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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.

Japanese Sweets
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."

Kappou Gomi
5524 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

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  1. how much was the cost for this meal? What are the prices like for each dish? Where are the other people's review?

    1 Reply
    1. re: hhc

      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. :-)

    2. 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~

      1. 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.

        1. Here are photos of four of the most photogenic dishes

          1 Reply
          1. re: Paul H

            - these photos capture the dishes as beautifully intriguing, also. The DH would order the Saba Sashimi and the Horaku Egg when we return for another dinner; I would certainly return for the Ankimo, Uni Shishokan, Mentaiko Kyuri. The menu offers many more new temptations.

          2. Paul, thanks for hosting AND editing/captioning my photos. Here are more pix.

            2 Replies
              1. I loved this little place. The prices are at izakaya level but the cooking is more sophisticated and varied. Comparing it to Mountain View’s Kappo Nami Nami, I like Kappou Gomi much better and look forward to working my way through the extensive menu.

                Here’s the bill from Kappou Gomi showing the price for each dish,

                Nozawana Saute (Sauteed Japanese Turnip Leaves with Bonito Flakes
                )Liked the greens, thanks for id’ing them as turnip leaves, thought the bonito overpowered.

                Shira Ae (Cooked vegetable salad w/Tofu and Sesame-Seed Dressing)
                My least favorite dish, never did figure out what I was eating, pretty garnish of dried persimmon.

                Mentaiko Kyuri (Cucumber stuffed with Alaska pollack fish roe)
                One of my top picks, very spicy mentaiko.

                Takiawase (Pumpkin in broth)
                More than just braised pumpkin, this had a variety of seasonal veggies, and I was lucky to snag the fresh yuba roll for my portion.

                Hirame Usuzukuri (Halibut sashimi with ponzu)
                So sweet and delicate. While equally good fish may be available elsewhere, the quality of the garnishes and tuning of the yuzu-scented dipping sauce showed great finesse.

                Uni Shishokan (Uni Gelee with Salmon roe)
                My favorite dish, and even more impressed that uni could be dressed up to look so stunningly beautiful.

                Salmon Miso Grill
                My little taste of this was slightly overcooked, good flavor though.

                Saba Sashimi (Mackerel Sashimi)
                Lovely presentation, and again the quality of the garnishes and matching the tone of the dipping sauce to the oily richness of the fish made it very special.

                Kani Yuba Tempura (Crab Tofu-skin Tempura aka crabcake tempura)
                Very pretty, not sure what vegetable was in the stick-like piece I landed, well-fried in a light batter.

                Kamo Koshu-Ni (Cold Duck stewed in red wine and spices)
                Didn’t do much for me, duck breast served cold room temperature was rather stiff and almost tough.

                Beef Butter Grilled
                Loved the contrast between the incredibly rich meat doused in butter vs. the tangy light vegetable pairing, don’t miss the crunchy slices of lotus root.

                Pork Kakuni (Braised Pork Belly)
                Nice flavor, but the meat was not as buttery tender as the best examples.

                Horaku Egg (Claypot seafood custard)
                Very nice rendition studded with seafood and kabocha, seemed richer and heavier on yolks than typical.

                Chicken & Cabbage
                Perhaps the homey and homely outlier in this meal and too plain to catch our attention.

                Agedashi Mochi (Fried Mochi in Dashi Broth)
                Very chewy mochi dumplings with the added coating of fried batter than enriched the broth.

                Top notch, prepared in-house (unlike other restaurants that buy precooked) and dressed with a variety of intricately cut vegetable garnishes, another highlight of this meal.

                Unlike the many pretty plates that preceded this, the shiokara (fermented squid guts with squid “noodle” strips) was presented rather unceremoniously plopped unadorned into a plain bowl. It looked like puppy poo, browner than other examples I’ve tasted. This one was stronger and not quite as salty, maybe more aged.

                Japanese Sweets
                A trio of small mochi and red bean paste cakes served with a ceremonial bowl of special macha. The tea in our cups was swapped out too at this point, a nice touch.

                As I type this, I’m actually kind of surprised that I can recall as much about the food as I’ve noted. Pacing was at breakneck speed. We’d ordered 15 dishes in our first round, and they came to the table within one hour. Apparently the kitchen prepares all the food for each party in one swathe then moves on to the next table’s order. We were forced to scramble to divvy up the servings and clear plates hurriedly to make space on the table. We sprinted through those first 15 and details are a blur. We held our table for another hour with our second order of three dishes, just trying to eat what we’d dished out on our plates as well as consume the new items. Really a shame, as the pretty presentations deserved to be admired and savored more leisurely. I did ask the hostess whether I could split up my ordering the next time, say five dishes at first and then another five. She nodded vigorously and said that would be much better. Also, while we each got a taste of each dish, I think that a party of four sharing family style might be the ideal group size.

                Chowing with the SF Bay Area 'hounds

                Kappou Gomi
                5524 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

                1. I am looking forward to returning to Kappou Gomi, although ordering is very tricky. In addition to paying attention to timing, there needs to be a good selection of hot items vs cold items, and starch vs non-starch.

                  I tried a few items that haven't been reported on:
                  - grilled mochi was perfect both in texture and flavor
                  - black cod with tofu was also good but very mild. Luckily, it was accompanied by a tangy dipping sauce
                  -beef sukiyaki was definitely not-your-average-sukiyaki. First of all, the cast iron pan arrived with a chunk of beef fat, which our server rendered to begin the experience. The variety of ingredients and the quality of the meat makes this dish worth ordering
                  -marinated mackerel was good, but must be shared amongst a group of 4 or else it becomes too much of a strong flavor

                  Previously mentioned, but I can't help but comment on the crab wrapped in yuba skin, tempura style - this dish was perfect, starting with the fresh dungeness crab that I didn't have to shell, to the tempura dipping sauce, and the greaselessness of the dish. And the sticks of fried roe were a new treat for me.

                  1. Not part of the chowdown, but when I went a few months ago, their homemade sesame dipping sauce that came with the shabu shabu was very very nice. Light, tart, with lots of sesame flavor without becoming the more common "peanut butter substitute" one usually finds.

                    I would avoid the ika shiokara unless you are with a large group. A little goes a very very long way. Intensely salty, pretty funky. I would've thought it would be something you would eat with a huge bowl of rice instead of downing by itself.

                    1. anyone been here and to Kiss Seafood? I'd love to hear about a comparison. I miss being in Japan and may venture into the Japanese cuisine while in SF, as I live in L.A.

                      Kiss Seafood
                      1700 Laguna St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: epop

                        Both are fantastic.

                        Kiss is tiny. They take reservations. It's quiet.
                        If you go, the thing to do is get their omakase menu.
                        So there are no decisions, and you have a 5 or 6 course meal of perfect neat little courses. The sushi and sashimi courses have small bites, but they are absolutely impeccable.

                        Kappou Goumi does not take reservations and is a bit bigger and more informal.
                        Their menu is sprawing and so it takes a little while to figure out what you want. The sections of the menu are grouped by the main ingredient, with about 6 different preparations styles for each one. The food here is also fantastic. There are plenty of dishes on this menu that you will not find elsewhere in the city.

                        So, Kiss is for a delicate sublime surprise meal.
                        Kappou Goumi is where you can have a sprawling meal that you can craft to be combinations of more or less familiar food.

                        Both are very genuine Japanese IMO.

                        1. re: pauliface

                          thank you for the full answer, Pauliface. I think I'll go to Kiss. Close to where I will be staying too.