Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Kumamoto Kappo

We bemoaned the closure of Ebi no Hige last year, the restaurant specializes in ingredients and cooking from Niigata Prefecture with casual but well-executed dishes, but I was glad to know there were a few new restaurants taking on a similar concept of showcasing the cooking of a specific region in Japan (known as Kyodo Ryori 郷土料理). One of such is Kappo Ro Ann in TST, which I visited recently for an invited dinner tasting.

Kappo Ro Ann took on the cuisine of Kumamoto, the prefecture in the middle of Kyushu probably better known for its mascot Kumamon than anything else these days. Nonetheless, the region with mountains and the coastline means they were rich in a variety of food products from rice to meats to vegetables to seafood. The menu we had for dinner was tailor-made for us, featuring many of the restaurant’s signature dishes that they recently introduced (as a preview) and whatever seasonal ingredients they managed to ship in regularly from Kumamoto.

Beef was the main focus of our tasting menu, with a few courses using Kumamoto Wagyu cooked in various ways. Among them my favorite was seiro-mushi, of which thin slices of beef was placed in a specialty wooden basket and steamed over simmering water. It’s said such simple cooking works best to bring out the pure meaty flavor of the beef, which I agree. Underneath the beef was another basket filled with seasonal vegetables which were delicious too, taking up some rich taste from the meat jus dripping down from above. The quick cooking also meant much of the original texture of the vegetables was retained – it’s almost like eating a bowl of fresh warm salad. I especially liked the myoga, the Japanese ginger, for the mild flavor with a hint of sweetness, and the house-made zaru tofu in a small bamboo bowl, with rich soy flavor and silky texture.

The rest of the meal was delightful too – we began with a bowl of simple salad made using fresh vegetables from the farm in the mountainous Aso region, served with just a light dressing, which is followed by a sumptuous sashimi platter with catch from Amakusa, an island just off the coast of Kumamoto. Among all the more special ones were the salmon, locally cultivated under warmer climate for a slightly different taste profile and fat balance.

We also managed to try a few family-style dishes special to the region, including Karashi-renkon, with slices of lotus roots stuffed with karashi hot mustard paste and deep-fried – I reckon the crunchy texture and the distinct mustard flavor worked well with a glass of beer, or shochu on the rocks if one wants to stick with regional specialty drink. We finished our meal with a bowl of Dago-jiru, a hearty soup with mochi-like thin rice dumplings and cooked with local Mitsune Chicken and vegetables, and Takana Onigiri, rice ball made using local rice from Aso with pickled mustard green, or Takana in Japanese (which reminded me of the Shanghainese version of something similar)

When? July 17 2018
Where? Kappo Ro Ann, Shop 2801, 28th Floor, iSquare, 63 Nathan Road, Tsimshatsui
Menu Highlights? Seiro steamed Kumamoto Wagyu Beef
Web: www.roann-hk.com

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