But other than that, there’s a deeper reason for Yamamoto’s relocation. He wants to better express his thoughts to the patrons as a chef.
To Yamamoto, he hopes every visitor would not only think they are “well fed and the food tastes great”. He also wants them to feel being taken care of psychologically.
“We hope to deliver all the ingredients at their best states to the customers. How a chef, at the moment of service, communicates the thoughts of care to the diners using temperature, aroma and flavours is very important,” Yamamoto explained. For example, for something as simple as water, warm or iced could make a big difference. It’s the small detail that a restaurant should notice as an agent of hospitality.
“We want our customers to feel they are being taken care of. In addition to food, they would get the mental satisfaction and understand our spirit of service.” From this thought about the patrons’ well-being, the plan of relocation stemmed. “Thinking back to 2003 when I opened RyuGin in Roppongi, I didn’t pay too much attention to space planning. The shop was also small with only 24 seats. Because of that, we needed to divide the dinner service into two sessions – the first one from 5:30pm to 9:30pm, and the second from 9:30pm to 12:30am. This arrangement gave our customers restrictions when they had dinner. And I felt bad about it.
The ideal restaurant in my mind should not let our customers to accommodate us. I was thinking, I didn’t know when I would die. When an opportunity comes, I have to put that ideal restaurant to realisation,” Yamamoto said.
What attracts Yamamoto about the new location in Hibiya is its positioning. The nearby Imperial Palace and the best hotels, theatres in the country, put RyuGin at the centre of Japanese history, arts and culture.
“There’s no more appropriate place that brings out the beauty of Japanese cuisine,” he said. The new spot is close to 5,000 square feet in size, seating 40 people. It will only provide one session of dinner service each night, so diners can enjoy the eleven- to twelve-course omakase meal at their own pace. This is exactly the approach Yamamoto prefers to demonstrate his idea of being a good host.
“To do only one session also benefits the staff, and let them put more focus on every single dish. Now they have to handle two sessions every day, which means they bear twice the amount of pressure.”
RyuGin is expected to operate until 15 July in Roppongi, while the planned opening of the new shop in Hibiya is on 20 August. How does Yamamoto feels, knowing the perfect restaurant in his imagination is coming to reality?
“Instead of thinking about the perfect restaurant in my mind, giving the customers the feeling of satisfaction is more important. From the moment of reservation up until they step foot into the restaurant, from the period of expectation to finally experiencing the ingredients, cooking and the space, I hope they would think: ‘Wow. It’s amazing that I chose RyuGin. It’s a correct decision.’”
Nihonryogi RyuGin's New Address: 7/F, Tokyo Midtown Hibiya, 1-1-2 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo