Kappo Shunsui doesn’t want just anyone to find it. Those gastronomically intrepid enough to make the expedition, however, will be rewarded with passage to another world. Having picked up and moved from its longtime lodgings in Cuppage Plaza, the beloved omakase experience has revamped, reimagined and reinvented itself. Now part-theatre, part-pocket universe, it promises an 11-course suspension of disbelief unlike any other in the country.
Surreptitiously tucked away behind an unassuming door like any other on Hongkong Street, Kappo Shunsui’s new location is marked only by a single floral decoration hung at eye-level. Stepping inside, guests will make their way down a darkened corridor into a 13-seat dining chamber. Guided to your seat by one of two kimono-clad hostesses, you face an island stage with a projector camera positioned above it, ready to capture (and project onto two large digital screens in real-time) the forthcoming performance. The curtain rises when the chef enters.
Chef Shimuta “Shim” Kunihiko speaks Japanese, some Thai and English, and the silent language of the single bevel knife. Born and raised in the countryside of Fukuoka Prefecture in Kysushu, Chef Shim began his culinary journey at age 20, when he took up a discipleship under the legenedary Kyoto chef Hirata Tasku. After his master’s passing 10 years later, Chef Shim moved to Tokyo to hone his skills in kaiseki cuisine. After five-year stints there and in Thailand, 2020 has seen him transplanted to Singapore, where he’s the director-producer of each night’s performance at Kappo Shunsui.
The star players though, of course, are the dishes—seasonal and subject to appear and disappear off the menu’s playbill every few weeks.
After toasting with you to the night’s promised pleasures—singing out, “Kanpai!” as you raise your welcome drinks, a sparkling daiginjo with an orange smoke bubble balanced on the rim—Chef Shim gets down to business.
First act is the dashi course, the chef grates fresh bonito flakes with a shaping tool that brings to mind the carving instrument of a master sculptor. The katsuobushi are destined for a glass siphon, which will be infused into distilled water, alongside sweet shoyu and seaweed, and boiled to exactly 75 degrees to create a warm, nourishing bowl of soup.
“You might just be drinking from a cup or eating from a plate older than your great-great-great-grandmother”
More dishes follow, with short act breaks between courses acting as chances to sit back, digest, swap impression with your fellow diners, and watch the chef work. A few courses down the menu is the tsukuri, or sashimi, section, which contains the chef’s most personal creation. A plated concept encompassing red sea bream, halfbeak, a sakura flower and chrystanthemum jelly, this is Chef Shim’s favourite dish to make. It’s inspired by his master Hirata’s specialty in Kyoto; sashimi are stacked into two layers and are separated by a piece of paper. With one layer eaten, guests peel back the paper and move on to the second layer, designed to be eaten between thinly sliced kombu.
This is real dinner theatre. Traditional methods of preparing Kappo cuisine, meaning ‘to cut and to cook,’ are about savouring the natural beauty of ingredients in a lively atmosphere. Shunsui is a word derived from ‘shun,’ meaning season, and ‘sui,’ meaning water, invoking images of seasonal produce at the apex of their freshness. And on the meaning behind both words, Kappo Shunsui delivers soundly.
The omakase menu features ingredients directly imported from Tokyo’s Toyosu Fish Market, delivered up to five times a week. The fish pieces are laid to rest on antique tableware; if you’re wondering why your teacup differs in style and size to your neighbour’s, it’s because each is a rare find sourced from collectors all over Japan. You might just be drinking from a cup or eating from a plate older than your great-great-great-grandmother. Some of chef Shim’s favourite tunes—American jazz stylings, funnily enough—are piped in gently to underscore the performance. The chef himself is a deft hand and a sharp wit, quick to smirk at any diner who catches his eye as he plates their next dish.
By now, guests have voyaged their way through most of the menu. A series of larger grilled dishes are next: the shiizakana, a prized and marbled cut of Miyazaki beef delicately flavoured with truffle and brussel sprouts, and the yakimono, a belt fish smoked over sakura wood chips and given a deliciously starchy texture by its accompanying Hokkaido hairy crab sauce.
The meal begins to taper off where it began, as Chef Shim then uses the same binchotan-infused salt water as was in the dashi to make the shokuji, the final course before dessert, which longtime lovers of Kappo Shunsui will recognise as its aromatic signature claypot rice.
Call the two-course dessert an encore: you might think you have no more room to fit in daifuku made from scratch, but it’s guaranteed that one glance at the mochi will let you find a way. Imbibing from a cup of matcha prepared by a hostess in a traditional tea ceremony, guests will watch chef Shim wield a cup of liquid nitrogen for the final flourish: sesame ice cream. It’s made in a cauldron, which is fitting, for—much like the rest of the meal—it’s pure magic.
On Monday through Saturday, Kappo Shunsui hosts one seating. Doors open at 6:45pm and the restaurant closes at 11pm. Dinner commences at 7pm sharp. The 11-course omakase menu is priced at $380 per person; the additional of a sake pairing, with five different kinds of sake, is priced at $150.