Thursday, March 21, 2019

Classy Affordable Omakase at Teppan Kappou Kenji (Tanjong Pagar)

Classically trained chef Kenji Okumura wants to make omakase more affordable and accessible. His restaurant Teppan Kappou Kenji at 99 Tanjong Pagar Road offers customisable omakase menus below the normal S$200 bracket.

Kappou cuisine is like a more modest version of kaiseki. The chef/owner, visible from the counter, prepares a multitude of courses that respect seasonality of ingredients. It's a more relaxed environment than kaiseki at ryouteis and you can interact with the chef too.

Three fixed dinner menus - Hana, Kiri, and Aoi - range from S$60 to S$120, while the Omakase set Lunch affair starts from a very reasonable S$50. Even the most premium offering, the Spring Omakase, is a steal at S$150 because the nine courses feature curated ingredients at the peak of their seasonality. Take a look below:

We began with a very pretty appetiser of fresh shrimp, ikura and firefly squid. The poached white asparagus, fine chives, pesto-like dressing and edible flowers bring a touch of earthy spring to the seafood.

The Sashimi plate - Misozuke (miso-pickled) or Otsukuri (sliced and served raw) - presented a sweet medley of fatty otoro, hamachi and succulent tako. I enjoyed the mouthfeel that the thick cuts allowed. The two crisp slices of that greenish stalk or gourd also reminded me of a previous kaiseki experience. If anyone knows what that plant is, please let me know.

Underneath the golden bird was more hidden treasure.

Lying atop the luxurious kinmedai and the tataki-style sawara (mackerel) was a fat dollop of uni wrapped in hirame (flounder). The choice of hirame was excellent because the translucence coyly hints at the richness of the uni beneath.

Next came the Hassun, or the seasonal platter of eight mini dishes, each showcasing a spring ingredient artfully prepared.
Top row:
* Tempura of spring vegetables: there's a curly fern that I adored. Definitely careful control of the temperature as the batter is incredibly light and doesn't overshadow the delicate vegetables.
* Grilled sawara: Spanish mackerel is considered one of the largest and best of mackerel; it's popular in spring.

Middle row:
* Vegetables with crabmeat and caviar: the delicate flavours of the vegetables still come through despite the strong seafood accompaniment
* Nira: Japanese garlic chives (韭菜 jiu chye) are another herald of spring time
* Wasabi leaf and tako: I've never had wasabi leaf before; it's a little bitter but cuts through the octopus well.

Bottom row:
* Goma mochi tofu (black sesame tofu) topped with uni and wasabi: a lot of work goes into perfecting the airy yet chewy texture.
* Baby eels (nonesone): these are marinated in a light ponzu-style dressing, which does help to make it more appetising (for those who are squeamish).

Translucent baby eels. I know the squeamish may balk at the head and eyes, but it's worth trying at least once. I can't quite pinpoint the texture, but it's like thin ribbons of nata de coco? The marinade is excellent, and helps you slurp it all down.

The Nimono (Simmered Dish) course has tai (red snapper) atop a mound of glutinous rice, wrapped with sakura leaf and topped with wasabi. It's flanked by spring greens and seasoned take no ko (bamboo shoots) that's out of this world. Fresh Japanese bamboo shoots are delightfully crunchy and sweet.

Here's Chef Kenji Okumura personally searing the wagyu for us.

Kenji Okumura was formerly executive chef at Takumi Kacyo. Okumura-san began his career at the illustrious Nadaman Japanese Restaurant in Nagoya Tokyu Hotel. Trained by master Kaiseki chefs, his menu pays homage to the artistic tradition where each dish is crafted to breathtaking perfection. Chef Okumura travels to Japan four times a year to source for exclusive ingredients.

Throughout his culinary career, Chef Okumura has enjoyed meeting and serving interesting and famous personalities such as the Japanese emperor, Gorbachev and Wen Jiabao. Chef Okumura also believes in taking time personally to entertain guests. Simply feeding his customers is not enough; it's about evoking a feeling within.

As you can guess from the name, teppanyaki is of course a signature at Teppan Kappou Kenji. Here's live lobster brought in from Mie Prefecture along with premium A5 Saga wagyu. I really loved the crystalline ice plant you see in the foreground. This edible succulent is covered with water vesicles

The Saga-gyu is almost 90 per cent fat and 10 per cent meat; it's one of the fattiest I've seen of wagyu. While I used to like these premium cuts, I now prefer a smaller fat ratio, so that the beef flavour comes out better.

At the end, you have the Tome-wan (soup that closes the kaiseki course). This was a dance of hamaguri clams, spring vegetables and onions, sakura ebi in a kombu and fish broth. Utterly divine. Probably my favourite of the lot.

The warm broth was truly comforting, like an umami potion.

And then Chef brought out a fitting finale: the kamameshi. It's the Japanese claypot and this one was gloriously studded with uni and ikura. Tome-wan is often served with rice. But this was OTT rice: over the top and unabashedly intense and savoury! I would come back again just to eat this (yes, they have this a la carte too).

Japanese melon and mikan (mandarin oranges) make the perfect dessert.

Of course, enjoy the courses with loving sips of sake. They have a small but respectable list of drinks.

Kappou is a lovely way to enjoy the delicate nuances of kaiseki style cuisine but in a more relaxed setting. Chef Okumura's omakase brings it all the more within reach as something we can enjoy more often. You can view their menus online too at the link below.

99 Tanjong Pagar Road, #01-01
Singapore 088520
Tel: +65 9152-3118

Operation Hours:
Monday – Sunday
Lunch ~ 11:30 am – 2:30 pm (Last order @ 2pm)
Dinner ~ 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm (Last order @ 10pm)

Many thanks to Teppan Kappou Kenji for the kind hospitality.  First photo courtesy of the restaurant.


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