Recently I had dinner at Sou, a kappo teppanyaki restaurant in Gion. Dinner was excellent, the wagyu beef was amazing and it was not crazy expensive, so I made an appointment to interview the owner-chef, Mr Tsukada.
Since I started KyotoFoodie I have received numerous inquiries from people asking where to go for teppanyaki in Kyoto. I rarely eat teppanyaki but do like it. I go to the Himorogi teppanyaki restaurant at Brighton Hotel sometimes for business dinners (when I am not selecting the restaurant). It is good but I can never justify the cost of the meal. I guess I cannot forgive bad cost performance. Hotel restaurants in Japan have uniformly bad cost performance and often the food is mediocre.
Teppanyaki and Kappo
Teppanyaki is usually beef, seafood and vegetables cooked on a hot steel grill in front of the customer. Teppanyaki is perhaps the second most well-known Japanese cuisine in the West. While it was developed in Japan, it was more popular with non-Japanese, until more recently. Kappo is very popular in Kyoto and features a counter seating arrangement in which the chef cooks and arranges the dishes on one side, and the customer enjoys them immediately on the other. Kappo is very intimate and offers the customer a chance to converse with the chef. A good chef quickly discerns the tastes and inclinations of the customer and prepares dishes accordingly. The combination teppanyaki with kappo is the sort of dining you expect to experience in Gion. Nice!
Teppan Kappo Sou Owner Chef Tsukada (鉄板割烹 爽)
Chef Tsukada started working at a shinise teppanyaki restaurant in his native Kobe when he was 19 years old. He then came to Kyoto and worked at a teppanyaki restaurant at the Granvia Hotel for 10 years and opened his restaurant in Gion in April of 2007.
I asked Chef Tsukada why he decided to do a teppanyaki Japanese wagyu beef restaurant. Being from Kobe, known for some of the finest wagyu in Japan, of course played some part in his decision. However, he said that he really wanted to offer diners the best wagyu available without the prohibitive price of the famous brands like Kobe beef. To do this, he uses non-brand name wagyu. There are 14 grades of beef in Japan and the top grade is A5, the best Matsuzaka beef and Kobe beef are A5. Using A5 non-brand gives the same brand name taste, but costs about 30% less.
In addition to quality at a reasonable price, is individualized customer service in an intimate setting. Chef Tsukada said that he likes the simplicity of the kappo counter format and the direct contact with the customer. If the chef is alone in the kitchen, even if meals for 100 people are prepared, they all will taste identical. Chef Tsukada observes, listens to and gets to know each customer and adjusts the flavors and ingredients for them and recommends seasonal dishes.
He ends his course meals with some contemporary Japanese homecooking, curry rice. At Sou, curry is made with wagyu and an original roux and spice medley that he developed. I am not a big fan of Japanese curry, but many wagyu beef restaurants have their own signature curry dish, which I often like very much – hey, it’s gourmet! – and Chef Tsukada’s could not be topped.
In Action – Photos from the Teppan Grill
• Teppan Kappo is located in extremely picturesque Gion Shinbashi, one of Kyoto’s geiko (geisha) entertainment districts.
• These districts are known for their very high prices and snobbery but Sou is open, friendly and quite reasonably priced.
• The quality of the wagyu beef is the highest grade available.
• Sou offers an excellent selection of wine, both Chef Tsukada and the manager are sommeliers.
• An English menu (with correct English) is available. The owner chef and manager worked at an international hotel for 10 years so can communicate a little in English.
• Get the meibutsu wagyu katsu sandwich for take out.
• Teppan Kappo Sou is even open until 2 am!
A dinner reservation is recommended. Ask your hotel concierge to make a reservation for you or use the email address below (simple English, please, the manager requests!)
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Teppan Kappo Sou in English
English Menu: yes
English Website: none
Japanese Website: www.teppankappou-sou.com
Service: Very good
dinner course: 8,400～ (10,500 or 16,000 yen course recommended)
ala carte also available
Reservations: Please make dinner and lunch reservations via email at least 3 days in advance.
dinner: 5:30pm – 2:00am (1:30am last order)
Reservations: Please make lunch and dinner reservations via email address below at least 3 days in advance.
Email Reservations: teppankappou-sou (at) kki (dot) biglobe (dot) ne (dot) jp
Location and Access: Gion Shinbashi. Teppan Kappo Sou is located on the east side of Nawate-dori street, about 2 blocks north of Shijo Street.
Address: Kyoto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, Nawate-dori Shinbashi-agaru, Nishino-cho 216-2 Onishi Bldg II 1F (京都市東山区縄手取り新橋上る西之町216-2 大西ビルII 1階)
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