I knew that I was married to the right person (or perhaps that I had become a little bit too predictable) when Mr MTV told me he had booked dinner at Kappo for our wedding anniversary this year. You see I had also booked dinner at Kappo for our wedding anniversary.
It was a little bit awkward when we turned up with two bookings for the same dinner but it does go to show ladies that dropping persistent hints about restaurants eventually pays off. I loved our meal at Kappo and only hoped that an invitation back to the restaurant for the launch of Kappo’s Winter menu would live up to my memories.
What makes Kappo so memorable (and perfect for a special occasion dinner) is the attention to detail. It’s so Japanese. From the hand towel when you first sit down to the opportunity to select your own chopsticks and saké cup from Kappo’s envy-inducing collection.
The carefully considered presentation of every dish also evokes strong memories of Japan. There’s the show stopping Zensai – a round plate carefully arranged with a scoop of warm seasonal vegetables, walnut miso, ocean tartare and sea urchin with egg tofu and a shaving of fresh truffle for extra decadence.
Usually I prefer oysters unadorned but I can make an exception for Kappo’s Coffin Bay oysters with white sesame and finger lime. It’s served with a stunning champagne: the De Sousa Brut Tradition, Avize.
In this intimate restaurant if you are solo dining or a couple the best seats at Kappo are at the bar where you can watch the sushi master, Kentaro Usami, at work. The quality of the seafood here is top notch. Cured salmon wrapped around Yarra Valley salmon roe is the sort of dish where the ingredients really shine.
Kappo generally uses local seafood but an exception is made for the chutoro and you can see why. It’s cut from the precious lower belly of the fish and this melt on the mouth piece of fish is teamed with fermented black garlic for a rich and memorable dish.
The most wintery dish of the night was the grilled mushrooms. Anticipation built after the mushrooms were grilled in front of us giving them a fantastic smoky flavour. The theatre of the grilling all added to the experience of savouring the grilled pine mushrooms, shiitake and Japanese turnips. They were teamed with jelly from a citrus fruit called kabosu, daikon, ginger and sesame.
There are also some dishes at Kappo which push the boundaries. I loved the pairing of delicate tempura fried Tasmanian green lip abalone with dark green “abalone gut” but the pungent, bold sauce is probably not for everyone.
Unlike many Japanese restaurants dessert is not an after thought at Kappo. There’s a palate cleanser of yuzu and honey sorbet and then warm tofu cake alongside slices of winter pineapple, fuji apple, chocolate sauce and a shaving of fresh truffle. This was served with the Japanese equivalent of dessert wine – the delicate orange coloured Umeko umeshu wakayma.
The great thing about my two dinners at Kappo was experiencing all the changes in the menu. It really showed the commitment to seasonal produce (too often a term just bandied around in restaurants) and gives regular diners new and interesting dishes to explore when they return. I might have to start early dropping hints for next year’s wedding anniversary.
Gourmet Chick has visited Kappo twice once anonymously and once as a guest of the restaurant.
Details: Kappo, Ground Floor, 1 Flinders Lane, Melbourne (03) 9639 9500. Ring the doorbell to get in.