Written by Hulda Lawrence
Riingo, "apple" in Japanese, opened in January 2004 and has been attracting diners ever since. Marcus Samuelsson, the restaurant's chef/proprietor along with his associate, Hakan Swaho, from their well-established and quite different Aquavit, have blended Japanese food with American favorites in a delightfully unusual cuisine. Located in the Alex Hotel, 205 East 45th Street, between Second and Third Avenues it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The phone number is 212 867-4200.
On the day when we lunched at Riingo recently we were seated on the main floor in the dining room. As we proceeded to our table we passed the seven-seat sushi bar and the "bento booth" for four. On the mezzanine there is a large space for private or semi-private dining. On the main floor there is a lounge and bar for thirty.
As soon as we were seated we were given menus which listed such specialty drinks as Red Apple Martini, Yuzu Lemon Drop and Asian Pear Sidecar. My choice was the martini which was done with apple sake, apple vodka and pomegranate. It was a lovely salute to NYC. My companion opted for the sidecar which was made with Poire Williams, pear sake and citrus. She enjoyed it. The Lemon Drop was mixed with Absolut Citron, yuzu sake and another Kumquat, Bellini of kumquat Syrup, and sparkling wine. The bartender will prepare any contemporary drink. There also is a 100-bottle wine list and a 20-bottle sake list. Our wines were merlot for me and pinot grigio for my companion.
Our server, Mike from Mexico, was invaluable in explaining the dishes we thought we would like to try. Although there is a prix fixe menu at $20.12 with a choice between Goat Cheese Salad or chilled Tomato Soup followed by Roasted Salmon or Steak and Frites with a dessert of Lemon Verbena Napoleon, we wanted to sample other things.
Among the a la carte appetizers was Miso Soup with Oyster and tuna. It was exceptional and we also appreciated the Tomato Soup accompanied by a wonderful shrimp on toast. Then we had Yellowtail and Blue Fin Tuna sushi and King Crab Avocado Roll and Rice Puff Crusted Shrimp. There is a sushi lunch box at $26 which includes Miso Soup and Green Salad with the chef's selection of sashimi, sushi and rolls. Appetizers are $4 to $14. Soup is $8 and $10.
It was no easy choice to choose from the entrees listed: Sauteed Red Snapper; Roasted Chicken with Wild Mushrooms; Grilled New York Steak; Braised Pork Belly or Steak and Fries. We ordered Roasted Salmon with Cucumber and Apple Salad. How right we were! It was great; the fish was crusted and flavorful. Entrée prices are $17 to $28.
For those who prefer a lighter lunch, there are sandwiches of Grilled Chicken with avocado; seared Tuna with Chipotle Mayo, and a Burger with cheese and bacon.
At brunch on Sunday there is the Benedict of Prosciutto; French toast with Orange Ginger Sauce and Mixed greens with Seaweed and Tomato.
We shared two fine desserts: Ginger Panna Cotta with Biscotti and small Green Tea Donuts with Cinnamon Sabayon. The donuts were delicious.
This is a fascinating restaurant with wonderful and exotic food in an attractive modern décor. Executive Chef Johan Svensson has done a neat job of creating a menu with exciting combinations of exceptional food inspired by Japan and America.
Hours: Lunch: Monday through Friday noon to 2:30 p.m.
Credit Cards: All major
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.