Among the main entrées, only the braised pork belly (sliced in little candied squares and decked with honey and whole bulbs of garlic) drew much praise from the collection of prim, quietly dyspeptic foodies arrayed at my table. The Food Aristocrat ended up ordering the chicken, which was glazed with an uninspired teriyaki-style sweet-and-sour sauce. The poached bass (arranged in a wheel, with bits of octopus) had a similarly straightforward teriyaki taste, the arctic char was decent enough (it’s soft, like ice cream, with a mildly gooey rice-paper skin), and so was the rib-eye steak, which is adorned with a large, greasy button of bone marrow. Of the three dishes designed for sharing, the best is the red snapper, which is flavored with a rich, salty miso broth and served in crisp fillets, with hidden bulbs of bok choy. The worst is the huge canoelike platter of photogenic though unaccountably bland salmon, and somewhere in between sits the buffalo, which tastes fine as buffalo goes but is sawed in great, unwieldy hunks.
The prices are generally reasonable at Riingo (the pork belly costs only $14), although you can make up the difference quickly by ordering too much designer sake (I enjoyed a modest glass of something called White Water Fall) or any one of a number of side dishes like yam purée (good), Nobu-style shiitake-mushroom tempura (very good), and curried chicken noodles (very bad). The best dessert on the menu is an inspired green-tea doughnut (it’s dusted with colored sugar to look like a peach), followed by a satisfying soft chocolate pancake, which is dripped with chocolate sauce and small scoops of jam, and a peanut-butter-and-poppy-seed parfait. There’s also decent Asian-fusion pineapple tart (served with a smear of miso cheesecake) and a nebulous dish advertised as “jasmine rice cream.” It turns out to be a bowl of vaporous, rice-flavored foam set over some diced fruit. I suppose the foam is technically impressive, and it tastes something like rice pudding. But in the end, the dish promises much more than it delivers, which, at this early stage, is as good a description as any for dinner at Riingo.