The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

Ilove dis­cov­er­ing a new favourite eatery. This one, how­ever, has left us feel­ing a little sheep­ish. It is hardly new to the Cairns din­ing scene. Some­what like a rel­a­tive you know you should visit, but haven’t got­ten around to, you even­tu­ally have such a good time in their com­pany, you’re left won­der­ing why it didn’t hap­pen sooner.

Ask a lo­cal about Kanpai and they will tell you they’ve en­joyed it, or have at least heard good things.

No one has a bad word to say, yet this Ja­panese res­tau­rant doesn’t get the ac­claim it de­serves. A Satur­day evening and we ar­rive on an off chance, no reser­va­tion.

Greeted and shown to a cosy booth, we are in­tro­duced to the or­der­ing sys­tem, a tablet at­tached to the wall where you view dishes, then sim­ply send the ones you want to your shop­ping cart for pur­chase (drinks too). It’s straight for­ward and rather fun. Sec­onds af­ter press­ing send, our drinks ar­rive – ice cold Kirin draught beer for my date and a mini bot­tle of Craig­moor rose bub­bles for me. There is a whole sec­tion on Ja­panese vodka you can buy by the bot­tle (karaoke any­one?) or glass, along with sake, but we’re stay­ing on safe ter­ri­tory tonight.

There are some “out there” op­tions on the menu, for ex­am­ple, beef tongue and chicken heart skew­ers. Call me un­ad­ven­tur­ous. In no time the food comes out. We’ve got­ten a bit ex­u­ber­ant with the nov­elty of on­line or­der­ing, which has re­sulted in too much but that just adds to the chal­lenge, es­pe­cially when we taste each dish declar­ing one af­ter the other an “ab­so­lute favourite”.

Pork is not a favourite of mine but the finely sea­soned, thinly sliced smoky roasted meat sprin­kled with spring onions and served with hot mus­tard is mouth-melt­ing.

Baby oc­to­pus karaage is crisp, crunchy and just the right chewy tex­ture without be­ing tough.

A bowl of salmon oc­hazuke – a soupy sea­weed rice dish – is slightly salty, warm­ing and de­li­cious.

Udon noo­dle stir-fry is packed with veg­eta­bles, chopped seafood pieces and silky noo­dles in lus­ciously sweet sauce.

Sur­pris­ingly, ev­ery dish ac­tu­ally looks like it does in the pho­tos. But the jewel in the crown, flaky spring rolls filled with a rich beef stew slowly ten­derised in soy, mirin and sugar, served on a bed of finely grated fresh cab­bage, is such an ab­so­lute de­light, it makes you hun­gry from me­mory.

Nov­elty aside, one of the ap­peal­ing things about tablet tech­nol­ogy is you are pretty much left to your own devices.

At Kanpai service re­mains dis­crete and swift but, be­cause of the or­der­ing sys­tem, there are no wait­ers hov­er­ing about.

There’s no re­peated pres­sure to or­der, no push­ing ex­tras to run up the bill. You just get what you ask for, quickly and with charm.

Even the chop­sticks, nap­kins and sea­son­ings are self-serve from a wooden box on the table.

And if you do de­cide you want a bit of karaoke ac­tion, it can be ac­com­mo­dated too – else­where in pri­vate.

Ver­dict: Classy and rather ro­man­tic.

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