While Kappo means “to cut and cook”, that’s far more than you’ll get at the latest iteration of Kappo Shunsui. While it’s moved from its previous hidden location (which had a sign-less glass door guarded by a biometric scanner) at Cuppage Plaza, the restaurant remains similarly low-profile at its new digs at Hong Kong Street. Step through the threshold though, and one finds food that’s anything but subdued.
The new head chef is 40-year-old Shimuta “Shim” Kunihiko, who brings unorthodox techniques and a flair for theatrics to the literal table where he prepares his brand of kappo cuisine in front of the 13 counter seats that make up the restaurant.
Guests are welcomed with a sparkling sake – in our case the award-winning Kid Junmai Daiginjo – that gets topped with orange-scented smoke trapped in a bubble. It’s a good indication of the kind of visual spectacle that guests can expect for the rest of the meal – which the restaurant encourages with two large television screens displaying a live top-down camera feed of the chef’s counter.
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Don’t mistake spectacle for a crutch though – chef Shim’s food stands strongly on its own, boasting quality ingredients, unorthodox details, and a slant towards bolder flavours.
Dashi lays the groundwork for all Japanese cooking, so Shim starts off with a not-so-simple dashi that involves steeping binchotan in distilled water before infusing said water with kombu. In front of guests, the liquid then goes into a coffee syphon along with katsuobushi to brew – below boiling temperature – a smoky, intense, but cleanly-flavoured dashi.
There’s a savoury monaka, here stuffed with white shrimp, bafun uni, and Russian caviar; as well as an elaborate Hassun – traditionally the second course in kaiseki that features several small dishes prepared from seasonal ingredients – featuring bites including sea bream roe stuffed into a broad bean.
The sashimi course also deviates slightly from the norm – and is served in the style of chef Shim’s master, Chef Hirata Tasaku of one Michelin-starred Kyoto restaurant Kodaiji Kanjin. Here, seasonal white fish (Longtooth grouper and red seabream in our case) is served in two layers separated by cooking paper. Guests eat the top layer first while the bottom undergoes curing between layers of kombu a la minute. In another unconventional touch, this course is accompanied by ponzu, grated daikon, and a piece of savoury sakura and chrysanthemum jelly.
Another highlight from the meal is an endlessly comforting soup dish prepared with earthy, tender fresh bamboo shoots, raw wakame, and succulent slices of abalone from Saga prefecture.
If one starts missing the theatrics – they come back in the form of an A5 Miyazaki beef that’s grilled and – the lights are even dimmed for this – flambeed tableside. This gets served with tempura brussel sprouts, a sansho sauce, and a healthy shaving of black truffles.
Another seasonal delight, hairy crab from Hokkaido, makes an appearance in the form of a sauce with a piece of beltfish that’s smoked with sakura wood to give it a depth that holds up well to the kuzu-thickened sauce.
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13 courses in, there’s no lull for dessert as well – Shim produces a house-made strawberry daifuku and just-whisked matcha in what can be described as a condensed Japanese tea ceremony; followed by a doozy of a sesame ice cream – a judiciously sweetened, liquid nitrogen-formed scoop that’s impossibly smooth.
For those that want some sake with their meal – the $150 pairing option features 5 pours of some pretty exclusive bottles including the clean, fruity, yet powerful Juyondai Nakadori Daiginjo Banshu Yamadanishiki from highly-sought after producer Juyondai .
17 Hongkong Street #01-01. Tel: 6223-1278