Kappo Shunsui review: An immersive omakase meal in the CBD
A show like no other
The Kappo Shunsui experience has long been lauded for secrecy and exclusivity. Its locations move from time to time, with nondescript entrances to intrigue, and not to mention a menu where you have relinquished all control. But all that should never distract you from the showmanship and culinary eminence of the two-time awardee of Michelin Plate.
Its newest move sees itself at HongKong Street, filling the space of the now-defunct Ronin. What was once a gritty cavern is now a sleek, dark room housing just 13 seats. The premise is very much set up like a theatre — with spotlights flanking down to the main "stage', where the island is. Their new head chef, Shimuta "Shim" Kunihiko enters, greets the room, and commences the meal with a welcome drink. The initiation is fizzy to our delight — Kid Junmai Daiginjo Sparkling, the winner of the International Wine Challenge (IWC) Sparkling Sake Trophy 2019. Service is in full swing, where waitresses clad in kimonos get right to serving everything from the island to our table.
Like most Japanese omakases, a meal isn't just a meal. Given that you are devoting at least three hours, the meal is a process to slowly savour as you eagerly watch chef Shim prepare, cook, and plate up. His station happens to be a little further away than the usual chef behind the counters, so to fully capture the mastery of his handiwork, there are cameras hovering above to project a bird's eye view onto two huge digital screens before us. While that might cusp on gimmicky, you can't ignore the added scrutiny to only cement chef Shim's precise knife work and sushi folds. You soon realise, this is a performative escapade.
Think of every course like a different act in a play. For instance, the dashi to start off the meal was housed in a huge glass siphon where it percolated flavours from dry bonito flakes from Kagoshima, seaweed from Hokkaido, sweet shoyu, and salt water. Before that, the salt water was treated with binchotan steeped overnight, then seaweed on the next night. As diners, you watch as the dashi comes to a slow boil, but its highest never goes beyond 70 degrees, to maintain the flavours without burning the concoction. It's a mild aromatic result — with just the right smoke and adept restraint on the salt.
The next appetiser was a white shrimp, bafun uni, caviar 'sandwich', technically referred to a monaka. Two light wafer spheres to crunch into, while the umami elements meld together within. With every sashimi course, the catch is handled from its original state, from the introduction of its whole to beginning the extraction and knifework. Each possesses a distinct plating and treatment unique to the catch. From a toss of surf clam and firefly squid in shoyu jelly to an intricate stack of red sea bream and halfbeak, each lined atop a sliver of kombu and separated by a piece of paper. This thoughful step-by-step presentation is an ode to chef Shim's late master, Kyoto chef Hirata Tasaku who used to helm 1-Michelin Kodaiji Kanjin. Each piece held its own bite and straddled the earthiness of the kombu. For a slightly heavier finisher: the tuna medley, comprising of lean to medium fatty, to a fatty tuna sushi laden with soya espuma. And just before the segue into the sushi course, there's a soup dish spliced between. Perhaps to recenter the palate, by using the same dashi base we savoured at the start, but joined by thick, succulent cuts of abalone and fresh seaweed, imparting their own flavour to the entire broth.
The sushi here is a chunky bite — swadled in a piece of fried seaweed — made out of a huge hill of rice, followed by a golden eyed snapper from Chiba, then plied with a slab of uni. It's a moreish umami mouthful, perhaps finished off in two bites, but otherwise unfaultable. At the end of the savoury train, all eyes fell on the A5 Miyazaki beef, in a flambé moment, then showered with black truffle shavings. The prized cut certainly speaks for its own — exceptional marbling through and through, with every cushy bite.
And just when you think you're already blissfully sated, the dessert courses stand to prove otherwise. Made entirely from scratch, came daifuku (skin intact) stuffed with the fruit in season, strawberries. And if it's anything we've learnt from this experience, is that you haven't really had mochi until you've tasted one that's freshly handcrafted. Counter the sweetness with freshly grounded matcha, made right in front of you in a therapeutic session, and it's almost like your stomach has been yet again, cleansed, and ready for more. The finisher, is a white sesame ice cream, again, conceived right in front of you as chef Shim's breaks in some liquid nitrogen. It's a nutty, roasted concoction that astounds you from the very first scoop, and the perfect impression to conclude the experience in a restaurant that feels pretty much like a masterchef's private kitchen.
17 Hongkong Street, #01-01, Tel: 6223 1278
Kappo Shunsui only opens for dinner, that starts promptly at 7pm, with an 11-course omakase menu priced at $380++. An additional $100 top-up for sake pairing is also available.