[Seoul] There is a reason why this Japanese-French hybrid restaurant is called “Ryunique”, it does live up to its name.
Ryunique which was started within Gangnam-gu Korea in 2012, speedily earned a spot on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, for its invention take on dishes and avant-garde presentation.
It became one of the World’s 100 Best Restaurants, within 3 years of opening.
As to how its name came again, “Ryunique” is a combination of Chef Tae Hwan Ryu’s name and the word “unique”.
A Busan-local, Chef Ryu graduated from the Hattori Nutrition School in Yoyogi, spent a total of 5 years in Japan and 3 in Sydney and London cultivating his culinary skills at Rockpool and Gordon Ramsay.
Thus you may find his dishes moderately European (French to be precise), yet Japanese, with ingredients mostly sourced within Korean.
However, I had a different opinion after a meal here – I remember Ryunique more for its food presentation, then the taste itself.
Its Amuse already sets the tone, cold Soy-marinated shrimp with pink aioli in a dropper both served in a glass of ice; Grain in edible paper placed on a bed of pickling spice.
We had to ask, “Can we eat this (referring to the bag), and that?” While I had some difficulty understanding the explanations, the team of service staff was professional and sincere.
If you ask me randomly now what would be the stand-out dish in terms of taste, I would tell you “That shrimp with pork belly.”
The rest, a mixed bag.
The “Hybrid Cuisine” lunch is reasonably priced at 68,000 Won (SGD$77, USD$55) for Michelin-star standard menu (I say this with caution as there are no stars awarded in Korea), while a Tasting Menu is at 180,000 Won (SGD$203, USD$145).
A theme of ocean wildlife and natural scenery runs in how several of the dishes are created.
If there is anything you MUST EAT to experience Ryunique in its essence, I would say “Under The Sea”. This dish, or amalgamation of items, does get rather complicated.
First, a bottle of sea scent bubbling out of a perfumed bottle like dry ice fog. “Don’t drink that, please.” I was warned as I reached my hand to take a whiff.
Next, a thin film of seaweed paper with Gonbu salt sandwiched between two glass holders. Be careful with holding it, my dining partner’s paper flew away onto the carpet.
It did not end there. A ball of Provolone Italian cheese that you would mix into a container of Shirasu (white bait) bread crumbs, Clam Tortellini Seaweed and Clam Espuma foam. I felt like a child ‘playing’ with my food – in a good way actually, and this component was creamily-delicious.
Still on the same dish, and the main highlight – beautifully-scenically created to resemble a web of sea creatures captured in the waters.
You get 83 degrees sous-vide Abalone with Abalone Liver Nori Paste, and Smoked Oyster on Green Oil. ‘Just’ these two items, but look at the effort taken to design and re-invent.
The abalone’s texture, was indeed quite exceptional.
While Surf and Turf is not uncommon, having Roasted Pork Belly and Sous-Vide King Shimp on the same dish with Potato Puree brings a sense of familiarity, a possibly of Korean-ness similar to bossam pork belly.
The prawn was fresh and crunchy, pork belly contrastingly fatty and juicy. While the shrimp soy reduction at the base was on the saltier (Asian) side, I thought this was what made this dish distinctive from French-style cuisine.
Ryunique’s Winter Forest dessert goes on to be a little ‘crazy’ with a Japanese inspired Kinako (roasted soybean flour) Choco Roll Cake in the centre, flanked by cotton candy, topped with blueberry sorbet, choco left and Isomalt candy, and there is Raspberry Sorbet on the side resting on Green Tea condensed milk. Add a mushroom made of meringue, sprinkled with milk powder.
There is a charming air of European-ness in its surrounding at Sinsadong, the restaurant classy and intimate. Not at an expensive price considering its location and intricacy of its menu.
Personally, I thought I was too distracted with what was going on, what went in, to make this meal memorable enough to win my heart over. But it was a very good meal.
Dining here is like eating art pieces, and this can be quite an experience for many.
40 Gangnam-daero 162-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Tel: +82 2 546 9279
Opening Hours: 12 – 3 pm Lunch, 5:30 – 10:30 pm Dinner
Google Maps – Ryunique