In Japanese cuisine, even the most simple dish offers a robust flavor and interesting history. In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, one often forgets that food is so much more than nourishment, or rather it can be nourishment to all of our senses. Japanese kappo cuisine—or kappo ryori—is a great expression of this, and an excellent traditional dining option for both individuals and groups.
What is Kappo Cuisine? History and Culture
Japanese kappo cuisine originally referred to a style of cooking. The use of this word has since evolved. Many restaurants advertise as kappo ryori to give the impression of fine dining, however, kappo is more than a high-end meal. What should go through your mind is the idea that you are about to have an experience rather than a meal.
Kappo dining utilizes seasonal ingredients, the menu changes frequently and you will most likely interact with the chef directly. Kappo is often counter-style dining, though many restaurants have a section with tables too.
The following video is a great example of what you can expect when dining at a kappo ryori restaurant:
What is the Difference Between Kappo and Kaiseki?
At a glance, the two types of traditional Japanese cuisine might seem synonymous. But there are key differences that make kappo cuisine a more unique experience. While both these styles are haute cuisine and almost artistic in presentation, kappo ryori offers a level of intimacy that you will not find at most kaiseki restaurants.
At a kaiseki restaurant, the experience is shared with your companions. At a kappo restaurant, the experience is shared with your chef. All barriers are removed. Part of the dining experience is being witness to the creation of the meal, being guided by the chef on how to consume the food. It is mindfully consuming food in the manner it was created to be consumed.
What is the Difference Between Kappo and Ryotei?
With ryotei dining, the experience includes fine dining. However, in ryotei the restaurant often uses the surroundings as part of the experience. Traditional ryotei may require patrons to be members or invited by members. These restaurants often have beautiful gardens. You may find geisha and similar artists at a ryotei venue.
Kappo dining is a different type of experience. While a ryotei uses the surroundings to enhance the dining experience, with kappo the meal is meant to captivate the senses. The chef will often decide the menu, meals will be prepared in front of you with minimal barriers. It is a relationship that the truly "epicurious" will understand.
A kappo chef needs to be confident that they can provide you with a unique and exquisite dining experience that relies solely on their talent. Each bite is a perfect bite. Each pairing is complementary, without overwhelming the other flavors.
Is Kappo the Same as Omakase?
In terms of concept, you will find these words both refer to a multi-course Japanese dining experience guided by the chef. Omakase usually refers to sushi (and sometimes tempura) restaurants, while kappo has a broader range of dishes.
Where to Eat Kappo Ryori
If you are interested in experiencing kappo cuisine in Japan, here are some of the restaurants that our team recommends.
Kappo Ryori in Tokyo
This local foodie favorite provides both kappo and kaiseki-style cuisine. Tsunokamizaka Koshiba is located in Shinjuku and is open for lunch and dinner every day except Sunday. The price range for lunch is between ¥10,000 - ¥15,000 and dinner ranges from ¥15,000 - ¥20,000. Make a reservation at Tsunokamizaka Koshiba.
Sakuragi offers an intimate dining experience in their eight-seater counter-style restaurant near Tsukiji Market. You can expect a 10-course menu and drink pairings. Sakuragi is open every day. The price range for lunch and dinner is between ¥20,000 - ¥25,000. Make a reservation at Sakuragi.
At Kappo TAJIMA you can expect upwards of 17 dishes. Chef Tajima often incorporates rare ingredients into the menu. This trendy restaurant can be found in Daikanyama and is open Monday to Saturday for dinner only. The price of dinner ranges between ¥20,000 - ¥45,000. Make a reservation at Kappo TAJIMA.
Tip: If you are looking for a completely vegan option, consider shojin ryori in Tokyo.
Kappo Ryori in Kyoto
Nikukappo Futago can be found in the Junei Hotel in Kyoto. This venue is open daily for dinner and specializes in Japanese wagyu beef dishes. The ingredients change seasonally, making each visit a new experience. The average meal will cost around ¥17,600. Make a reservation at Nikukappo Futago.
Kappo Ryori in Osaka
For kappo cuisine in Osaka, try Teruya, a Michelin-star restaurant that specializes in seafood-based dishes. The dashi is made in-house and promises an exquisite dining experience. Teruya is open daily for dinner and you can expect to pay between ¥10,000 - ¥16,000 for a meal. Make a reservation at Teruya.
Tip: If you are interested in learning more about making dashi, take a dashi masterclass with Chef Shikawatari. Proper dashi can turn an average meal into something truly unforgettable!
Kappo Ryori in Nagoya
Kawabun has the bragging right of being Nagoya’s oldest restaurant. This historic venue is open for lunch and dinner every day except Tuesdays. The average meal will cost between ¥25,000 - ¥30,000. Make a reservation at Kawabun.
Kappo Ryori in Hiroshima
Kappo Hakutaka is a Michelin-star restaurant with a friendly and intimate atmosphere. This restaurant is renowned for its wide range of sake and historically was actually a sake retailer. Kappo Hakutaka is open Monday to Saturday and you can expect to pay between ¥20,000 - ¥30,000 for dinner. Make a reservation at Kappo Hakutaka.