The west exit of Yokohama station has long been the city’s playground, but with the development of the Minato Mirai waterfront area, the future of Kanagawa’s capital lies in the opposite direction. Kakyu is well-positioned to greet the new traffic, sitting as it does at the east exit in a building that also houses Italian restaurant
Il Saggio and the sumptuous, open-roofed tearoom Arboretum.
We knew we were in for a treat as soon as we entered the lobby. An elegant marble staircase with a plush emerald carpet and wrought-iron balustrades leads to the second floor, where an open corridor looks out over Arboretum below. Inside Kakyu, large blue Ming-style vases and gorgeous dark wood chairs enliven an airy room of pastel walls and thick carpets. Think Asian elegance with a hint of French colonial luxury.
Kakyu’s menu, with over 100 offerings, has many à la carte dishes available in portions for 2-3 or 4-5 people. A selection of parent company Kiyoken’s famous shumai (meat-filled dumplings) heads up an entire page devoted to dim sum. During a recent weekend lunch, the restaurant was filled with well-dressed couples and small groups of friends, plus a large wedding party that occupied one of the alcoves separating the large foyer from the main dining room. We tried the steamed shark fin gyoza (¥840/pair) and two varieties of nikuman, one with barbecued pork and the other with minced chicken and dried scallops (¥420/pair). The plump gyoza were a juicy delight, with the shark fin a nice change from the usual pork, while the doughy nikuman skins clung lovingly to their spicy fillings. Along with an order of egg foo young with crabmeat (¥2,100), which came as three pancakes slathered in a light shoyu-based sauce, lunch was a hearty affair served by efficient and friendly staff.
The best way to sample Kakyu’s various dishes, though, may be as part of the course menus, which are available at dinner from ¥4,200 (minimum order of two). On a press visit in January, the ¥10,500 course demonstrated the kitchen’s ample talents. Braised shark fin (à la carte, ¥4,400), served in a starchy brown sauce, had the tender texture of simmered daikon. Peking duck (à la carte, ¥2,900 for four) was expertly prepared tableside, and on a par with the best we’ve had in nearby Chinatown. A stir-fry of seafood and vegetables, with good-size chunks of shrimp, scallops, lobster, leek, hasu (lotus) and gobo (burdock), was gently seasoned and agreeably light, not skimpy on the oil but not greasy either. Taraba crab, served en papillote, came in a robust sauce of black beans and garlic, with as much meat as a lobster tail. By the time cured ham with fried yuba (tofu) arrived, followed by a serving of salty, pork-filled chahan (fried rice), we nearly begged off dessert. But sherbet, coconut milk with tapioca, and a glorious annin dofu made us glad we reconsidered. We washed everything down with a couple of bottles of Tsingtao (¥530) and a dangerously drinkable Chinese liqueur named Shin Lu Chieu (¥630).
Kakyu’s strengths are pretty straightforward: an elegant setting and thoughtful cooking that’s inspired by Cantonese fare but not a slave to any one cuisine. Judging by the crowds—and our expanded waistlines—that’s a formula for success.