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DigestReview: Ryota Kappou Modern Is A Calming Culinary Experience

Review: Ryota Kappou Modern Is A Calming Culinary Experience

Review: Ryota Kappou Modern Is A Calming Culinary Experience
By Charmaine Mok
January 11, 2019
This new Central Japanese restaurant offers a relaxed omakase format without sacrificing style or sophistication

The Japanese word ‘kappou’ (or ‘kappo’) has the literal meaning of ‘to cut and to cook’, and is used to describe a style of restaurant where diners can witness those very things in action. Normally, this assumes counter-style seating where the chef is on full display as they prepare each dish—a form of culinary theatre where the experience is as much about the removal of barriers as it is about showcasing a certain level of skill. For this reason, our first word of advice for diners at Ryota Kappou Modern is to, when booking, ignore the beautiful “lounge” seating set along the windows of the room and opt for the aptly named “stage kitchen counter”.

The best seats in the house are those set around the open kitchen (Photo: Ryota Kappou Modern)
The best seats in the house are those set around the open kitchen (Photo: Ryota Kappou Modern)

The first thing you’ll be aware of is the highly edited design of the space, with its chic palette of speckled stone, marble and slate providing the neutral backdrop to the luxurious pops of blond wood, copper, gold and emerald. A soundtrack of delicate jazz plays silkily in the background, while  the brigade works quietly in the open kitchen. One chef places a piece of kinmedai over a net set atop smouldering binchotan, lightly smoking it for a later sashimi course; another is finishing up our first course with a garnish of shiso flower buds, that look striking against the pale green hue of an olive-infused somen.

That first course sets the tone for the meal—a chef’s choice collection of around eight courses showcasing the highlights of the season—with its simple beauty and clarity of flavour. The chilled noodles have a springy bite, matched with the fresh crunch of thinly sliced radish and pert prawn; underneath, tiny and translucent shiro ebi (baby white shrimp) add an extra level of umami. The next course of shirako tempura is a treat with its creamy texture, though the batter was not as light as one would expect. Tiny flakes of yuzu zest add just a touch of perfume to the rich milt.

Grilled amadai is one of the current house signatures (Photo: Ryota Kappou Modern)
Grilled amadai is one of the current house signatures (Photo: Ryota Kappou Modern)

We appreciated how wagyu—usually served as a heavy main in other similar restaurants—was presented in thin, tender slices floating in a delicate, clear dashi with thinly sliced leeks and mushrooms. Amadai is served with its scales crisp and spry, contrasting with the juicy flesh—the sweetness of a lily bulb purée and slightly bitter notes from gingko nuts add a sophisticated roundness to a fish dish that has become rather ubiquitous in the dining scene.

Instead of a classic sorbet, the palate cleanser is a fruit tomato jelly cocktail (Photo: Ryota Kappou Modern)
Instead of a classic sorbet, the palate cleanser is a fruit tomato jelly cocktail (Photo: Ryota Kappou Modern)
Iberico pork is served with apple miso and seasonal vegetables (Photo: Ryota Kappou Modern)
Iberico pork is served with apple miso and seasonal vegetables (Photo: Ryota Kappou Modern)

A palate cleanser of tomato jelly submerged in a coupe glass with basil oil, basil seeds and again those fragrant shiso flowers was an unexpected shift to more European flavour profiles, preparing the palate for the next meat course—a rift on pork and apples, here grilled Iberico pork with a tangy apple miso and batons of crisp fresh apple. Completing the savoury side is a seasonal donabe, and on our visit a beautifully cooked pot of rice was infused with the flavour from five different types of mushrooms, roasted herb-fed chicken from Fukuoka, sweet chestnuts and Kyoto carrots—a taste of autumn/winter in a nutshell.

Three desserts compete for attention. There’s the house-made warabi mochi, whose tempting wobble is made for a Boomerang shot; a rich vanilla ice cream over which a 10-year-aged mirin wine is drizzled, the combination tasting deliciously of maple cream; and a soy milk panna cotta with fig jam, raspberry and black soy beans (described on the menu as a fruit chawanmushi).

Head chef Ryota Kanesawa previously worked at restaurants such as Zuma and Tenku Ryugin (Photo: Ryota Kappou Modern)
Head chef Ryota Kanesawa previously worked at restaurants such as Zuma and Tenku Ryugin (Photo: Ryota Kappou Modern)

It doesn’t come as a surprise to later learn that the eponymous chef Ryota Kanesawa previously worked as the sous chef at Tenku Ryugin in Hong Kong, as well as Roka and Zuma in London—Ryota Kappou Modern seems a happy medium for the chef, where the relaxed atmosphere and focused cooking (he calls it “simplicity excellence”) meld together seamlessly.

If we’re nitpicking, then it’s the wine menu that could use some alternative options—the sake and wine pairing is priced from HK$1,280 for 5-6 selections, but if you’re just looking for a glass or two then you’re limited to a handful of labels (namely, Burgundies and champagne). We would love to see more playfulness and a wider range of approachable options in the sake and wine department, to match with the feeling of the meal as a whole.

Ryota Kappou Modern

Restaurant, $$$$, Japanese, Central

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