Sunday, May 19, 2024

Kappo Irifune (Torrance, CA)

Kappo Irifune Restaurant
1231 Cabrillo Ave, Torrance, CA 90501
310-782-7330 / 310-218-6975‬‬
Sun 05/19/2024, 07:15p-09:10p

Kappo Irifune Exterior

Located at Plaza Del Prado, Niwattori was the first spot in Torrance that I ever blogged about, all the way back in 2009. I'd returned to the mixed-use development numerous times since then, and had always been curious about the restaurant that replaced it: Kappo Irifune (割烹 入船), also known as Sushidokoro Irifune (寿司処 入船).

The place opened in March 2015, and was originally the creation of Chef Teruhisa Tani, a 40-year industry veteran who previously ran a restaurant in Kumamoto. Unfortunately, due to health issues, Tani-san had to return to Japan not long after the opening, and was looking for someone who could take over the business. That someone ended up being current operator Tomoko Kobayashi, one of Irifune's regular customers.

Hailing from Yokohama, Kobayashi-san started her career in Japan, but after immigrating to the US, trained as a sushi chef and subsequently worked as an itamae in the SFV. She then left the industry for a bit, but came back in a consulting capacity, and later managed a restaurant in Gardena, which is what led her to become a patron of Irifune. She took over operations in early 2016, partnering with Hitoshi Kawamoto and Hiroyuki Hirata, and installed Miho Obara as head chef.

Kappo Irifune Interior
Kappo Irifune Dining Room
Irifune resides in an Old Torrance storefront that was previously occupied by Sekisui, and before that, the aforementioned Niwattori. In fact, the decor really hasn't changed much at all from those days. There's a sushi bar near the entrance, but it's only sporadically used, and most guests are seated in the attached dining room.

Kappo Irifune Menu: From Sushi Bar Kappo Irifune Menu: Appetizer Kappo Irifune Menu: Appetizer Kappo Irifune Menu: Salad, Oysters (Raw) Kappo Irifune Menu: Grill Kappo Irifune Menu: Deep Fry
Kappo Irifune Menu: Deep Fry Kappo Irifune Menu: Dinner Special Kappo Irifune Nigiri Sushi Menu Kappo Irifune Roll Sushi Menu Kappo Irifune Specials Menu Kappo Irifune Sake List & Beverage List Kappo Irifune Beer List & Shochu List
Here we see Irifune's menu, which features a fairly wide-ranging array of izakaya-style dishes, along with a full sushi selection. Beverage-wise, you get a small sake list, shochu, and a handful of beers--pretty prototypical stuff. Corkage is $20 a bottle. Click for larger versions.

Sea Bream Tai Sashimi
Sea Bream Tai Sashimi [$15.80]
We got things going with one of the evening's specials. Slices of madai were on point texturally, and showcased a clean, growing brine that opened up nicely with a dab of wasabi and soy sauce.

シーチキンサラダ Tuna Salad
シーチキンサラダ Tuna Salad [$7.00] | Green salad topped with albacore tuna
A "sea chicken" salad was like a gutsier version of your classic tuna salad, with the bitter greens serving as a very fitting foil.

2013 Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Rare
To drink, I brought along a bottle of Champagne, the 2013 Piper-Heidsieck Rare Brut Millesime. The wine displayed a healthy concentration of apples on the nose, backed by toasty, yeasty nuances. On the palate, I found the sparkler vibrant and assertively, yet never overwhelmingly acidic, its stone fruit flavors joined by nutty, bready, mineral qualities and a smidge of citric astringency. This was drinking quite well tonight, but would probably get even better with some more time in the cellar.

サーモンスキン Salmon Skin Salad
サーモンスキン Salmon Skin Salad [$12.00]
The saline smoke of salmon skin was set against a bevy of bright, bitter veggies, with a ponzu-based dressing tying it all together. My gripe here was that I wanted the skin to be crispier.

さば塩焼 Saba Shioyaki
さば塩焼 Saba Shioyaki [$9.00] | Grilled mackerel
Salt-grilled mackerel showed off a tasty marriage of salt and sear, effectively offset by lemon and daikon oroshi.

Deep Fried Octopus
Deep Fried Octopus [$8.90]
Another special, the tako no karaage managed to be my favorite dish of the night. I loved the textural contrast between the octopus' tender insides and crunchy fried exteriors, while its restrained brine and umami worked hand-in-hand with either a squirt of lemon or a dip into that creamy mayo.

銀だら Gindara
銀だら Gindara [$19.00] | Grilled black cod
Irifune's version of the ubiquitous gindara saikyo yaki featured lush, fatty cuts of sablefish, well-imbued with sweetness, char, and umami, all while grated daikon and hajikami shoga (pickled ginger sprout) lightened the mood.

At this point, I ordered a freshwater eel set meal, which came with a bowl of classic miso soup...

...While the salad was about what you'd expect.

The included chawanmushi ate hot and homey, with some cozy mushroom flavors, but was also "looser" than I'd like.

うなぎ御膳 Fresh Water Eel
うなぎ御膳 Fresh Water Eel [$25.95]
The main part of my unagi gozen was, of course, this unajyu. The eel had that mélange of sweetness and smoke I was looking for, and its texture was supple and gelatinous, though not as gratifying as what I experienced over at Toku a couple months ago. Meanwhile, the rice was a very appropriate accompaniment to the fish, and was just what I wanted in terms of stickiness.

Tsukemono-style pickles provide hits of salt and acid, and were joined by a slice of what I believe was sweet potato.

コンチのつぼ焼き Conch Shell Fish
コンチのつぼ焼き Conch Shell Fish [$10.00]
Grilled tsuboyaki-style, the sazae was quite lovely thanks to its firm-yet-yielding texture and subdued brine, which worked great with the zestiness of that green onion.

椎茸海老シンジヨウ Shiitake Ebi-Shinjyo
椎茸海老シンジヨウ Shiitake Ebi-Shinjyo [$8.00]
Ebi shinjo had some pretty aggressively crisp-fried outsides, while the shrimp balls' appreciable sweetness melded easily with the muskiness of mushroom. Nice with a sprinkle of salt.

A snug cup of tea functioned as a fitting finisher.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Pumpkin Cheesecake
Given that we were here for a birthday dinner, we ended up enjoying a complimentary dessert, one that demonstrated the understated sweetness of pumpkin in cheesecake form, paired with a scoop of textbook vanilla ice cream.

I'd walked past Kappo Irifune countless times over the past 15 years, so I'm glad that I finally gave the restaurant a try. This seems like a solid, reliable, neighborhood-y type spot with something for everyone, and I can see why the place has stuck around for this long.


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