Kappo Winter Menu The Best of Japanese Seasonality
Kappo the brainchild of Simon Denton (also Hihou and Izakaya Den) with partners Miyuki Nakahara and Takashi Omi, is an intimate modern Japanese dining experience in the Melbourne CBD. Press the door bell in Flinders Lane (not Spring St) and enter a modern restaurant to be greeted with a smile and a warm towel. Sit around the counter, where you can see the chef in action and allow yourself to be taken on a superb culinary journey. Check out our Best Sushi in Melbourne. Also check out our Best Japanese Restaurants in Melbourne.
The World Loves Melbourne was invited with about 6 other Melbourne foodies to sample the Winter Menu. Simon Denton was a wonderful host and we felt like we were given a masterclass in the Japanese dining experience. The winter menu showcases the best of Australian produce and its seasonality, given innovative and exciting Japanese technique. As Simon Denton visits Japan about twice a year, he keeps abreast of nuances and trends in Japanese dining and brings innovative ideas back to Melbourne. We felt Kappo is a standout dining experience in Melbourne in a sea of fine dining choice.
Choose your chopsticks...
Persimmon in black and white sesame paired with Zaku Meguminotomo Junmai, Mie sake was a wonderful start to the evening.
Zensai consisted of four elements in the one dish; Warm seasonal vegetables, walnut miso, as well as Ocean Tartare, then Sea Urchin, egg tofu and fresh truffle. Finally the refreshing hit of Coffin Bay Oyster, white sesame, finger lime. The equivalent of Japanese h'ordouvres,, the Zensai was a triumph of refreshment, taste and texture. The land and sea were duly honoured in an exciting dish. The Zensai was served with a standout champagne De Sousa Brut Tradition, Avize.
Grated turnip, Queensland Grouper, lotus seed, black radish, snapper dashi, wasabi was a superb dish showcasing the best of Australian fresh produce treated with Japanese technique. This course was served with a captivating Tasmanian wine, the 2014 Domaine Simha Field Blend, Derwent River in the Chablis style.
Kappo is a unique dining experience in Melbourne, sitting around the counter. Simon says it's not just about the diners watching the chef, but the chef watching the diners. Kentaro Usami (formerly sushi chef at Kenzan) wowed us with his exceptional cooking.
Simon Denton served us sake from a pewter... All night there was an interplay of pouring vessels and various sake cups.
Kappo brings out the sushi master, with Kentaro preparing a series of Black rice sushi of the highest quality. The Chu-toro, black garlic was one of the highlights for The World Loves Melbourne. The toro (upper belly) was a talking point at the table. Silky and flavour hit of the sea.
The King George Whiting was a delicate treatment of an Australian seafood icon. Who would have thought such a delicate dish and harmony could be produced from this fish?
Another highlight in the black rice sushi series was the Cured Salmon and Yarra Valley salmon roe. Presentation was first class and the roe had a touch of wasabi to balance the dish. A simple dish yet such delightful flavours honouring the natural ingredient.
Siimon Denton has an affinity with the Yarra Valley, with his winery interest, for which we partook of a Nebbiolo with superb depth and bouquet.
It was then on to the grill...
Our thoughts on some Melbourne degustations is that while they are brilliant, you are assaulted with a volley of rich overpowering courses, which results in a "heavy" feeling afterwards. Kappo balances the courses. The grill was a perfect interlude. In fact you leave Kappo having eaten plenty but not feeling heavy at all. The Grilled pine mushroom, shiitake, Japanese turnips, kabosu jelly, daikon and ginger, sesame and salt gave us outstanding Japanese flavours and contrast in the winter menu. Moreover there was a sense of theatre in the grill process by the chef in front of us.
The high note of the night was the theatre and taste around the Tasmanian green lip abalone tempura with guts sauce. Simon explained the only description of the abalone sauce could be "guts sauce". The theatre of the guts sauce poured around the abalone tempura was classic. A great sauce stands on its own and this sauce was compelling, rich and almost rustic. The combination with the tempura was stunning. This had the "wow" factor.
Kappo kept the high notes coming with this Rainbow trout, Yu-an miso, lotus root cake, slippery jacks, leek, chrysanthemum flower. For many this was the highlight of the night. The flavour combinations and textures were exquisite, not to mention the delicate treatment of the Rainbow trout. this was perfectly paired with 2011 Denton Nebbiolo, Yarra Valley. We also enjoyed the best of Japanese rice with Yam potato and sansho pepper rice with pickles.
Famous by now is the Yuzu and Honey sorbet, with appeals to Simon Denton to never take this off the menu. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus, the size of a large lime but bright yellow in skin in the winter or green in the summer. Originating in East Asia, it has knobbly skin and looks a bit like a cross between kaffir lime and lemon. Yuzu is highly aromatic, and combines well in dishes, brilliant in combination with honey. The Yuzu and Honey sorbet was a refreshing way to end the meal with a hit of sweetness and citrus, but not too sweet.
Yet there was more. It was Joyce's birthday from Melhotornot and we sang happy birthday as the Warm tofu cake, winter pineapple and fuji apple, chocolate sauce and fresh truffle was served. We imbibed this dessert with something akin to a dessert wine, the orange toned Umeko Umeshu, Wakayama.
The dessert part of the menu is definitely not an afterthought. After all of this we were presented with a stunning Japanese treat box; brown sugar manju, mandarin jelly, wasabi cream cheese cheescake. Wasabi in a dessert was welcome.
Again, a delightful sense of theatre added to the experience. Imbibed with Houjicha tea.
Kappo takes you on a dining journey through tastes, textures and innovative treatment of fine Australian produce with first class Japanese technique. The World Loves Melbourne loves the concept of the counter experience, and to have Simon Denton host us at the counter was a privilege and memorable experience. The Herald Sun lists Kappo as among the top 5 restaurant experiences in Melbourne and we can see why. Check out the winter menu (or any season in fact). Highly recommended.