569 Chapel St,
Ph: (03) 9826 4828
LAST night I shared dinner with a friend who is taking a break from walking through Africa’s Sahara desert.
In Melbourne until the war in Niger is resolved, she was craving sushi after a year long diet of maize and not much else.
Happy to oblige, we met for a raw fish fest at Chapel Street’s Kanpai. From the outset this place is always busy thanks to its handy location for shoppers and South Yarra locals.
Straight off the bat our quartet of old school friends dived into the deluxe combination sushi and sashimi ($35). It was a generous platter that covered most of our tiny table with a colourful selection of salmon, tuna, squid and mackerel sliced raw fresh.
Our African adventurer was transfixed by the salmon as no such luxury had passed her lips in 12 months. It was all good stuff, but nothing out of the ordinary. The sashimi was missing that mind-blowing velvety softness and the melt in your mouth sensation that the best sashimi delivers.
Chilled spinach doused in a thick, flavoursome miso sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds arrived next. A great way to get a fix of spinach, this dish nothing short of delicious. I order it every time I’m here.
Skewers of yakitori chicken with grilled spring onion come with miso bbq sauce. It's a hearty contrast to the lighter sashimi and spinach and gobbled up, mostly by me.
It was followed by a serve of decent gyoza ($7.50), the meat filled dumplings that are a must at any Japanese outing. It lacked the super soft cushiony freshness that makes top gyoza so utterly irresistable.
Grand finale was the teriyaki beef ($13.50) stir fried in teriyaki sauce with steamed rice. Sizzling, steaming and delicious, we all tuck in.
Our deprived African adventurer was in culinary heaven. A more measured assessement is that Kanpai offers reliable Japanese at a good price, but it’s frankly, nothing special.
Service by the Japanese staff is slightly bumbling. My bag wore splashes of red wine after an accidental bump from a friend send the waiter spilling his tray, resulting in chaos and non-stop apologies all round.
Kanpai is little more than another Japanese restaurant in a good location.