Chowdown at Kappou Gomi
Six Chowhounds met in the chow-prospecting-friendly Avenues of Outer Richmond to try the food at one of the the city's most talked about Japanese restaurants: Kappou Gomi. Kappou is a generic Japanese term for restaurant, which in modern usage has come to mean an authentic restaurant. Gomi is a family name and in this case the surname of Harumi and Masahako Gomi, the manager and chef of this very authentic 32-seat restaurant. We met Harumi, a charming hostess, and we pronounce this place as Authentic!
A sign in the window warns, "No sushi, no combination plates," and is a warning that should be taken to heart. Kappou Gomi has a vision -- they serve Japanese food, not Japanese-American food. There is absolutely no relationship between this place and a Benihana or for that matter, a sushi-boat establishment.
We asked the kitchen to pick a wide range of dishes that would give us an idea of the food. They thought about this for a minute, and asked "will you eat anything?" "Anything at all, that you would like to serve," I replied. And I let them know that I have been known to eat Ika Shiokara, so long as I had sufficient sake at hand to wash it down. They were convinced, and went off to make a list. This is what they brought...
Nozawana Saute (Sauteed Japanese Turnip Leaves with Bonito Flakes)
I liked this. At the time is was "mystery" vegetables with what tasted like handfuls of bonito flakes thrown in. I now know that "nozawana" is a Japanese turnip leaf. There were also scallions in the mix. The tangy-gaminess of the slightly rehydrated bonito constrasted well with the bitter greens.
Shira Ae (Cooked vegetable salad w/Tofu and Sesame-Seed Dressing)
All I remember about this is I didn't dislike it. (In my opinion, nothing we had fell below the level of "good")
Mentaiko Kyuri (Cucumber stuffed with Alaska pollack fish roe)
This was thinly sliced cucumber wrapped around fish roe. Think about "maki" sushi and replace the nori with cucumber, and throw away the rice. It was seasoned with vinegar, and very crunchally delicious.
Takiawase (Pumpkin in broth)
Braised chunks of Japanese pumpkin in a flavorful broth.
Hirame Usuzukuri (Halibut sashimi with ponzu)
Thinly sliced halibut with micro-julienned carrots and daikon radish.
Uni Shishokan (Uni Gelee with Salmon roe)
A beautiful dish. Too bad I don't have pictures. It was like the essence of the sea, and was the winner on elegant presentation. Order This Dish.
Salmon Miso Grill
Salmon marinated in miso and then grilled. It was crispy and juicy at the same time. No complants. Not a morsel was left.
Saba Sashimi (Mackerel Sashimi)
Excellent mackerel, fresh and delicious.
Kani Yuba Tempura (Crab Tofu-skin Tempura aka crabcake tempura)
Hands-down the most creative tempura I have ever been served. Besides being delicious (think of Japanese/Maryland crab cakes) it was a great presentation, just behind the uni dish. A highlight here was the small sticks of deep fried miniature crunchy fish roe.
Kamo Koshu-Ni (Cold Duck stewed in red wine and spices)
An excellently seasoned and cooked sliced duck breast was served with pickled vegetables. Very yummy.
Beef Butter Grilled
A rumor has it that this is the most popular dish here. I don't doubt it. The beef is marinated is some sort of rich and slightly sweet sauce, then grilled and sliced. It is served with pickled vegetables. Think of this as a sort of Texas sweet-and-sour that took detour through Lyon before it ended up in Tokyo. Order This Dish Too.
Pork Kakuni (Braised Pork Belly)
Crispy and tender (yes, it's possible) pork belly served in a broth with vegetables.
Horaku Egg (Claypot seafood custard)
Seafood, served in a clay pot with an egg custard and broth. Excellently executed. Rich and well seasoned.
Chicken & Cabbage
Chicken pieces and cabbage in a flavorful broth. Nothing wrong here, it falls into the good category, but I might skip this next time.
Agedashi Mochi (Fried Mochi in Dashi Broth)
Only tried the broth (which was great). Someone else will need to comment on the fried mochi.
Kappou Gomi cleans and poaches their own monkfish liver. This is sometimes referred to as Japanese Foie Gras, and this is an excellent rendition. It was drizzled with a bit of vinegar, I think, to season it.
Didn't try this. Someone else is going to have to comment.
Did we like it? I certainly did. Everyone at the table insisted they would be back soon. The food isn't elegant like it is at, for example, Kappa, but it is conceived, prepared and presented with a great skill, and an obvious passion for great Japanese cooking.
I give Kappou Gomi, the Paul H "thumbs up."
5524 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121
I can only answer two of those questions.
1. Total cost including a $60 bottle of sake and tax & tip was $265 for six people. Without the sake, it was $185, or about $31 per person.
2. Prices ranged from $4 (Nozawana Saute) to $16 (Hirame Usuzukuri) with an average of $8.60 per dish.
3. This is the question I can't answer. :-)
Thanks for starting the post....
While this was my 2nd time to the restaurant, I was so excited to meet with fellow chowhounds and tried out 18 new dishes.
The agedashi mochi ... it was a bit soggy by the time it came to the other end of the table. so I could not comment on the batter. the mochi is chewy but not in a inseparable mess. It was yummy still when I had the last old sitting in cold broth. (Apparently I ate Paul's portion as well. Sorry!)
My favorite dish was the Horaku Egg. the texture was a bit thicker than the regular chawanmushi. The seafood and mushroom were placed on top of the custard instead of inside. Thus, the flavor from each ingredients really stood out. The mushroom was "crispy" with a light rice wine aroma.
My second favorite was the Beef Butter grill. Comparing to other dishes, the plating was very simple. There was not a pink flower or small sticks of mini crucnhy fish roe. The beef itself was not that special. You will find the beauty when eating with pickled vegetables.
Mentaiko Kyuri is my 3rd choice. just like Paul described above.
The saba was also very delicious, but did not make it to my favorite because one can find good sushi elsewhere easily.
I was actually disappointed by the Kani Yuba Tempura as I think it looked better than the actual taste. Maybe I spent too much time admiring the presentation and got my priority wrong and ate the eggplant tempura first. :P
Wish there is picture to remind me the dishes because I drawn blank on the Shira Ae. Is that the salad placed in the orange?
I will try post more tomorrow about the services and tips~
Another "thumbs up". Perhaps it was sensory overload; I can add little to the comments — but I will return for more of this delicious fare; absolutely delighted and charmed by its authenticity.