Capo is an Italian restaurant helmed and owned by chef Enzo Carbone. Located at the Rockbund end of The Bund, Capo is located at the 5th floor of the Yi Feng Galleria. I attended the final Shanghai Restaurant Week dinner at Capo with a party of 3.
I have been following Capo on Instagram ever since they started their account, and regularly enjoy the delicious looking photos they post, particularly their recent blue lobster season (which sadly, I did not manage to try). Nevertheless, their Shanghai Restaurant Week menu had enticed me from day one, and I knew I had to make the reservation.
Capo is located right beside the famous Muse nightclub. Upon entering, my first impression was “woah, this is a very dark restaurant..”. It took quite awhile before my eyes started adapting to the very dim lighting.
The decor was superb. Stone bricked walls, stone bricked floors, wooden pillars and furniture. All done in a very tasteful manner; It felt almost like I was in a european chateau. I was later explained by manager Martin, that the decor was modeled to give the feeling of dining in an Italian church, which was also why a replica of Da Vinci’s last supper, incorporated with Capo’s banner is on display at the main entrance.
They have a bar at the Muse-side of the restaurant, along with a seafood bar containing the freshly imported seafood that is flown in 3 times a week, including Boston lobsters, French oysters, etc.
On the other end of the restaurant are the 2 custom built apple wood fired ovens – One used for making pizzas, the other for grilling food.
I told Martin that lighting could be slightly brighter. The reason was because I couldn’t clearly the details of the food on my plate. When you look at the photos below, you will see how beautiful they are plated, but that was only because of the iphone lighting provided by my wife-assistant. Without any lighting, I wouldn’t have been able to see the fat marbling of my steak. I wouldn’t have been able to see how pink it was inside. I wouldn’t have been able to ‘feast with my eyes’ first, which was a pity because the food looked great. Shine the light on the table, but keep the diners private. I understand that the dim level of lighting was chosen probably to achieve the overall ambience and tone of the restaurant, but in that process, they have sacrificed the visual impact of the food.
While this wasn’t an invited tasting, we were treated very kindly and generously by operations manager, Martin, who gave us an informative tour around the entire restaurant, explaining every aspect of what we saw, from the Japanese imported apple wood used in the wood-fired ovens in Capo, to their beautiful aged steaks from their ageing rack, including their mammoth ¥2888 tomahawk which I won’t have the luxury of enjoying anytime soon. If you’ve tried it, let me know how it tasted.
Service was impeccable throughout our dinner. Servers were standing near by most of the time, and always smiled when called for and spoken to. I felt the sincere hospitality of our female server wearing spectacles, and of course, Martin the manager.
Capo’s Shanghai Restaurant Week menu boasted 4 courses for ¥258. They do not charge for their fantastic service. Can you believe that?
The appetizer was a showcase of chef’s appetisers, which was essentially a mini cold cuts platter.
For the starter, we had a choice between 2 pastas, a frutti di mare (fruits of the sea AKA seafood pasta) with hand-made scialatielli pasta, or a classic spaghetti al pomodoro.
For mains, you could choose between a jet-fresh sea bass from Dalian, or an organic Angus sirloin steak from Jack’s Creek farm in Australia.
Dessert was labelled a degustation dessert plate.
On with the review.
Complimentary bread was simply two crusty rolls for 3, otherwise it is 1 roll for 2, as I had noticed from other tables. The bread was of course, freshly made and was warm and pillowy inside. No butter was provided as this was an Italian restaurant, instead, olive oil and balsamic vinegar were poured onto our bread plate for dipping. A roasted head of garlic was provided to add flavour and dimension to the bread.
Showcase of chef’s appetisers. This was a mini cold cuts platter for one. It gave me great joy in eating this because there were so many varieties of flavours and textures on the plate. It was also a perfectly balanced plate of meat and vegetables! It was a combination of button mushroom and a single piece of another type of mushroom that I forgot the name of, a slice of parma ham, a slice of salami, a slab of fresh juicy mozzarella, and one other white meat cold cut which I don’t know the name of. I need to brush up on my Italian food knowledge. 🙁 All that meat is topped on a bundle of arugula leaves.
The parma ham was lovely. Slightly salt, very savoury and tasty. Great to alternate between bites of meat and vegetable. For the most part, the vegetables were cooked simply, retaining their natural flavours. The piece of mushroom was very flavourful, and was the unspoken star of the plate. The salami was quite normal, the mozzarella delicate and juicy. The white slice was superb when I wrapped it around the arugula leaves. All in all, a very enjoyable appetizer. Lots of flavour, lots of variety, well balanced, great to look at. 9/10
Seafood Scialatelli pasta. Scialatelli pasta originates from the Amalfi Coast of Naples, and is a fat version of linguine. Where linguine is flat, Scialatelli is traditionally square. Capo’s house-made Scialatelli was closer to linguine, but still superb.
Most people probably have already learnt to appreciate pasta by eating it al dente, but the Scialatelli at Capo was a whole new level.
Aside from being Al Dente (which means ‘with bite’), it had a slight almost squeaky elastic texture when chewed into. I think it doesn’t sound very pleasant the way I described it, but in the mouth, it was very unique and really eye-opening; My past experience with hand-made pasta was that the pasta is usually softer and slightly denser than dried pasta, but tasted more flavourful due to the use of fresh eggs. Little did I know hand-made pasta could also have this level of bounce in the bite. The seafood scialatelli had already absorbed the flavours of the clams, fish and squid and was seasoned beautifully. The clams were fat and fresh, except for one clam I had, which was bad and tasted foul. The problem with clams and shellfish in general, is that it is impossible to guarantee there is no bad one in every batch. However if you have like 5/10 that is bad in a batch, then it’s time to change suppliers. In this case, only 1 clam from our table was bad, I guess I was really unlucky. All that said, this was a very delicious pasta dish. I’m not sure if it’s on their regular menu, if it is, you should try it. 9/10
Spaghetti al pomodoro. My companion’s spaghetti was more de rigeur. Perfectly cooked spaghetti, no doubt. Sauce tasted freshly made. However, it wasn’t outstanding. To give them credit, the consistency of the sauce was perfect, and how it should be for any and every pasta sauce — just thick enough to coat every strand / piece.
I would have liked it better if it had a stronger kick of basil or garlic. 7.5/10
Jet-fresh Dalian Sea bass, grilled in an apple wood oven. Both my companions had this for their mains, which was a pity because my steak was much better. I shouldn’t have allowed them to decide. The fish was served with salsa verde on the side, and half a grilled onion.
I had piece of the fish, and it tasted well seasoned, but the meat was not like the usual pan-seared sea bass, and was infact, slightly dry and tough. The meat did contain the lovely smokiness imparted by the apple wood. I didn’t try the skin, but my companions said it wasn’t crispy throughout. I feel that whole fish are better grilled, while filets are best pan-seared — first skin side down to obtain that crispiness, and then flipped over cooked until just nice and tender.
My companions also felt that the salsa verde didn’t go very well with the fish.
The piece of onion was sweet and slightly caramelised on the outside, but the small arugula salad required some seasoning and dressing. They were basically just placed on the board with no dressing or seasoning, which made their bitterness really stand out.
All these points together give this dish a 7/10 score.
The star of the evening was my organic Angus sirloin from Jack’s Creek farm in Australia. I’m actually a little confused, because while the menu said it’s an Angus steak, Martin said it was a wagyu steak with 6+ grade marbling. It really tasted like the latter, that I can say. The steak was served with the same grilled onion as the other mains, the same un-seasoned and un-dressed arugula salad, albeit this one came with a couple slices of parmeggiano, and a drizzle of a 25 year old balsamic vinegar over the cheese. Because the vinegar wasn’t drizzled over the salad, the arugula suffered the same bland bitterness from the sea bass plate.
The 25 year old balsamic was very sweet; Much sweeter and less sour than your regular balsamic vinegar.
The steak, was mind-blowing. When I first saw pictures of Capo’s steaks on Instagram, they always looked very raw and somewhat normal. However, people raved about the steaks.
Now that I’m here and have tasted their steak, I have to say, it is the best steak I’ve eaten in Shanghai, so far. This is a very big statement, because this was the 5th steak I’ve eaten from 5 different restaurants within the last 20 days. I’ve never eaten so much steak in such a short period of time, ever, in my life.
29th August – Wagyu steak at Churrasco, Phuket
4th September – Shitty steak at Pinnacle Steakhouse
10th September – Australian tenderloin at Flame Bar & Grill
14th September – Lovely sirloin at New York Style Steak & Burger
15th September – Australian Angus/Wagyu at Capo
So what makes Capo’s steak so damn good?
1: Quality of the meat
2: Unique cooking method inside an apple wood fired oven, usually used for pizzas
3: Skill in cooking the steak
I ordered my steak medium, but it came medium rare. Nevermind, I forgive you, because this cut was very good at medium rare.
On first bite, I tasted the sweetness of the 25 year old balsamic vinegar on the tip of my tongue.
The next smell that entered my senses was the whiff of smokiness, imparted from the apple wood.
I then tasted the saltiness and felt the ever so slightly crispy crust of the piece of steak breaking, almost like the top of a creme brulee.
My teeth then sink into the meat, the fatty juices exploded in the mouth. As I chewed gently on the tender meat, it gradually melted away.
That was the same experience on every single bite, until the laws of diminishing returns started sinking in and my taste buds started getting used to the reaction.
As I had said earlier, Capo’s steak is unique because it is sourced from Jack’s Creek farm in Australia, and also because they are cooked on a hot grill inside an apple wood fired oven, normally used for artisanal napolitano pizzas; The apple wood that they use in Capo are imported from Japan.
My highest expectation for steak has now been set by Capo, let’s see who will topple it.
The steak itself would be a 10, but I felt the arugula salad was a little lazy and uninspired, so the dish as a whole is a 9/10
A creme brûlée with strawberry jam, with a strawberry sherbet in a cone. The strawberry sherbet was refreshing, and had a lot of strawberry seeds in it. My companions didn’t like the texture very much because it tasted ‘sandy’, but I on the other hand appreciated that it was freshly made.
The creme brûlée’s custard was smooth and luxurious tasting. The caramelised crust was a little bitter at times though. To be honest, I haven’t had much experience with creme brûlée because I’m not much of a dessert eater, but I thought this was quite tasty. 8/10
All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience and delicious dinner. Martin, the manager came by our table at the end of our meal and offered us a guided tour of the restaurant. I bumped into Chef Enzo on my way out of the washroom while we were leaving, and he recognised me and said Hi. It was a very cool moment and I hope we will see each other again.
Capo is a fantastic place to spend a romantic evening, impress clients, or if you just want to have a great dining experience with authentic Italian food at a one of a kind ambience.The prices are actually very reasonable, other than the ¥2888 steak. I remember the Pizzas are around the ¥100 range, while the regular wagyu sirloin (bigger than what I had) costs about ¥398 (If I remember correctly). They have a special private event room which gets fully booked towards the end of the year by many companies for their annual dinners. There are also two private dining rooms, one with a private wine cabinet, the other with a one way window of the kitchen where no menu is offered, and the chef arranges your dinner based on your preference of the evening.
If Capo wins Best Italian Restaurant again for Shanghai Restaurant Week, make sure you head down to try them for their Extended Restaurant Week.