Kappa still serv­ing top dishes

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

At­mos­phere:

Kappa is the long­est es­tab­lished Ja­panese res­tau­rant in Queen­stown and with lots of com­pe­ti­tion from new kids on the block I thought it was worth check­ing out. The first im­pres­sion is that its very unQueen­stown. No con­ces­sion to decor nor at­tempt at cre­at­ing an at­mos­phere. None of the staff, in­clud­ing the chefs seen in the open kitchen, looked to be un­der 30 yet it felt like a re­tire­ment home.

The Food:

For en­trees we had Ede­mame ($5) and Tem­pura Blue Cod ($15). Any sel­f­re­spect­ing Ja­panese chef would hor­ri­fied to screw up ede­mame – boiled, salted, im­ma­ture soy­beans, served in the pod – and the chef here pre­sented this hum­ble, but quite ex­act­ing dish in ex­cel­lent style. The cod’s tem­pura bat­ter was in­fused with nori, tiny flakes of dried sea­weed be­fore be­ing fried. This was so de­li­cious I asked the waiter how to do it and this recipe will now be on re­peat at my place. For mains we went for the set menu, a sta­ple of Ja­panese din­ing that doesn’t re­ally of­fer any­thing new but can vary so wildly in qual­ity it’s al­ways an in­ter­est­ing gam­ble. Ames’ course in­cluded teriyaki chicken, tem­pura vege, agedashi tofu and sashimi ($35). My din­ner box ($28) had karange pork, sushi, sashimi and chicken. Both mains were huge and tasty. Lit­tle touches like the dol­lop of ko­mat­suna (Ja­panese mus­tard, which doesn’t usu­ally come as stan­dard in New Zealand) went a long way to mak­ing this an out­stand­ing meal. There was no dessert menu and no room left for sweets any­way, un­der­lin­ing the fact that Kappa con­cen­trates on a small menu and does it ex­tremely well with no con­ces­sion given to non-es­sen­tial ex­tras.

The Ser­vice:

The ser­vice was nice and very cour­te­ous in the dis­tinctly Ja­panese man­ner but there was a to­tal lack of per­son­al­ity.

Suit­able for:

There was a ta­ble of about 20 din­ing at the same time as us. The group com­prised some Queen­stown peo­ple and some vis­i­tors they looked to be en­ter­tain­ing. Kappa would be per­fect for small or large groups but be pre­pared to bring your own sense of at­mos­phere and fun.

The Ver­dict:

The food is far bet­ter than any set din­ner Ja­panese res­tau­rant I’ve been to in Queen­stown. But the lack of at­mos­phere lets it down. This could eas­ily be fixed with a bit of ef­fort from the staff, who have maybe just come to rest on their lau­rels of be­ing a long-es­tab­lished eatery in a town renowned for its quick turnover of any­thing not up to par. A per­son­al­ity in­jec­tion, a bit of cus­tomer/staff in­ter­ac­tion, throw­ing on some in­ter­est­ing tunes and giv­ing the decor a slight tweak would all go a long way to mak­ing Kappa a cosy, cool but still no-frills ex­cel­lent din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Am­bi­ence ab­sent: Din­ner at Kappa, up­stairs in Queen­stown’s Mall last week: Great food but bring your own sense of at­mos­phere.

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