Papa Shogun

japanese-italian tapas from an all-star chef

by Avivah with Offline

Photo by @tabletopmedia

The Need-to-Know

What: An intimate restaurant where Japanese meets Italian cuisine. Served casually by day, Papa Shogun switches to a fine-dining vibe at night, where they serve a tasting menu unlike anything else on the East Coast.

Where: 111 Seaboard Ave #118, Raleigh, NC 27604

When:  Reservation-only dinner, Wed-Sat, 6-9p; Lunch, 11:30a-2p

Web: Website | Menu Instagram

Why we love them:

  • They’ve recently revamped their format, unveiling an unparalleled tasting menu concept that’ll wow you with over five, expertly crafted courses for a dining experience that’s totally unreal. 
  • Lunch is quick, easy and approachable, with just the right amount of panache for daylight hours.
  • The Head Chef’s got a serious pedigree. Prepare for some world-class food. 
  • The menu changes every few weeks based on seasonality.
  • Japanese x Italian food sounds crazy…until you try it. Then you’ll be hooked.

Papa Shogun 101

Papa Shogun is a haven for the unexpected. Combining Italian and Japanese cuisine, it’s a place where everything—from their mid-century modern decor to their 80s playlist—is carefully thought out by the uber-experienced owner. Serving up an elegant tasting menu of traditional Japanese dishes with Italian flair and classic Italian plates with distinctive Japanese flavors, this is a spot that’s bound to surprise and delight you.

They’ve recently reimagined their format, reinventing their space and transforming into an innovative tasting menu concept—one that’s exclusive to the East coast. If for some reason you’re not down to try fine dining, Papa Shogun also offers a low-key lunch, featuring hearty sandwiches and seasonal salads but know that dinner here is truly an EXPERIENCE.  There are only a handful of tables served each night (read: reservations are mandatory) and each of the menu’s 5+ courses are intentionally described vaguely, yet they remain enticing. A wall of candles stretches the length of the restaurant, and the slow, deliberate pace (expect to be here for 2-ish hours) of the meal makes for an intimate dining experience unlike anywhere else in town. 

Despite their format revamp, Papa Shogun is still a place that’s devoted the authentic cuisine of both Japanese and Italian cultures—to finding the connection between them—all to create something distinctly unique, drool-worthy, and yes, even American

Inspired by his time at the trailblazing WD-50 in NYC, owner and Head Chef Thomas Cuomo explains his philosophy as such: if America is the great melting pot, then taking popular—but seemingly disparate cultures—and combining them into something new is both uniquely and quintessentially American. So while, most of the time, “American food” conjures of images of char-grilled cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and supersized milkshakes, at Papa Shogun it also means bowls of fluffy ravioli + umeboshi, hearty Katsu Sandos, and warm, hand-pulled mozzarella. After one bite, we’re convinced the proof is in the pudding (er, ramen).

Their tasting menu changes every few weeks but no matter when you visit, you’re guaranteed to find clever dishes that allow each culture’s cuisine to shine and be complemented by equally exciting—albeit unexpected—flavors: charred radicchio gets tossed in a rich miso sauce with carrots and purple daikon radish, yaki soba noods swim in a tomato dashi broth alongside house-cured pancetta and local mushrooms, while traditional yakitori sauce gets an Italian spin with balsamic vinegar and Italian fish sauce, and other surprising twists abound. 

Come with an open mind and an empty stomach and we promise, you won’t be disappointed. 

What to order

Casual by day, fine dining by night, Papa Shogun shines with an inspired menu of signature dishes that’ll are as delicious as they are unique. 

Lunch is quick and easy and if you’re here for dinner, you’ve really only got one option (luckily, it’s a solid one): the tasting menu. For $55, you get an unsurpassable dining experience consisting of 5+ courses of expertly prepared and thoughtfully conceived plates.

The tasting menu is a bit of a mystery—it changes every few weeks based on seasonality and, even when it’s finalized, it remains intentionally vague, designed to spark interest and entice your taste buds. Sit back and surrender to the tasting menu; there are no choices, just artfully crafted plates served on vintage china. While you won’t know exactly what you’ll get each time you walk in the door, rest assured that it’ll be damn good. 

*reservations for dinner are a MUST. Click here to nab one

Yes, it’s an adventurous dining experience that relies on some blind trust, but there are always a few guarantees.

Every dinner promises an:

  • Amuse bouche
  • Their infamous made-to-order mozzarella, served warm with crusty kombu (a type of seaweed) garlic bread
  • Seasonal veggie
  • Choice of two pastas, one Japanese, one Italian (GF option included) 
  • Main course, often a choice of meat, fish and/or veggie
  • Dessert (and likely a take-home dessert as well, so you can relive your life-changing dinner the next day) 

And while the menu is set, Papa Shogun will happily accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions as long as they know ahead of time. Just be sure to note your needs when you call to make a reservation.

Pair Up

A dinner this lavish deserves a toast. There’s a full menu of beer, wine, cider, and sake to order a la carte. But if you want to elevate your dining experience even more, you can opt for the pairing and leave the drinks up to Papa. You won’t find any of these drinks on the regular drink menu—they’re exclusively available with the specific course they’re paired with. How’s that for extra special? 

Salute. Kanpai. Cheers. 

Lunch is a whole other ball game. 

While Papa Shogun is anything but snooty, dinner is refioooooned. If you’re not feeling fancy AF, opt for lunch, which is fast, casual, and affordable. It features an a la carte menu of tasty sammies and salads, no reservations necessary.

Available Wed-Sat, 11:30a-2p, lunch is the perfect way to experience the culinary craftsmanship of PS, without balling out on a whole dining experience. 

Pro Tips

  • YOU MUST MAKE A RESERVATION FOR DINNER! Seating is extremely limited and there are only a couple of walk-in seats available each night. 
  • If you snag a walk-in seat, you’ll still be able to score a limited tasting menu of  3-courses for $35. 
  • Dietary restrictions/allergies are happily accommodated as long as Papa Shogun knows about it beforehand. Be sure to make note when you call in your reservation.
  • Peep their current dinner menu here
  • No reservations needed at lunch!
  • Got specific questions? Give ’em a ring at 919.977.1247.