Supersized sushi selection

I’d heard a few good things about Kanpai Sushi on 8th (beside Jelly Modern Doughnuts) so hubby and I trekked out on a stupidly cold Wednesday night to get the lowdown.

The room has a contemporary feel with dark brown banquettes and tables accented with red linen lights and two large family-size ivory-hued booths at the back. It’s comfortable.

From the get-go the enormity of the menu has me a little concerned. With so many options it reminds me of the notoriously huge Cheesecake Factory menu of the ’90s.

Choosing two out of 29 appetizer selections we decide on the chilli chilli tofu ($8.95) and the steak cubes ($9.95). The appetizers don’t arrive until after most of our sushi order (a common occurrence in Japanese restaurants so I won’t balk).

The chilli chilli tofu is average. The silky tofu texture is similar to agedashi tofu only without the broth. The four battered bricks are topped with a spicy chilli masago mayonnaise. The tofu is nicely prepared and the batter is light but I would have preferred smaller cuts and perhaps an extra dollop of sauce as they are a little bland for my taste.

The steak cubes topped with small pieces of salmon and avocado were served with a tasty ginger miso sauce. In the menu the beef is described as seared but four of the six cubes were well done and to add further detriment sprinkled with steak salt. The only saving grace is the sauce. I would not recommend this dish.

The sushi was okay but Calgary has so many great sushi spots that “okay” isn’t going to bring me back. From bite one we took issue with the rice — cold and gummy it lacked that lukewarm on-the-verge-of-falling-apart stickiness that makes sushi great.

Out of the 24 house special rolls we try the crunch & munch roll ($14.50) a combination of prawn tempura cucumber and tobiko topped with avocado and unagi. Overall it’s a decent roll — the ingredients are fresh the prawn tempura is tasty and the unagi has a nice smokiness.

We don’t have any issues (besides the rice) with the negitoro roll ($5.50) either — the fatty tuna and green onion combo is on point. We also enjoy the volcano roll ($8.95) which is our favourite roll of the night. Essentially it’s your basic California roll only this version is lightly battered and fried then topped with mayo and hot sauce. It sounds weird but it’s actually a nicely executed twist on a classic roll. Served with a teriyaki-style sauce this roll appeals to the sweet and savoury diner. If only the rice was better.

Finishing up we order the deep-fried ice cream ($5.50). I grew up with Chi-Chi’s and will never pass on deep-fried ice cream when it’s offered. Opting for the green tea variety the ice cream is rolled in a light coconut batter and fried. For the most part I like it — the coconut batter is unique and the green tea ice cream is good except we have to avoid the parts that have freezer burn.

My experience at Kanpai Sushi on 8th is mixed. Over the course of our meal we had one pleasant server and one grumpy server. The sushi was tasty but the rice was bad. The menu was huge but the final product was not up to snuff. In a city brimming with fantastic sushi options I think I’ll stick with my top guns.