The name Kanpai means "Bottoms Up", a familiar toast in Japan.
The Japanese diet is regarded as one of the healthiest in the world where men and women both live long lives: raw fish, rice, fresh vegetables and salads, exquisitely prepared as colourful art on a plate.
And in Edinburgh you don’t have to travel far to sample an authentic menu of sushi. Kanpai, with two pots of pink cherry blossom bushes outside, is a contemporary, cool space, with decorative wallpaper, blonde wood furnishings and soft lighting.
Select a few dishes to share like Tapas - tiny prawn and avocado sushi, tempura squid, Teppanyaki grilled steak,, vegetable and chicken dumplings. To drink, Sake, Asahi beer, or wine. At Kanpai, experience a light, healthy and delicious feast from the Far East.
A Colourful, Artistic Asian Feast on a Plate.
Reviewed by Vivien Devlin
Thursday, February 9, 2012 - 8:01pm
We are greeted at the door with quiet grace, by a young Asian girl who shows us to a small corner table beside the bold, flower painted wall. The décor is minimalist, casual café style, with uncovered, unadorned tables. It’s a little cold in temperature and ambience - flowers and candles would add a warm, romantic touch. And may I suggest linen or cotton napkins rather than white paper, for such a stylish restaurant.
The menu offers a wide choice, divided into the various styles of cuisine, such as Classics, Tempura, Sushi, Sashimi, Teppanyaki. Each artistic dish is illustrated in colour which is helpful.. But what to choose – tuna, squid, scallops, sweet shrimp, surf clam, soft shell crab tempura….?.
Unfamiliar with Japanese dining, we ask advice from our waitress with regard to how much to order for two people, and enquire about certain ingredients. Tobiko is crab eggs – so now you know!
There are no starters and main courses, just a selection of Japanese “tapas” which we are told will be brought in no particular order. Diners are encouraged to share each platter - chop sticks of course. It takes us a while to decide on a selection and still unsure if this will be too much or too little: Takoyaki octopus fish cakes – spicy, deep fried balls, - Grilled seabass Nigiri – tiny delicious fishy morsels (we should have ordered more!), platter of salmon and avocado sushi, and Kanpai special Roll Sushi with beancurd and prawn - rather chunky and too dry.
After sampling a few of all these, we realise that we had not eaten a proper dinner, and require another final “course”: Grilled Terriyaki Salmon Maki – delicately seared, almost raw fish, on a neat square box of avocado and rice. A perfect creation. Through the meal we sip a Chilean Merlot, which is topped up at just the right time, as well as our water glasses, by one of the smiling girls.
One curious problem is that most dishes are served as 5 portions - difficult to share between two people! There are 8 portions of the Roll Sushi, but this can be too much of the same dish. What would be welcome, to sample different Sushi and Sashimi, is the option of ordering a mixed platter.
This first visit to Kanpai was an ideal introductory meal to learn about the specialities of the menu. I look forward to returning soon to experience more of these tiny, colourful delicacies. It would be fun to sit at the Sushi Bar, to watch the chef at work. And perhaps take the opportunity to taste a wee glass of Sake in true Japanese style.