[dropcap size=small]L[/dropcap]ocated at Cuppage Plaza, new restaurant Kappo Shunsui finds itself with big expectations to live up to. Seedy karaoke pubs aside, Cuppage is also known for Japanese restaurants which Japanese salarymen visit almost every night for respite and a taste of home.

The lowdown

Kappo Shunsui is a joint venture between chef Tomo Watanabe and the owners behind bistro 999.99 at Keong Saik. Chef Watanabe is no stranger to the Michelin stars: his former restaurant, Shunsui, in Tokyo  was named in Michelin Guide Tokyo’s Bib Gourmand list consecutively from 2015 to 2017. He then closed his restaurant to come to Singapore, where he set up Kappo Shunsui. At his new restaurant, one will notice that Watanabe proudly showcases his Michelin achievements. The restaurant displays book covers of past Michelin Guides, and the spacious bathroom has even sports a Michelin snow globe by the sink.

Finding the restaurant is a challenge. Adopting the style of Kyoto fine-dining restaurants, Kappo Shunsui has no storefront or signage. There’s only a door and a doorbell by its side. There is also a fingerprint scanner for VIPs (diners and friends of diners) to enter without having to ring in. This fancy gadgetry may seem superfluous, as it is best to make a reservation due to teeming crowds. 

The restaurant is only open for dinner. The setting is intimate and casual with only 19 seats in total: 11 by the counter and two four-seater tables. Despite the dark tones of the furniture and walls, the restaurant is well-lit. By the counter, track lights highlight the gold trays where Watanabe exhibits his food and the beautiful plates he serves them on – great for photo-taking.

On the table

Kappo cuisine focuses on showcasing five basic cooking techniques: grilling, steaming, frying simmering and raw preparation. While it offers cooked food like a kaiseki outlet, Kappo is much less formal. Diners are encouraged to sit by the counter to interact with the chef, instead of being shoehorned into private dining rooms. Diners are also not restricted to the omakase menu – ala carte orders are welcome.

The menus here are actually handwritten by Watanabe, and change daily depending on what the chef can get from Tsukiji Market. Among these finds are tempura of white asparagus from Hokkaido and grilled eggplant from Kumamoto.

At $249++, Kappo Shunsui offers a filling 10-course menu which offers appetisers, sushi and sashimi, several warm dishes, a palate cleanser and choice of dessert (the menu is offered at $199++ till 15 June, 2017).

Stand-out dishes

From his 10-course menu, the wanmori (the soup appetiser) is a warm welcome. A dumpling of steamed clams from Chiba sits in clear broth of bonito, kelp and sake. The savoury flavours find balance with the bitterness from the canola flower and spice from the kinome (pepper leaf).

Apart from the sushi and sashimi, the kozuke or small pot dish showcases the freshness of the produce. The boiling pot of kelp broth comes with a generous portion of grouper, leeks and mizuna. The broth is kept bland to preserve the flavours of its premium ingredients, enjoyed with some ponzu, grated radish and spring onions.

The simple chawanmushi is given an elegant touch here. The egg, hatched from corn-fed chickens, is a rich yellow. It is topped with Hokkaido uni and truffle caviar, a great accompaniment with the already creamy and flavoursome chawanmushi.

Keep some room for the last savoury dish on the menu, the shokuji or rice dish. Yumepirika rice from Hokkaido is cooked in claypot with a mix of red snapper and young ginger with a touch of citrus from the sudachi. If there are leftovers, Watanabe makes onigiri from the rice which would make a nice after-dinner snack.

Off-menu specials

Watanabe surprises with small delights throughout the meal. As he tells diners (his sous chef, who is better versed in English, translates) about his culinary conquests in Japan, he’s also delighted to show. For example, as he shares a story about winning a small omelette-cooking competition in Japan, he proceeds to prepare the self-same winning dish: a special Japanese-style omelette which contains a surprising amount of dashi. This is a comforting breakaway from the meal.

The drinks

Sake is a big part of the meals at Kappo Shunsui. Watanabe is a certified sake sommelier (kikisake-shi) and has curated nearly 100 labels of sake for the restaurant. Watanabe does sake pairings, and they’ll set you back anywhere from $55++ to $88++. Sake is warmed in a rather steampunk-style copper pot and served. The restaurant also holds an impressive sake cup collection which Watanabe claims is worth the price of a car. Kappo Shunsui also offers whisky, shochu and champagne.


Insider tip

The restaurant is small but the style of Kappo cuisine calls for diners to enjoy the meal by the counter for the best interactions with the chef. Have a drink with Watanabe, or share a story with him –  it’s an opportunity to experience his culinary prowess and also try some of the rare sakes not listed on the menu.

#04-02, Cuppage Plaza.  Tel: 6732 0192