- Nicholas Yong
Teppan Kappou Kenji, Tanjong Pagar
When you think of good food in Tanjong Pagar, Japanese cuisine comes to mind. But Teppan Kappou Kenji wants to stand out from the rest with fresh seasonal ingredients directly important from Japan. The establishment is the brainchild of Chef Kenji Okumura, a master of Kaiseki dining with decades of experience. He honed his skills under the master chef at the illustrious Nadaman Japanese Restaurant in Nagoya Tokyu Hotel.
We had the opportunity to try Chef Kenji’s 8 course Omakase menu, worth $150, which we recommend to enjoy while being seated by the counter (or in Japanese, Teppan Kappou) to truly see the chef at work. Some other famous personalities who have tried Chef Kenji’s Omakase include the Japanese emperor, Russian politician Mikhal Gorbachev and former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao.
We started the Omakase with a small mix of Kuruma Ebi (Japanese Tiger Prawns), Hotaru Ika (Firefly Squid), Ikura (fish roe), green and white asparagus, dried hoba leaf oil (Magnolia leaf) and Wasabi dressing. The sauce is rich in taste and lifts the seafood flavour. This dish introduced us to the fresh seafood and seasonal vegetables at Teppan Kappou Kenji, all imported from Japan thanks to Chef Kenji Okumura’s connections with Japanese fisherman and farmers.
The selection of seasonal Sashimi that came next was absolutely fresh and flavourful with every bite. We had fatty Otoro, Yellowtail, Flounder with Uni (Sea Urchin), Shima Aji (White Travelly Fish).
There was also a separate, ceramic ware which we were told was custom made by a friend of Chef Kenji Okumura. Inside, was smoked Spanish Mackerel (smoked over rice straw the traditional way), Octopus and Kampachi. It was served with fresh Wasabi, freshly grated from Wasabi root.
The following dish was a rare traditional Kyoto dish. This Nimono course (simmered dish) was steamed glutinous rice wrapped in Sakura leaves, served with green peas, bamboo shoots and Zanmai (Cinnamon Fern), seasoned lightly with Ankake sauce. It has a warm, melt in your mouth flavour and had a unique taste I
Our fourth course was truly a feast for the eyes and the palate. This seasonal platter consists of 10 mini dishes, presented together. We started with the Tempura, made with seasonal Japanese mountain vegetables that were lightly battered and delicious. Clockwise from the tempura, there was:
Flounder topped with Shio Kombu (strips of bull kelp), and a Wasabi Leaf.
A combination of Bamboo shoots, an Urui, also known as Oobagibooshi which is a mountain plant, Shin Wakame (a type of fresh seaweed), and Ikura (fish roe), served in a jelly made in-house from dashi broth.
A little seasoned octopus tentacle, served with a few seasonal Japanese mountain vegetables.
Baby Conger Eel on hobo leaf, with a jelly-like consistency that slips clean into your mouth. It was served in wine ponzu and chilli radish.
Sesame tofu made in-house, with caviar and freshly grated Japanese wasabi.
Grilled Barracuda, served with a light Shoyu-based sauce.
Squid Tako, slow cooked and also served in a light Shoyu-based sauce.
And finally, Hairy Crab (Kegani) served together with a Japanese spring produce called Na No Hana and Karusami powder, made from dried mullet roe.
After the 10-dish extravaganza, I thought the Omakase had already reached its peak. That was, until we had this Miyazaki A5 Wagyu tenderloin, cooked on the teppan right before our eyes. This was soft, juicy and tender high quality meat in every bite. It was also served with Kuruma Ebi (Japanese Tiger Prawns), mushrooms and brussels sprouts. We had a choice of both Miso and Ponzu sauce but I preferred to have of my Wagyu meat without any sauce.
This Seasonal Seafood Hotpot featured key seasonal ingredients to match Spring in Japan - moist Spanish Mackerel from Japan, Sakura Ebi, Urui (spring shoots) and Japanese onions. It was a truly wholesome dish and was great to have right after a heavy meat loaded dish earlier.
The 7th dish in the Omakase is a seasonal Kamameshi - a claypot dish with Japanese rice, cooked in Chef Kenji Okumura’s fish bone broth. Inside the claypot was parts of Spanish Mackeral, Golden Snapper, Flounder, Tai (Red Seabream), Salmon, bamboo shoots and mushroom. This hearty dish had a contrast of sweetness and brinoiness, and you get bursts of Ikura in every mouthful.
The final course was seasonal Japanese fruits, which were strawberries, orange and the particularly expensive Japanese musk melon. It was my first time having the musk melon and I craved for more of the sweet fruit until only the skin was left.
Chef Kenji actively refreshes his menu with new additions, depending on the season and produce. In fact, the menu gets slight changes every 2 weeks. The colour of the Noren (fabric divider at the entrance) represent the seasonal menu you will be served - yellow for spring, blue for summer, orange for autumn and white for winter. Also, since this is in omakase course, you may not be served the same dishes here.
Teppan Kappou Kenji
99 Tanjong Pagar Road,
#01-01, Singapore 088520
+65 9152 3118
Lunch: 11:30am – 2:30pm (Daily, last order at 2pm)
Dinner: 6:00pm – 10:30pm (Daily, last order at 10pm)