Exquisite Kappo Cuisine Arrives in L.A. - Welcome to Shibumi [Thoughts + Pics]

If there’s one type of cuisine that L.A. seems to lack, it would be the intimate setting of a classic Japanese Kappo restaurant. Kappo cuisine has its roots in real chef-driven techniques in preparing and cooking the dishes offered on the menu. It is usually small plates, seasonally-driven, and really up to what the chef has in mind.

While ostensibly a small plates type of Japanese restaurant with alcohol might seem like just another Izakaya, Shibumi is far from that (some publications have mistakenly labeled Shibumi as an Izakaya which it is not), being focused on Kappo cuisine, steeped in traditional Japanese chef-driven preparations, according to Chef David Schlosser.

Izakaya style eateries had their origins arising out of traditional Sake shops, where the Sake shop owners wanted to serve something to eat to enjoy alongside the Sake that they sold. They weren’t professionally trained chefs, and as a result the cuisine and dishes at many Izakayas were more rustic, simpler, etc. Of course there are exceptions to the rule.

Chef David Schlosser has an impressive resume, having previously been at one of L.A.'s most esteemed restaurants, Urasawa. But it’s his training in Japan that impressed me most: He studied under the tutelage of the head chefs at Kyoto’s legendary Kikunoi Honten (3 Michelin Stars), as well as Kyoto Kitcho Arashiyama Honten (3 Michelin Stars). He also went up into the local mountains outside of Kyoto and cooked for a small ryokan that was originally built in the 1600s! :open_mouth:

And while all of this might sound impressive on paper, it’s when you meet Chef Schlosser and see his laser-sharp focus in cutting and preparing the dishes, and the conversations as he introduces the dish and little fun facts about his pickling plums in a traditional Japanese method that dates back for centuries, that you realize it’s more than just past work experience, it’s something that pervades his very soul.

Shibumi’s exterior is humble and simple (no signage, with a little window and noren (curtain) signaling the entrance. Once inside, you’re greeted with a low-key beautiful bar top, carved out of 400 year-old Cypress.

Their beverage program is equally impressive, with rare, odd and eclectic drinks beyond the usual Cocktails, with sourcing of rare Fortified Wines, Japanese Whiskeys, Old World and New World Ciders and a solid Sake menu.

Cordial, Amontillado Sherry & Mezcal:

Shibumi also features a rare, extensive menu of Cordials, which as our bartender explained, is something that used to be popular in the 1900’s, made of fortified wine and lower proof than Cocktails. The Amontillado and Mezcal was delicious! Smooth, sweet, and easy to sip. :slight_smile:

The music playing in the background is also eclectic, from mellow electronica, down tempo and trip hop, to Queen and relaxing alt-rock. Thankfully it never gets too loud.

We made our first visit during their Grand Opening a few months ago:

Cucumbers stuffed with Shiso Leaf, Seeds, Umeboshi and Bonito:

It should be noted that Kappo cuisine can feel more “subdued” or restrained than the brash, bold, greasy, fatty, bigger flavors in standard Izakaya dishes. It shares some similarity to Kaiseki cuisine in many ways, with things that are locally sourced, celebrating seasonal vegetables, local fish & meats.

So the plate of Stuffed Cucumbers are from a local farm, and while seemingly simple, has a subtle burst of flavors from the Shiso Leaf, Seeds and Umeboshi mixture.

Abalone, Housemade Yuba, Santa Barbara Uni:

One of the specials (not on the menu) is fresh Abalone, with Housemade Yuba(!), topped with perfectly sweet & fresh Santa Barabara Uni. For those unfamiliar, Yuba is the thin top layer of Soy Milk. Fresh Yuba is amazing from what all my friends from Japan tell me, and I’ve never seen Yuba being made fresh here in L.A. before! Well, Chef Schlosser’s focus and pursuit of excellence has driven him to make his own Yuba, which turns out to be fantastic! :slight_smile: @bulavinaka can probably chime in on how it compares to Yuba from Japan. :slight_smile:

The Abalone is bright and so fresh, meaty, and tender, the Yuba gives the dish a silkiness and the SB Uni? Perfection! This was fantastic! :blush:

Summer Vegetables, Koji Rice Dip:

This dish seems like a fancy version of Crudités, but at the same time, it’s a celebration of the local vegetables. The vegetables are raw, but you begin to appreciate just how good they are: The earthiness, the sweetness, the herbal notes inherent in each vegetable you take a bite of. The Koji Rice Dip is another made-from-scratch creation of Chef David’s, where he makes his own Koji Rice (fermented). It’s not something “super umami,” but the Koji Rice complements the vegetables very well.

Scar of the Sea (New World Cider, Dry Hopped), California, USA:

Shibumi features an extensive list of interesting, rare Ciders from Europe and the U.S. Chef Schlosser mentions that these Ciders actually pair very well with his Kappo dishes (where one might think it’s usually only Sake and Beer that might work).

Scar of the Sea was the chef’s recommendation and it turned out to be an eye-opener! It’s dry, not very sweet at all, but clean and refreshing! There are subtle fruit notes, and the sparkling nature is great, and it really does pair well with the dishes we had that night. :slight_smile:

Japanese Sea Bream, Ginger Bud, Pickled Plum Irizake:

In this one dish, there are so many fantastic techniques and subtleties that might go unnoticed: The Japanese Sea Bream is topped with Yubiki, a traditional technique of cooking the fish’s skin with a broth until it becomes a gelatinous mixture, it is then chilled and thin sliced as a topping on the Sea Bream. It adds an interesting bite and slight crunch, and there’s a great flavor emanating from each bite.

The Irizake is an old Edo-style technique of creating a Sake Plum Sauce, and it is perfect with the Sea Bream, far more interesting than just Wasabi, or some Soy Sauce / Ponzu preparation that we see so often in L.A.

And this wouldn’t be worth anything if the actual dish wasn’t good: The Japanese Sea Bream was so fresh, clean, and an excellent dish. :slight_smile:

Cuttlefish Squid Sashimi, Local Seaweed:

This looks shocking and stunning, the Cuttlefish Squid is prepared in its own Squid Ink. It’s a bit funky, but interesting, and pretty tasty.

They also presented part of its tentacles grilled, which was also pretty good.

California Holstein Beef Strip, Grilled, Fresh Wasabi, Narazuke Pickles:

According to Chef David, the California Holstein breed of cattle is overlooked, but has so much flavor. After taking a bite, WOW! I have to agree with the chef.

There’s a real, deep, true beefiness with each bite of the Holstein Beef Strip! Sure there’s a fat cap, but Chef David slices it in such a way that each bite / slice has mostly lean Holstein Beef with a sliver of fat, and it’s amazing in its flavor! Add in the fresh-grated Wasabi (grated on a sharkskin grater just like traditional Sushi restaurants), and you have perfection! :heart:

The Narazuke Pickles (also homemade) are fantastic as well, lending a crunchy sweet-tart angle.

On our 2nd visit, I started with a Cordial: Genever & Amaro:

This was also interesting, and less sweet than the Amontillado Sherry Cordial I had last time. Still very smooth and easy to drink. :slight_smile:

We began the night with 3 very rare bites, a tradition that Chef Schlosser says is rooted in Japan, where the chef would present customers that had an appreciation for the rare, unique, or odd items, something they had been cooking / developing for a while.

So for us, Chef Schlosser presented 3 examples of items that are still being developed for his future menu.

Yubeshi, Aged 5 Months:

Yubeshi, an ancient traditional preparation dating back from feudal Japan(!), made with Yuzu and Walnuts, aged 5 months in his personal kitchen! :open_mouth: This was fantastic! Japanese Yuzu is amazing, but aged over 5 months, it mellows out the acidity and tartness and has a deep fruity nature to the bite.

Beef Tongue, Aged 4 Months:

Wow! This was Beef Tongue aged 4 months, again also something made-from-scratch. After 4 months, the Beef Tongue took on a super tender, soft, pliant texture and the taste was very sweet, almost like a sweet-style tender Beef Jerky (soft, not hard and chewy). It was very interesting.

Sansho Seed, Aged 3 Months:

Another rare, interesting bite. It was slightly soft, a bit of a meaty texture to it, and fragrant.

Koshino Kanchubai Junmai Ginjo Sake (Niigata, Japan):

Pretty clean, but a bit of a long finish, slight burn. Not the best Sake I’ve had but a solid one that paired well with the dishes. I’ll have to let @beefnoguy see what might best pair here. :wink:

Avocado, Wakame, Greens & Hemp:

This was a pretty delicious Salad, showing excellent sourcing with the Avocado, the Greens were bright and Spring-like and the dressing was balanced.

Silky Egg Tofu, Uni, Fresh Nori & Wasabi:

The housemade fresh Egg Tofu is truly silky, soft, and the flavors just work so well! The Nori and fresh-grated Wasabi Root, along with the Uni are just so delicious! :slight_smile: This is something @MaladyNelson would love! :slight_smile:

Time for another drink, and we noticed (too late, as we already ordered something else,) they have Asahi Lager on tap, from Tokyo, Japan! :slight_smile: Which tastes so much better than the North American-brewed Asahi that most of us are used to.

Niigata Beer Company, Golden Kolsch (Niigata, Japan):

I have never seen this Japanese Beer offered locally before, but this Golden Kolsch was fantastic! It was slightly malty, a little bit hoppy, but never too bitter like an IPA. It was very sippable, and just a really great Beer! :smile:

Crispy Monkfish, Kara-age, Citrus, Kelp Salt:

This was pretty tasty as well, crunchy, deep fried Monkfish, the flavor pairing with the Kelp Salt, and the quality of the batter really set it apart from the usual Kara-age dishes.

Salmon Trout Smoked with Cherry Bark:

Perfectly cooked Salmon Trout. Smoked in-house using Cherry Bark, which gave each bite a great smokiness. Fish Skin Deep Fried crunchy goodness! :slight_smile:

Grilled Heritage Pork in Koji Rice, Pickled Daikon, Leek:

This looked like rather “boring” Pork cubes, but what it lacked in presentation made up for it in absolutely crave-worthy, delicious chunks of Heritage Pork. The Koji Rice (housemade) marinade imparted such a great flavor that we couldn’t stop eating this! :slight_smile:

One of the best dishes of the night.

Omusubi: Grilled Rice with Mushroom, Burdock and Gourd:

These are Yaki Onigiri basically, and they were quite good. Just really solid renditions of the classic dish.

Classic Warabi Mochi:

Kinako-coated Bracken Starch is nutty, gelatinous and slightly sweet. Not as good as the homemade traditional Mochi (from Sakuraya), but we learned that this Warabi Mochi was different (not made from Rice).

Koji ®ice Cream, Strawberry, Elderflower:

Yes, Chef David even makes his own “Rice Cream” from scratch, using Koji Rice as a base! This chilled, frozen dessert is quite delicious, not as creamy as a traditional dairy milk version, but standout in its own right. The Strawberries were very fresh and the Elderflower lent a fragrant, natural flower note.

On our 3rd visit, we started with the Cucumbers Stuffed with Shiso Leaf, Seeds, Umeboshi & Bonito again:

Chilled Corn Soup, Yuba, Puffed Rice:

I wasn’t expecting much, but this Chilled Corn Soup was STUNNING! Inherent sweetness of the Corn, Chef Schlosser’s perfect, silky, delicate made-from-scratch Yuba! And the crunchy bits of Puffed Rice.

One of the best dishes I’ve had in 2016! SO GOOD! :heart:

Golden Beets, Broiled with Barley Miso:

Beautiful plating and presentation, these are locally-sourced Golden Beets, paired very nicely with his unique Barley Miso (also made in-house). The sweet, earthy, mixed with the nutty and deep, rich Miso flavors (and different from commercially bought versions) was spot-on.

Salmon Trout Smoked with Cherry Bark:

Had to order this again, because another friend (their first time) wanted to try it. Even better on this 3rd visit! Perfectly cooked, still moist, tender. :slight_smile:

Japanese Sea Bream Sashimi, Ginger Bud, Pickled Plum Irizake:

Just as good the 2nd time we ordered it. :slight_smile: I really love sampling this ancient Japanese Irizake Sauce preparation.

Cordial, Sweet Vermouth & Roasted Barley:

Wow! This tasted like a smoky, nutty, sweet Coffee drink! So good! :slight_smile:

California Holstein Beef Strip, Grilled, Fresh Wasabi, Narazuke Pickles:

I thought this second time ordering this was also better than the first time. Love that beefiness! :slight_smile:

Chilled Apricot Seed Tofu, Apricots:

I thought I loved Almond Tofu, but Chef Schlosser’s Chilled Apricot Seed Tofu (made in-house once again!), was even better. Imagine a nutty, really aromatic Jello-like dessert, but more nuanced and balanced than the usual Almond Tofu you might find around here, and you have Shibumi’s Apricot Seed Tofu. Excellent! :slight_smile:

On our 4th visit, last night, we had heard Chef Schlosser added a few more items to the menu, and now it’s rounded out pretty well.

Castell d’Age (Xarel-lo, Macabeu, Parellada), Catalonia, Spain:

Recommended by the chef, this was a really nice way to start the meal. It paired great with our first course, and it showed Chef Schlosser’s thinking outside the box (beyond Sake) for his Kappo dishes.

Kinki Sashimi, Housemade Ponzu:

One of the specials of the evening was a locally caught Kinki fish, prepared Sashimi style, with a made-from-scratch Ponzu sauce(!). The Kinki was tender but slightly chewy (from the skin, on purpose, as hot water was poured on top of the skin to make it curl up and firm up slightly). The Housemade Ponzu Sauce was fantastic, really delicate and not overly tart like most mass-produced Ponzu.

But the star was the Kinki Liver! Steeped in Sake, flash cooked and tasting like the most amazing, buttery bite you’ve had. Chef Schlosser mentions this is really due to how fresh the fish was (caught that morning).

Abalone, Housemade Miso, Ginger, Fresh Mochi:

Another new dish on the menu, fresh, tender, meaty pieces of Abalone are paired with a Housemade Miso. But what makes this dish so good is the play on textures by the chef: Fresh Mochi (the Rice version) is soft and pillowy, and then you chew some of the fresh Abalone, which is meaty and firmer, but still tender, and you get this interplay of textures in your mouth. It’s really fun in many ways, but this might not be interesting for everyone, LOL. I thought it was great. :slight_smile:

Shichida Junmai Sake (Saga, Japan):

Another Sake recommendation by Chef Schlosser for tonight’s food, and it was spot-on! The Shichida Junmai was sweet, but balanced, with a dry finish. Excellent. :slight_smile:

A5 Wagyu Rib Cap, Sansho & Kelp Paste:

I was really looking forward to this dish, as A5 Wagyu is supposed to be the best Beef from Japan. Sadly, it was slightly overcooked, and the cut we received was too chewy (gristle running through the piece). There was that unmistakable lush beefy and fatty quality (great), but our piece was ruined by the gristle. :frowning:

It should be noted that Chef Schlosser isn’t in the back preparing the steaks (his assistants are), and it feels like if he was able to man the stoves as well (which is impossible with all the cutting and prep and work up front), this issue would probably have been caught (seeing his obsessiveness with the dishes he prepares up front).

On a positive note, the made-from-scratch Sansho & Kelp Paste is ridiculous in how good it is! :slight_smile: This type of obsessive sourcing and cooking - to want to make what might be a “throwaway” condiment in many restaurants - is what really impresses me the most about Shibumi. It really tasted far better than any Sansho condiment I’ve had before, really nuanced and interesting and balanced.

Mizu Nasu (Eggplant), Housemade Miso:

Chef Schlosser offered us another off-menu bite: Fresh Mizu Nasu (which he says appears 1 month out of the year), simply served raw with his Housemade Miso. It was delicious! :slight_smile: Very unusual and tasty.

Watermelon Gherkin, Pickled:

Chef just started another pickling project, with Watermelon Gherkin being pickled. They weren’t fully ready yet, but he let us try this version, aged 3 days. It was unusual, fun and quite tasty! :slight_smile: Slightly crunchy, crisp, fresh.

Baby Pearl Tapioca in Bitter Almond Milk, Figs:

Showing more versatility, Chef Schlosser creates a new seasonal dessert, where he makes his own Pearl Tapioca, along with his own Bitter Almond Milk in-house! :open_mouth: The result is engaging and stunning: Slightly sweet, Almond nuttiness, with a satisfying chew from the Baby Pearl Tapioca, but what sets it apart is the bitterness! There’s a really interesting bitter backnote, that makes this dessert far more interesting than if it had just been the typical sweet Almond Milk. The fresh Figs reflected what was great in season at the moment.

So over 4 visits and seeing Shibumi from Grand Opening until last night, Chef David Schlosser has created a great Kappo cuisine restaurant in L.A. The dishes are more refined than a standard Izakaya, and his fermenting, pickling, aging and make-everything-from-scratch attitude all support and enhance each dish on his menu.

When you take a bite of excellent Beef or Pork, but with a dab of a Housemade Red Miso made from Shiso Seeds(!), you realize this isn’t just a standard Izakaya like Honda-ya and its ilk.

With an eclectic, interesting Cordial and Cider menu, solid Sake menu, great Beers from Japan like the Golden Kolsch, that might be reason alone to stop by the bar. But then you get to the menu which has a few misses, but far more hits and interesting items like sampling an old Edo-style preparation for Irizake, or sampling odd, interesting made-from-scratch Miso, or Bitter Almond Milk and more, and you gain a genuine appreciation for what Chef Schlosser is trying to do.

And then you get to the Chilled Corn and Housemade Yuba Soup, and all is right in the world. :blush:

Shibumi
815 S. Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Tel: (213) 265-7923

Update 3: Amazing Chinmi (Aged, Fermented Uni and Spot Prawns), and the debut of True Kobe Beef from Kobe, Japan!

Update 4: More rare Chinmi offerings, new Sake as well.

Update 5: Amazing Takacho Bodaimoto Sake, More Chinmi Offerings, Beef Tasting and more.

11 Likes

Thanks for the report @Chowseeker1999. Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding of kappo is it’s a style of dining where guests sit at a counter and are able to watch the chef prepare and cook their meal. So i would consider le comptoir, kagaya, trois mec, petit trois, lukshon, or the counter at maude to be kappo-style restaurants.

Yes and no…

Yes, the chef does indeed prepares the meal in front of the customer at both Shibumi as well as all the other aforementioned establishments. BUT kappo ryori, though itself becoming more loosely defined these days, does maintain that dishes that are more or less traditional in keeping with Japanese cuisine be served.

2 Likes

Okay, but it’s still describing the style of Japanese dining rather than the type of Japanese cuisine, correct? I can’t find anything that describes “kappo cuisine”.

That’s one of my gripes about Shibumi, it’s only a kappo-style restaurant for the 4 or 5 people who happen to be sitting in front of Chef Schlosser, the rest of the counter seating is in front of the bar. The one time i went I was seated at the bar and was disappointed I wasn’t able to talk to the chef let alone actually see him prepare my meal. Also, they don’t have an open kitchen, so i don’t think anybody can see the hot dishes being prepared. Not something i expected from a self-described “kappo-style” restaurant. I’ll be back but will be sure to ask to be seated in front of the chef.

Very impressive post! For Chef Schlosser to pull all of this off would make his teachers very proud. He displays skills and knowledge I would associate with the traditions and refinement of Kyoto.

Kyoto seems to embrace yuba, as it can be easily found in all forms there. We ate at a restaurant in Kyoto that specialized in yuba dishes, and it’s not unusual to come across places that sell yuba, where one can see how the yuba is made.

I think for Chef Schlosser to make and incorporate yuba and other ingrdients into many of his dishes sets his place apart from just about everyone else. Minimum, he has established his own niche.

I think @J_L has a strong point about certain aspects of Kappo that might be diluted here. But viewing the preparation, the chef-guest exchange and the immediacy of the offering of the dishes to the guest is probably lost upon all except those who can truly appreciate those aspects. I think most dining guests prefer to have their food and their dining experience seperated from its preparation.

People as knowledgeable, appreciative and experienced with food like J_L, you and a handful of others on this board are in the 99th percentile of eaters IMHO. There is great value in terms of gaining even more knowledge, appreciation and entertainment in those aspects of Kappo for those who can truly appreciate it. Even in Japan, I think only a small minority of the population ever experiences this type of formal intimacy with their cuisine.

I think for the vast majority of people who can appreciate food prepared with such care, sourcing and execution, taking in such meals, even “from afar,” would be a thing a beauty. Again, great, great post.

3 Likes

Hi @PorkyBelly,

What @J_L said. And your gripe is fair, I think it’s the compromise of trying to make a restaurant like this work in L.A. Ideally every seat in the house would be in front of the chef and you’d see him cut and cook and serve you the dish in an intimate setting, but I think that would also be the ideal / optimum way to enjoy Sushi as well (having someone like Maru-san or Shunji-san personally prepare and serve you and your guests). But as we see with even those top Sushi restaurants, there are plenty of tables (away from the bar), and those guests are disconnected from the sushi chef as well.

On 2 of our visits, I noticed guests asking the waiter to ask for the chef, and he happily obliged to stop by and chat about the dishes, etc.

And yah, I’d recommend asking to be sat in front of Chef David. He was able to serve and talk to about 7 seats that were in front of him / adjacent to him regularly.

Great post @bulavinaka! :slight_smile:

Indeed, I think that most people are enjoying the dishes by themselves (and the great bar program / extensive drink menu of interesting, rare offerings). In an ideal restaurant and world, the chef would just be cooking for and serving you exclusively, and talking and highlighting aspects of the dish and making sure you enjoyed each bite.

I think that’s why I’m eager to one day try places in Japan where it’s just a chef and a few seats, whether it’s a Sushi restaurant or Kappo, or just a small hole-in-wall specialist of something else.

That is awesome that you had Yuba in Kyoto! :slight_smile: I’ll have to see what you think of Chef Schlosser’s version. Thanks.

i should probably say this more often in response to what you bring to FTC: great post.

7 Likes

Thank you for such a well-written review! Great photos too!

1 Like

Thanks @secretasianman @whatsfordinner. :slight_smile:

Hope you get to try Shibumi and report back on your experience there.

Your contributions here are so tremendous, @Chowseeker1999! We are the lucky beneficiaries of your culinary know-how. Thanks for thinking of me. I need to try that dish ASAP, as the combination of tofu, uni, wasabi, and nori sounds irresistible.

1 Like

Hi @MaladyNelson,

Thanks. :slight_smile: Besides the Tofu, Uni, Wasabi dish, that Chilled Corn Soup with Homemade Yuba is a must also! :slight_smile:

2 Likes

I have to say that kappo ryori is not terribly well defined overall. 割烹 (kappo) characters basically mean to “cut” (knifework) and 烹 roughly meaning “cooking”. But that is not enough.

Agreed that pretty much all kappo restaurants in Japan are small and are counter seating, facing the chef for interaction and watching him (or her) cook. However most kappo specialist restaurants in Japan are generally very upscale and the more traditionalist places are referred to as 料亭 (ryo-tei) where these are reserved for executives, diplomats, maybe celebs, and/or politicians to discuss private matters. The stricter baseline definition of a kappo chef, requires that he or she handles everything; from material sourcing to prep, and is highly skilled in all forms of Japanese cuisine (steaming, pan frying, braising/stewing, deep frying, grilling, roasting, curing/pickling etc). I would further add that mastering dashi (also very elementary), as well as elevating it in the courses or dishes/bowls, is essential to kappo cuisine. So with that said, chawanmushi is a pretty typical item, but 90% of the time, many places can’t steam an egg custard properly, and the dashi component is not there at all or severely lacking/no balance with respect to the ingredients put in there.

6 Likes

Thanks for the additional info @beefnoguy.

Yah as I was thinking of Kappo restaurants doing good work with steaming, frying, roasting / grilling, it made me think of those similar courses in Kaiseki cuisine. It’s almost like a non-coursed out version of Kaiseki in some ways.

1 Like

agree!

I’ve always roughly thought of these Japanese meal styles like this. What kaiseki is to omakase served tableside, kappo is to fragmented a la carte kaiseki dishes conjoined with omakase served at the bar with the chef as your host. A chef’s table would be a Western equivalent.

Kaiseki is a much more formalized version of omakase where the chef’s interpretation of what he (or Niki) can bring to the dishes is at its zenith in every way: ingredients, seasonality, presentation and setting. The array of dishes conjoin to form a meal that speaks for itself.

Kappo is a more stylized Kyoto-esque version of izakaya. Many of the dishes could easily cross over between kaiseki and kappo, with the chef or staff guiding the guest(s) through each dish. You may or may not end up with a vaguely similar experience to kaiseki, but those interested in all the aspects of their dishes will very much appreciate the well-informed guided tour.

2 Likes

Rereading Jgold’s review, he describes Shibumi as a “a modest, season-dependent izakaya”. No where in his review does he mention the word kappo. And I would agree, Shibumi is more of a higher end izakaya than a kappo restaurant. If Shibumi offered a set-menu, with a counter surrounding the chef and kitchen (e.g. momofuku ko, chef’s table at brooklyn fare, atera, blanca, le comptoir) I would consider it kappo.

@beefnoguy are there kappo restaurants in Japan that just serve a la carte or do most offer set-menus?

Thanks for the write up!

Do they offer an omakase type of dinner service or is everything ordered a la carte off the menu?

Regarding Kappo restaurants in Japan, I’m not qualified to comment on the subject matter, but my guess is you have a mix of both from randomly looking up a few places in Tokyo where they have website menus. Some have a la carte, and some also offer sets, and there are those that are set only/seasonal tasting menu. The omakase part I suppose comes in depending on whether you are a regular and the chef knows your tastes.

Loosely speaking, high end sushi places that have counter seats only (and seat less than 10) but are L shaped, could be thought of as kappo.

Back to the dashi comment I made earlier, one of my absolute favorites is braised daikon (ni-daikon) in dashi. You could iterate upon to make additional classics. e.g.add fish like an adult yellowtail to it, and then you have buri daikon, or clear broth beef stew like suji kon where some daikon will kick it up a few notches, or add chicken/vegetables, seasoning, and the stew called chikuzeni is absolutely wonderful. Ni-daikon is such a fundamental item, but it can be so damn good and comforting if done right. Much like how we measure fish to rice balance in nigiri, it’s the dashi, daikon (and prep), the cooking/braising. A good mid to high end kappo place should nail this all the time and super refined high end compared to grandma’s recipe (e.g. the family style/family cuisine restaurants, the neighborhood izakaya, or the oden shop (all of which are likely damn good already by our standards). But maybe ni-daikon is too low end for some, and it gets lost.

It’s the same thing with nikujaga (a meat and potatoes stew). If you ever get the chance to have it done by a kappo / kaiseki trained chef, you will be in utter heaven.

Hi @PorkyBelly,

You see, that’s where it’s not set in stone. Ask Chef Schlosser directly (or any native of Japan that enjoys Kappo ryori) and they will tell you J. Gold was wrong. It’s not an Izakaya. That’s why you don’t see a single dish that is typical Izakaya fare (e.g., Braised Pork Belly Stew, Japanese Fried Chicken, Grilled Whole Squid, etc.).

Also, Kappo restaurants don’t have to be “set menu only” as @beefnoguy stated. Asking a friend from Tokyo and another from Osaka, they mention that Kappo restaurants are not “set menu only.” You could order dishes a la carte at some of them.

You’re right in the confusion that it seems to be rather loosely defined and easy to get confused (I wondered about it myself). But after hearing from a few Japanese friends and Chef Schlosser himself (trained over in Japan at those well-regarded eateries), I get the feeling it is what @bulavinaka and @beefnoguy have said:

It’s like chef-driven, high quality, well-executed small plates of seasonal / local ingredients (usually), that fall into the classic Japanese cooking categories you see celebrated in a more stringent format with Kaiseki: Boiled, Steamed, Fried, etc. except you don’t have it in a grand “tasting menu / omakase” like format like Kaiseki.