Almost 30 years ago the young Sagon came to Bali, fell in love with the magic island [how different it is today?] and opened a small Japanese restaurant in Seminyak. One that was soon busy all day with the young Japanese surfers and their Australian friends who were at that time discovering a new surfing paradise, both attracted to the healthy Japanese cuisine. The orginal was later followed by similar places in Sanur and Ubud, later in Tuban and Kuta Grahe, as well as the up-market version Kaizan in Kerobokan.
The secret was no secret at all. Fresh sushi, made to order and a selection of all the other basic Japanese cuisines, most importantly all at budget prices. Now with 10 restaurants in the Ryoshi chain, and the resultant high food turnover, that most important ingredient for high quality sushi and sashimi, fresh fish, is a daily norm.
Ryoshi Seminyak a few years ago was moved next door to much larger premises [with live Jazz upstairs] and is still very busy day and night. The menu has only marginally changed and I always look with wonder at my regular lunch of Pisang sushi selection, still 14 pieces for $8.
Ryoshi in Ubud has moved from the original small cramped space in central Ubud to spacious Japanese style relaxed premises at Ubud's south in Padang Tegal, the growing budget restaurant area of Ubud. Different rooms are all inter-connected by large glass and timber walls, the seating varying from bar stools, normal western style tables and chairs and traditional on the floor Japanese seating [but cheating with a sunken well under the table so you do not have to be a yoga type]. All set in gardens interspersed with local bales.
The original intention was to include live Jazz at Ubud as well but local politics and greed got in the way, sad proof of Ubud's 'closed shop' mentality.
The menus at all Ryoshi restaurants remain the same, with the same pricing. It is a brilliant menu well illustrated with colour pictures which takes the fear factor away from any first timer. Your appetizers can be very healthy such as Edamame [steamed green soy beans sprinkled with sea salt], Agedashi Dofu [deep fried silken tofu in a hot broth], Nasu Miso [eggplant sautéed with onion and sweet miso] or a Mushroom Steak [sautéed in soy and garlic]. Seafood snacks include a great Soft Shell Crab, cooked tempura style in rice flour batter, Kwaebi Kara Age [crispy fried whole shrimps in their shells with sea salt] or Tako No Kara Age, wonderful fried octopus, nice and crunchy. For something different, try the Cheese Mochi, sticky rice cakes with soy, butter and cheese, or the Maguro Panko, crisp fried tuna rolls with a tangy sauce.
My most regular reason to visit Japanese is to enjoy a wonderful, clean, fresh plate of assorted Sushi for lunch. What could be healthier? At Ryoshi the offerings are of unbelievable value, my favourite is the Pisang combo, 12 pieces of sushi for less than $8 [the maki roll is cut into three which makes 14 in my book]. Sushi to be at its best should be prepared fresh, just for you, and not pre-prepared hours or days before and refrigerated. It always tastes best fresh! At Ryoshi you can sit and watch it being made. It arrives accompanied by a small dish, a lump of wasabi [often referred to as Japanese horseradish but tasting more like a hot mustard] on its side, and a little pile of gari [sweet thinly sliced young ginger] on the edge of the sushi board. Tip some soy [always on the table in a small jug] and edge some of the wasabi in, to your taste! Place a complete sushi in the soy/wasabi mix so it can soak into the rice base, then with chopsticks, or even fingers if you must, eat and savour the exquisite taste. Follow with a small slice of the gari, and a sip of whatever you are drinking. My kind of lunch! Ryoshi has a number of different combination boards of sushi and sashimi [raw fish] or a combo of both. Other raw fish specials include their Tataki which is a Japanese salad of raw fish, a Tuna Carpaccio or Aji Tataki, a type of mackerel tartar. Chirashi Sushi is a bowl of various raw fish draped over sushi rice.
Hot entrees include a variety of Kushiyaki [food on skewers]; Nasi, sliced eggplant with yakitori sauce, or my prefered Negi made with young leeks, Kawa, chicken skin grilled with salt and pepper, Teba [chicken wings] done the same way. Top of the list for me is their Hina, chicken and leeks in yakitori sauce, the Beef Rolls, sliced beef wrapped around julienned vegetables, Tsukune Mushroom, mushrooms stuffed with minced chicken, Ebi, salt and pepper prawns and Lebar, chicken livers in yakitori sauce. In fact I sometimes just make a meal of assorted Kushiyaki.
Most of the mains at Ryoshi are Yakimono, or grilled. Beef Teriyaki, or the Chicken or Fish equivalents everyone knows. A Teriyaki Hamburger is a touch of fusion, traditional ball of minced beef sautéed in Japanese wine and soy. Both Beef and Tuna can be had in sizzling Teppanyaki style, and then there are the Wagyu dishes; sirloin, rib eye or rump.
For the lone diner there are always the rice dishes; Zuki Don [tuna marinated in sesame and soy] Sukiyaki Don [beef] Oyako Don [chicken and egg or Katsu Don [pork cutlets] all served in a bowl over rice, or the Noodle selection with a variety of Soba [buckwheat] and Udon [thick] noodles including the very healthy Nabeyaki Udon, the popular hot pot [pictured]. When a place is as busy as this one you do not ever have to worry about freshness of produce. Ryoshi is one of Bali's success stories, somewhere for an anytime snack or meal, alone of with friends.