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3 Must Try Kappo Style Japanese Restaurants in Los Angeles

If you want to go full Japanese, you need to try kappo style because ramen and sushi is just the tip, and you will want to experience the entire shaft of Japanese cuisine.

Sometimes American food does seem like a lot of burgers and pizza so imagine life without clam chowder, apple pie, hot dogs, meatloaf, to barbecue ribs. If that would be a sad life, that is where you are if you only had ramen and sushi.

WHAT IS KAPPO STYLE CUISINE

Kappo (kappō 割烹) style most likely originated out of Osaka in the 1910’s and is considered fine dining because of the elaborate range of seasonal dishes that are served:

  • Raw (sashimi)
  • Stewed (nimono)
  • Steamed (mushimono)
  • Fried (agemono)
  • Grilled (yaki/zakana)

All of these dishes are prepared directly in front of you when you sit at the counter/bar seating (kaunta seki).

KAPPO RESTAURANTS IN LOS ANGELES

You can’t be a slacker, and you have to have the skillz (with a ‘z’) if you want to be a kappo style chef, which is why there are very few restaurants in the country and in LA that epitomize the style. So the select handful below range from “if you were Asian, your parents would tell other parents about you (meaning ‘you’ve done that good’)” to “meh, ‘A’ grade is for average” (yea, just really average).

Shibumi (DTLA)

David Schlosser is the dude behind Shibumi, and I love what he’s doing because even in LA, sushi and now ramen is the most commonly associated foods with being Japanese, but David is helping to change that.

I feel like I’m giving up all those hopes of being able to party it up with bikini clad Budweiser girls and Spuds MacKenzie when I drink Coedo.

I remember hearing that Japan didn’t have a craft brew scene due to the laws, so I looked it up and found an article on Japantimes “Japan’s craft beer scene: 25 years in the making.” They cite that it was not until 1994 until the Japanese government softened up their strict laws that granted brewing licenses. If you want to know more, you will have to read their article.

Sansho aka sichuan peppercorn are the notes I tasted with a hint of an autumn fall, earthy tones, yet with a floral… yea, right, I’m totally bs’ng you, I tasted notes of beer.

This beer is by the Iwate-Kura Brewery (Sekinoichi Shuzo is the parent company in the Tohoku region/Northern Japan), which is a cooperative brewery. Rather than just one company, it is five different companies.

Just how I like my corn soup, corny.

Chilled corn soup, yuba (tofu skin), puffed rice, $8. I can’t even imagine the amount of prep time all of these dishes require.

Lots of soft savory textures going on here.

Silky egg tofu with uni and fresh nori and wasabi, $18. This dish may look ordinary if you think it is just a piece of tofu that came straight out of an off the shelf brand of tofu, but it is not. Toss in some urchin gonads and the savoriness of pureed seaweed with a dab of wasabi, and you’ve got a dish you must try.

I was hoping for more pig for a deuce and a half.

Grilled heritage pork in koji, pickled daikon, leek, $25

It felt good eating the rest of the fish since I’m always eating its liver.

Crispy monkfish “kara-age“, citrus, kelp salt, $15

If this fish with a face only another monkfish could love could only know tasty it was.

Everything is so perfectly prepared.


Kappo Sui (Costa Mesa)

This restaurant has been around forever in Orange County, and this is a restaurant where the vast majority of the patrons are Japanese. So you will find the specials board typically written in Japanese.

No stereotypical BOH tatt’d dude here although he may have a Ramones t-shirt in his closet.

Even the vast majority of the staff at Kappo Sui are Japanese.

Koimo inakani (simmered in sweet soy sauce glazed taro root), $6

Ippin-mono are small dishes, like this taro (it’s a root vegetable) dish.

I could never date/marry anybody who has an issue with textures.

Tororo mushi-steamed cod w/yam, $10.50. I love this dish even though it may look lackluster, but it is far from it.

Not everybody is a fan of tororo (yamaimo/mountain yam), which can be off-putting for non-mucous lovers (the same texture as okra).

This is one of the first Japanese dishes I learned how to make, and I’m still learning.

Agedashi tofu can be seen as simple, but like all great food, it’s all about the details. From the type of starch you use, how you coat the tofu (from dusting it to having it sit in the starch), to the quality of dashi used.

Don’t expect to step on this salad at any local beaches.

Jellyfish and crab meat salad is a break from the warm dishes.

If your idea of veggies is jalapeno poppers, give the tempura a try.

Tempura is part of the deep-fried food group that most American fast food restaurants have on lockdown, but at Japanese restaurants like the three listed, tempura is always done from scratch (not out of a freezer bag).

On the specials board, they will offer up a variety of different types of tempura.

If you’re not familiar with Japanese tempura, that little white lump with the yellow speck is grated daikon (white) and ginger (yellow). You can dump it into your tempura tentsuyu (sauce) and it will help to cut any bit of oiliness.

If you love fish, you will love this dish

Saba: marinated mackerel is something I love, but if you’re an apple pie eating, big mac eating, and a filet-o’fish is exotic enough for you, you just might not like it.


Kappo Honda (Fountain Valley)

Kappo Honda is more like their other restaurants Izakaya Honda-ya in Tustin and Little Tokyo LA.

Honda ya and Kappo Honda have some of the best interiors in LA. Image courtesy of Kappo Honda.

I typically go to Shin Sen Gumi (SSG) yakitori, but Kappo Sui and SSG both have a very unique and distinctively Japanese interior. Only Kappo Sui has an 80’s vibe that feels more like big shoulder pads, pastel colors, Ferrari Testarossas, and lines of coke.

Come for the food, stay for the beers, a few beers.

At Kappo Honda, they offer up the typical Sapporo and Asahi, but they also do wine, shochu/chuhai, to a range of sake.

No need for chianti or fava beans with monkfish liver.

Ankimo (monkfish liver) is steamed monkfish liver with negi (green onions), and momiji oroshi (grated daikon/radish with hot sauce/red chili peppers), and ponzu (citrus soy sauce), $9.95

Buffalo Wild Wings are always dry and overcooked, so I’ll take these wings anyday.

Oh, I love you chicken wings ($3) at Kappo Honda, and I would say these are probably 1 of my top 3 times here.

Meat on a stick and beer should always be a dietary requirement.

Of course I do my go to’s from beef tongue $4.50, tsukune (meatball) $2.50, to gizzard $2.50

Variety of items is the spice of life (Hugh Hefner knows that).

Stir-fried food dishes like this, my mom would always make which are referred to as “o-kazu” or a side dish that goes great with rice.

What if I told you that “oden” is a Japanese winter dish consisting of several ingredients all for $6.95.

If you’re not sold on “several” ingredients, I’ll let you know that it is in light soy sauce based dashi with daikon (one of my favorite pieces), konjac, a boiled egg, and processed fishcakes. When I said “fishcake” don’t think McDonald’s fish fillet, think groundfish, like a fish meatball.

If my obachan (grandmother) could only see me now.

Oden is something my paternal grandmother would always make, and as kids, I never wanted to eat it for whatever reason.

As a supposed adult that I am, I now enjoy it, along with every other Japanese style dish cooked in a pot.

Kappo Honda

18450 Brookhurst St
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

(714) 964-4629

Kappo Sui

20070 Santa Ana Ave
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

(714) 429-0141

Shibumi

815 S Hill St
Los Angeles, CA 90014

(323) 484-8915

Are there other kappo style restaurants? Yea, they are in name only and there are only a few more that are truly kappo, but I have unfortunately never been to them.

Another I should mention is Kappo Hana in Laguna Hills that I have been to, but it is unfortunately closed.

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