Friday, November 28, 2014


I had an early Christmas dinner last night at Kappo - a newly opened Japanese restaurant underneath Hihou Bar in Flinders Lane (which is also part-owned by Simon Denton who ran the previous incarnation Verge).
Photography: Simon Shiff via Broadsheet
It was an interesting dining experience, in a good way, but quite different.  It's not the place to go for a loud and raucous evening (try Izakaya Den for that, which is also hard to find!) but somewhere a lot more refined and elegant - even a bit muted.  What I did like about it, is that it's great for smaller groups and couples and conversation flows because you can actually hear each other.
Hihou Bar image via Izakaya Den Facebook on The Urban List Melbourne's Best Sake Bars
It's also an experience just finding the place!  It's situated smack bang on the corner of Flinders Lane and Spring Street but the recessed doorway is off Flinders Lane.  There is no external sign and you need to push the doorbell for the wait staff to let you in to both Kappo or Hihou Bar.  Hihou is one of those great hidden bars that make you feel like you're in Tokyo (and one for sake lovers) but sadly I didn't get a chance to go upstairs while I was there last night.
We opted to sit in the main dining area perched on stools and the attentive waiting staff proceeded to explain how the menu works - they show you a list of all ingredients used and you decide if you're happy to eat them all or not, or want more of something in particular.  There's an emphasis on vegetables and seafood rather than red meat, so it's not somewhere you'll walk away feeling super full as is the case with most Japanese food.  But given the basic menu starts at 5 courses for $80 you may not want more than that.
The staff also present a box of chopsticks for you to pick your own pair and there's other elements of surprise like mixing your own ingredients into a bowl.  The food is beautifully presented - almost like works of art - but the atmosphere is quite relaxed and low key.  It's a good place to unwind with friends.
Japanese Film Festival image via Consulate-General of Japan, Melbourne
Also a tip if you are heading into the city in the lead up to Christmas and driving in.  Wilson Parking offer an online casual Book a Bay system at a reduced rate which is quick and simple.  When you actually arrive at your selected car park, all you need to do is insert your credit card into the ticket machine when you enter and leave the car park rather than having to have a ticket printed and pay for it before you leave - there's a lot less hassle.  The Japanese Film Festival is currently on until December 7 in Melbourne so you may even want to check out a film at ACMI or Hoyts Melbourne Central.
Image via QAGOMA
Finally, if you're lucky enough to be heading to Queensland at all between now and February, I've heard great things about Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion currently showing at QAGOMA.

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