists of two types of raw tuna (she didn't specify which) that has been ground up and mixed with avocado, some tempura bits and a bit of spicy mayo. It's topped with caviar, sliced avocado and a fried piece of lotus root. Everything is sitting in a pool of spicy ginger sauce with dollops of mayo.

I've never tried tartare of any kind before this, but if they all taste like this, then I'm never eating anything else. Ever. The tuna and avocado have been ground to a soft paste, and mixed thoroughly so that you don't taste the very slight metallic taste from the tuna. The tempura bits appear at random intervals to add a bit of a crunch to the mix, while the caviar adds a nice juicy 'pop' to the tartar. The spicy ginger sauce isn't very spicy, but it's tangy enough to take away the heaviness of the tuna-avocado mix. Also, for a small dish, it's surprisingly filling.

My friend and I both agree that this was the highlight of the evening.

Club Ryu
The second recommendation came in the form of a funky 'club sandwich-like roll'. I've seen other bloggers recommend this roll, and was curious as to what the hype was about. 

The club is similar to a classic club sandwich in the sense that it's served into small triangles and is speared through by a funky bamboo toothpick. And that's where the similarities end. The filling consists of a mix of scallop, crab meat, avocado, shrimp tempura, and fish roes, all wrapped in a thin layer of sushi rice and enveloped in soy paper. My friend was quite enthralled with this club, from the generous serving of crab meat that they stuff into this bad boy to the dainty little toothpick. Personally, I though the roll was creative, but lacked a bit of the 'oomph' that I thought it would have.

Due to the various types of filling, the roll has a nice mix of spicy and sweet. The accompanying spicy mayo was light enough to bring out the sweetness of the crab and shrimp, but not strong enough to drown out the subtle flavours of the roll. The crab meat was sweet and springy, while the tempura shrimp was crisp and fragrant. As a roll, it was quite good, but I think my expectations were a bit too high; I didn't feel the oomph.

Scallop Ceviche

I couldn't find a good angle for this dish, but it's actually quite pretty, in my opinion. My friend disagrees with me. 

The dish consists ofsliced pieces of raw scallop sitting in a pool of a lime-based sauce. It's topped with pieces of tempura and arugula and drizzled with olive oil. I really liked the concept of this dish. The scallop was sweet, and sliced thin enough to make you crave more after one piece, but enough to satisfy two people. The citrusy sauce was a nice compliment to the natural sweetnes of the scallops, and had just a hint of spiciness mixed in. The greens and tempura added a bit of a refreshing crunch to the dish. One complaint I had was that the scallops lacked a distinct fresh crispiness. 

Lotus roll

Overall, Ryu's maki rolls were pretty good, but weren't as special as their tapas dishes. The fish was fairly fresh, and they were very generous with the filling. Unlike most other Japanese restaurants, Ryu seems to give you more filling and a very thin layer of rice.

Lotus Roll
The lotus roll (named for its pink and green appearance, I guess?) consists of shrimp tempura, crab sticks, spicy crab, flying fish roes and avocado. It's wrapped in thin layer of sushi rice, cabbage leaves and a juicy slice of salmon. This roll tasted a lot like the Ryu Club, since it contained mostly the same ingredients.

Shogun roll
The Shogun is another aptly-named roll. Doesn't it just scream 'samurai general' to you? No? Just me again?

The roll contains the standard goodies you'd expect to find in a maki, which is to say salmon, tuna, avocado, fish roes and cucumber. I'm not a huge fan of black caviar, since I find it tastes too fishy, but the fishiness is really not that noticeable here. Again, pretty standard roll.

Dipping sauces
It's hard being a camera ninja. You tend to end up with some really crooked photos.

Like the classic sushi restaurants, Ryu offers you the option of dipping your rolls in the standard soy sauce with wasabi. Unlike classic sushi restaurants, Ryu also offers you a panel of different types of dipping sauces. I don't remember what all the sauces were, but among them were the spicy ginger, lime and spicy mayo that came with our other dishes. I personally like the lime and spicy ginger. My friend and I discovered that if you eat the shogun with the lime sauce, you get a hint of a green tea after-taste, so try mixing and matching!

Price - $$$$
Hah. We were going to go for the Omakase, which was $60 and consisted of the chef creating a menu for us, but the chef who normally did the omakases wasn't there, so we ended up going a la carte. And our bill ended up being around $75 before tip. Yup, 5 dishes came up to $75. After the meal, our hunger had edged, but we didn't feel sated. Lucky for us, we had one of those Groupon deal things, so it didn't cost us an arm and leg to foot the bill (haaaaaaaaa!), but it was still quite pricey. Still, if you do come across one of those deals, I would recommend getting it just to try this place out. It's worth it, I promise.

Final Grade: B+
So to conclude, this is fusion Japanese done right. The food is creative and tasty, and the chef behind the dishes clearly knew what he was doing. However, as I mentioned before, the prices are nothing to scoff about. Expect to spend a good $50 per person and barely teeter on the precipice of being full. Still, it's definitely worth trying at least once!

(514) 439-6559
288 Laurier Ouest, Montreal
Ryu on Urbanspoon


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