[Penang, Malaysia] Japanese lunch at Kappo by Arakawa

Japanese kappo restaurants are defined as semi-formal dining spaces where the diners sit across the counter from the chefs, who’d serve them multi-course meals specially designed by the chefs themselves - a more “casual” form of a kaiseki meal. Kappo restaurants also tend to be small, cosy places, frequented by regulars.

Kappo by Arakawa is the newest kappo eatery in town, fronted by the affable Osaka-born Arakawa Seiichiro. It opened in early October 2020 - certainly not the best time to be starting an F&B business in view of the pandemic, and continuous lockdowns. I’d always marveled at London’s 3-Michelin-starred 9-seater Araki, often wondering how one sustains a restaurant that serves only 9 diners per sitting. Well, with the current “social distancing” regulations in place here in Penang, Kappo by Arakawa currently only serves 6 people for each lunch and dinner session.

We were 2 of the 6 lucky ones to snare a lunch spot today.

We sat at the counter, watching the master himself, Arakawa-san, flanked by his two young sous chefs, prepare each of the course we were to have today.

Our lunch today consisted of:
Appetisers - sweet, bouncy marinated sweet-fleshed shrimps and crisp, chilled cucumbers, and horse mackerel (“aji”).

Sashimi course - thick, very fresh slices of salmon, tuna and Japanese garoupa.

Simmered course (“nimono”) - perch fillets, with broccoli and shimeji mushrooms.

Grilled course (“yakimono”) - Longfin yellowtail (“kampachi”).

Fried course (“aburamono”) - Tempura moriawase.

The “shokuji” course, usually consisting of rice, soup & pickles, served at the end of a meal before the dessert course - Chirashi sushi, accompanied by a clear fish-and-seaweed soup. These were really the finest of their kind I’d had in Penang.

Dessert - yuzu sorbet and chilled nashi pear, which were both very refreshing and well-matched.

Absolutely enjoyed our meal here - top-notch quality ingredients, and a very Japanese-style meticulousness in their preparation techniques: Chef Arakawa has this typical Japanese OCD attention to the minutest detail, even adjusting the way the sous chefs arranged certain garnishes, e.g. the angle at which a tiny sprout should lay on the plate, for example.

Executive chef, Arakawa Seiichiro. See his lethal collection of ultra-sharp knives behind him?

We’ll definitely be back.

Kappo by Arakawa
253G-1-4, Burmah Road, Premier Centre, 10350 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6016-449 0647
Operating hours: 12 noon to 3pm, 6pm to 10pm daily, except Tuesday (closed).


Looks an absolute delight.

Speaking of small restaurants, one of our favourite places, Fraiche in Birkenhead, only does 8 covers. The chef works alone, except for a washer-up, cooking a six course menu, priced at £105. He didnt reopen in the summer but his efforts prior to the first lockdown seems to have been sufficient for him to retian his single Michelin star.


Wow - that looks incredible!

1 Like

Exceptional …

1 Like

Oh wow, I wouldn’t mind making a trip all the way there just to eat at his place. He must require a few months’ advance booking?

It is a nightmare getting a table. In normal times, he opens reservations at 10am on the 1st of a month, for bookings three months hence. It takes 10 - 15 minutes for everything to get booked. Which reminds me - he still has £50 deposit money from last year.

We’ve been going for years - prior to his Michelin. I got to know about the restaurant, which is about an hour from home, when we both used to play on Egullet’s UK board.

1 Like

Oh my, that was what I was afraid of! Reminded me of the time I made a booking at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli back in 2004. During that time, it wasn’t as crazy to get a table, but I still made one 6 months in advance - it wasn’t too bad as I knew I’d be in Barcelona on the business trip, so I could actually commit the date in advance.