CHEERS TO KANPAI
WHERE TECHNOLOGY MEETS TRADITION, KANPAI MAKES FOR A FUN NIGHT OF GOOD FOOD
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.