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The City's Most Exciting Japanese Food At Kappou Gomi?

Kappou Gomi is not what you expect it to be. At least, not if what you are expecting is another one of the many Japanese restaurants that dot Geary Boulevard, each serving identical sushi, tempura and bento boxes. A sign in the front window makes it clear that this is NOT the spot for spider rolls and teriyaki—this place is authentic, to use the buzzword that has recently replaced artisanal.

To say that I found Kappou Gomi disorienting might be an understatement—the room is filled with Japanese people, speaking their lingua franca and sipping from bowls of green tea, a bit of Japan delivered to 19th and Geary. The menu, executed by former Kiku of Tokyo chef Masahiko Gomi, has few of the familiar touchstones that we’ve come to rely on in American restaurants in the States. Bowls of mountain yam jelly, chrysanthemum leaves topped with bonito flakes and savory egg custards studded with scallops and shrimp are a few examples of what you might find on the giant menu, which is organized by ingredient (19 in all) with various preparations listed beneath. Plates are small, and most are priced around $8; the server suggests you order three or four per person.

The parade of dishes that followed our four person order—numbering 15 in total—ranged from a crab-studded “cream croquette” to horse mackerel sashimi, which is presented as a whole fish, head and tail anchoring a mid-section of sliced fish, to a earthy, intensely savory miso sauté of eggplant and tender bits of pork, the sauce spiked with vinegar. On a number of occasions, I couldn’t reconcile what we had ordered with what arrived on the table, couldn’t identify many of the ingredients in each dish, and couldn’t find many familiar flavors. It was delightfully foreign, brilliantly different, a good challenge for a seasoned eater. For someone that eats our four nights a week, who has had about a bazillion Caesar salads, roast chickens and margherita pizzas, the offerings here tasted brand new. 5524 Geary Blvd., 415-221-5353