Kappo Yu is on the sleepy western end of Huaihai Lu. There's a few neighborhood businesses in the immediate area, but otherwise the area is quietly residential. Mardi Gras
and its second-floor, Japanese-run bar is about a ten minute walk away. It seems the appropriate nightcap. Otherwise, the hustle and bustle of Xujiahui and the emerging Yongfu Lu bar colony
are both quick cab rides away.
What it is:
The sister restaurant to Sushi Oyama
. It's a kaiseki-style of restaurant, with a set ten-course menu of seasonal dishes, and nothing else. The kappo
part of the name references a "counter" style of service -- call it casual kaiseki -- and sure enough, ten of Kappo Yu's twenty seats are at a curving, lacquered red counter (the other ten are split between two tatami-floored private rooms). The food is overseen by Oyama, but handled by Yohei Terada, a recent arrival from Tokyo whose resume includes Tokyo's Nadaman
Kappo Yu isn't staunchly traditional Japanese -- there are a few contemporary accents in the drinks list, the decor, and the menu. Most Japanese restaurants don't stock boutique Champagnes among their high-end sake lists, for example. The daily menu, handwritten on a diaphanous piece of natural paper, comes in Japanese, Chinese, and English. Between the three waitresses, they speak all those languages as well. It's a high-end Japanese restaurant with a few smart internationalisms. No points off for that.
As the Sushi Oyama / Kappo Yu folks eloquently explained to me, the difference breaks down like this:
Sushi comes from the culture of the samurai, the culture of old Tokyo's Edo period. It's male.
, and kaiseki, comes from the culture of the emperor, and from Kyoto. It's female, hence the softer feel of the place -- its curving bar, soft colors, lipstick red lacquer.
What they're trying to say is "Don't ask for sushi at Kappo Yu."
It's not that kind of Japanese restaurant. There is a sashimi course -- last night it involved a pristine scallop, sweet shrimp, flounder, buttery mackerel, and toro -- but it's just one of ten in the sequence.
Seasonality is one of the fundamentals of this style, and so the menu changes a little bit every day, and completely every two weeks. For example, in last night's menu, below, there's some early summer corn, a bit of Chinese bayberry, a small freshwater fish called ayu
, and conger eel -- all early summer foods in this part of the world. Here's the full thing:
sweet corn soup with shrimp and beancurd
smoked wild duck
shrimp egg cake
chrysanthemum tofu with sweet miso
vinegared cutlass fish
clear tomato soup
steamed egg with lily bulb, gingko nuts, mackerel soft roe, and yuzu-dashi broth
Fresh Sashimi from Nagasaki
grilled ayu marinated with white miso
Deep Fried Dish
conger eel and abalone tempura with liver-ponzu sauce
stewed pork and daikon with mustard
cold Inaniwa udon, plum flavor
Superior Chirashi Sushi
sea urchin, salmon roe, egg, chopped toro, pickles, miso soup
lemon sorbet and rare cheesecake
sticky mochi cake
There were a lot of very interesting things going on there. The sweet corn soup is faintly smoky and shot through with the minty kick of shiso; the tomato soup is as clear as vodka, with a few stems of water-shield floating on top; the Inaniwa udon isn't round or hefty, but instead a delicate dish of cold, flat noodles the size of linguine; the sticky mochi cake is briefly torched, like a marshmallow, and sitting in what looks like honey but turns out to be a sugar syrup splashed with soy sauce.
To name just a few.
Naturally, the ceramic serving pieces are all very pretty, the atmosphere is appropriately subdued, and the four waitresses -- one is the owner's retired mom -- are eagle-eyed. (His father does the calligraphy for the Japanese menus and helps out in the kitchen.)
Kappo Yu uses the traditional blond-wood color palette in a fairly creative way. The counter is hemmed in by a wavy wall whose ridged plaster has been brushed to look like wood grain; a piano-shaped ceiling panel echoes the curves of both it and the lipstick-red lacquered bar; the walls are finished in pressed sand. It's all in the details.
The menu is 690rmb. If you're drinking anything but beer -- wine, boutique Champagne, high-end sake -- bottles start at around 300rmb and go up, up, up. Reconcile your expenditure with your heart before you slide open the door.
They're expecting about the same monied crowd as Sushi Oyama, a mix of upper-class Chinese, Japanese doing some light business, and foreigners willing to pay top dollar for a guided entry into the world of premium Japanese food. It's set up exactly to make all three groups feel comfortable.
33 Wuxing Lu,
near Huaihai Xi Lu
(Taken from 3-6pm only)
10-course set menu, 690rmb;
Sake, Champagne, and wine from 300rmb up