Showing posts with label seafood rice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label seafood rice. Show all posts

Kappo Sato (Toronto)

Have a glance at Toronto’s Michelin list and you’ll find a host of Japanese restaurants earning stars, including Sushi Masaki Saito who claimed the city’s only two-star ranking. Give it a year or two, but I sense the newly opened Kappo Sato will join the list as well.

Like the other contenders, Kappo Sato serves an omakase menu offered at two price points, $260 and $320, the later includes an additional sashimi platter and sake steamed fish. Both courses, while delicious, weren’t the highlight of my meal, so if you have a dainty appetite the $260 option will leave you satisfied.

With sixteen courses, the $320 omakase left me pleasantly full. To start, pieces of skinless fried eggplant that were nice and creamy. Although, it would be even better served warm, especially when topped with cold uni and caviar. Paired with cubes of sweet poached lobster, the “small” seasonal dish was wonderfully decadent, just a taste of the things to come.

More uni followed in the appetizer platter. In this case, the sea urchin mixed with yuba or thin sheets of soy that’s formed in the tofu making process. The two are a good combination, the silkiness of the tofu skin glides across the tongue capturing the flavourful savoury gelee while mixed with the creamy uni. The wasabi adds a spike of spice that’s surprisingly powerful for the miniscule portion of the condiment.

The cool yuba complimented the hot fried tile fish, a bite of meaty whitefish with crunchy deep-fried scales. The fish is cooled down with grated radish and a carefully split snap pea garnishes the dish for colour.

Sato’s sashimi course is very different, the fish adorned with other ingredients rather than leaving the seafood plain. The sea eel was topped with plum paste and tangy sisho flower and the lean 10-day aged tuna with Japanese mountain yam and egg yolk. Some of it works - like the plum paste and sisho flower – adding a refreshing element to the fish, others don’t - like the whipped mountain yam and egg yolk – creating something with the consistency of slime.

The nyumen or soup course features a bowl of dashi filled with silky delicious somen noodles. The slice of sea bream was good, but I found its softness too close to the texture of the noodles and would have liked a protein that had some bite or crunch.

We’re told what makes kappo cooking different is that the chef cooks in front you, rather than preparing ingredients in a behind-the-scenes kitchen and merely assembling dishes at the counter. The tempura course highlights the concept best as each of the three items were individually fried and presented.

Three condiments - lemon, salt, and ponzu – provides flavour to the tempura. Don’t worry, you’ll be given instructions on what to use with each item. We’re told to use the lemon and salt for half of the sweet young swordfish and then the ponzu for the second half. They should be more specific on which side of the fish to use each on as the ponzu would have better masked the slight bitterness of the head, while the lemon and salt would let the freshness of the body and tail portion shine. Sadly, I swapped the two.  

Seasonal vegetables of asparagus and fava beans follow, both just cooked through and paired nicely with the ponzu.  

Yet it’s the finisher that really excites, a meaty raw-in-the-middle scallop wrapped in sisho leaf that’s sweet and fragrant. It does need to be drained longer so the batter remains crispy, and I’d suggest sprinkling the salt on (rather than dipping the scallop into the salt) to avoid having it slide out of the tempura coating.

Kappo Sato sets up the meal with a host of video worthy shots, the first being the broiled smoked dish where a gleaming dome was filled with smoke and the cover removed table side. Despite all the fume, the flavours just singed the fish with a smoky essence, the centre of bonito and tuna still tasted neutral.

We’re told the tuna is a lean variety, but it’s so nicely marbled that it can match any otoro, flooding my mouth with a sweet richness. Crispy arrow root chips are given to help cleanse the palette but could easily make for an addictive tv-side snack.

Like the sashimi, Sato’s sushi were beautiful flavourful bites, the bluefish topped with shallot, scallion, and wasabi with the rice nicely warmed. Personally, I would tone down shallot as it was a tad pungent for the fish, nonetheless it was still tasty.

The saba hand roll was served taco style, the rice and fish sandwiched between sisho and crispy seaweed. Another inventively flavourful dish that’s different from what you’d normally receive. It’d be even better if there was a bit of glaze put onto the mackerel.

Sitting in a sweetened vinegar, the mozuku seaweed was silky and reminded me of fat choi but milder and more delicate. It made for a refreshing palette cleanser before the richer grilled unagi, which was lightly brushed with a sweet and savoury glaze. Slightly crispy around the edges, the freshwater eel went nicely with the sansho pepper leaf and wasabi.

If there was any alcohol used in the sake-steamed red snapper it must have evaporated in the cooking process as there wasn’t much flavour to the fish and napa cabbage. Hence, the dish really relied on the house-made ponzu dipping sauce. I like the concept of the dish, but it could have been pulled out of the oven earlier as the fish was a tad overdone.

Two types of tofu follow, the first featured in the cold dish and made with sesame so it had a rich nutty essence. The addition of Sakura, mushroom, and dried shrimp makes for a fragrant bite, although I did find the dried shrimp a bit overpowering with the tofu.  

The second traditional soy tofu sat under a mound of lightly cooked wagyu in a beef consommé. I normally love wagyu but being poached in broth doesn’t do it justice as everything merely tastes oily. My friend described it best as saying it’s like having a non-crispy bacon soup. Should they want to keep it in slices, rolling the beef around asparagus, enoki, or white chives would have been a better choice.

I kept eyeing the copper domes sitting on cooking elements by our counter. Its contents were finally revealed in our last savoury course as the seafood pot-cooked rice. Just close your eyes and inhale as the cover is lifted as the sweet seafood aroma of cooked crustaceans is so intoxicating.

Cooked with dashi the sticky rice became fluffy but still firm, almost like a drier risotto. Studded with clams, rehydrated shrimp, and fish the rice was already teeming with seafood essence but made even richer with a generous portion of ikura (salmon roe). At Kappo Sato you won’t leave hungry because a second helping of rice is available and offered. This was all washed down with a hot mild miso soup.

Just save room for dessert as all three courses were delicious. Firstly, a slice of musk melon that’s so sweet and refreshing. Its sweetness is contrasted by a glass of hot tea that’s so wonderful to sip on after a filling meal.

All the while, an ice cream machine sits on the counter whirling around and holding the second dessert, a freshly made soymilk ice cream. The cold soft serve was paired with azuki bean paste and a matcha shortbread cookie. While there’s a light sweetness to the dish, we’re given a tiny vessel of brown sugar syrup to add to the soymilk dessert to our liking. Use it, I love how it enhanced the bean and ice cream’s flavours.

To end, a strawberry daifuku that’s a mound of azuki with sweet strawberry pieces topped with a delicate sheet of soft mochi. Savour the single kuromame, a sweet black soybean, topping to daifuku that breaks apart to reveal a smooth beany centre. It’s served with another matcha tea, this time light and frothy so there’s a latte quality to the drink minus the dairy.

Aside from his culinary training, Chef Takeshi Sato achieved other accomplishments including being a sake sommelier and qualified to prepare a Japanese tea ceremony – hence the final two cups of matcha served with dessert. He jokingly says he loves drinking, another common theme that seems to run through the upscale Japanese chefs of Toronto.

Chef Sato leads an all-female kitchen brigade who artfully creates and plates the dishes. Takeshi has decades of cooking experience from working in a Michelin restaurant in Tokyo, helming Toronto’s Zen restaurant, and most recently being the official chef of the Japanese Consulate General in Toronto. Now it’s his turn to be an owner of a restaurant in his name, when will his star come?

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 575 Mount Pleasant Road

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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