- Matthew Schniper
- In spite of ourselves, we are a little impressed.
I’m not sure if the corn dog or the donut roll was more memorable, but I can with confidence say I’ve never eaten sushi quite like either.
We’re at 5-month-old Sushi Kanpai and feeling adventurous, if not childish (or masochistic), for ordering the Moon Dog and Krispy Kreme rolls amidst our more serious samplings. The first takes a whole corn dog and wraps it in rice and seaweed, topping the phallic fold-over in a sweet, spice-laced special sauce with a touch of sappy teriyaki as garnish. Its thick, weenie-cloaking cornmeal core makes for redundant starchiness texturally and moisture-suck-wise, ultimately proving that you can take a corn dog out of the fairgrounds, but not the fairgrounds out of a corn dog. We dare each other to take second bites, then leave the remainder, concluding that this is some form of sushi sacrilege, but an amusing stunt nonetheless.
By contrast, the Krispy Kreme keeps luring me back despite a comical chocolate drizzle atop a sweet tempura batter — damned if it doesn’t actually taste for a few seconds like you just bit into a donut! It’s another gimmick (much less horrific than those burgers served on glazed donut buns), but I can’t really explain how or why it somehow works with the fatty-rich flavors of cream cheese, avocado and salmon. It’s basically a sweet offset as something like coconut aminos could be, once a soy dip’s factored in. I can’t say I’ll ever petition Amy’s to make me a salmon-avocado donut, but before my mind has worked out all the mechanics of the moment my fingers have written the word “impressive” into my notes. As of this writing I’ll add the clarifier “oddly.”
Returned as we are to adulting — until a green tea cheesecake dessert course that misses the opportunity to taste like matcha or bancha or anything other than gummy, tapioca-textured, dyed-green generic cheesecake — we sip traditional Sho Chiku Bai (sweet rice) Nigori unfiltered sake and detect hints of passionfruit and plum, plus a faint suggestion of wild yeastiness, like some sort of Saison of sake. Milky white, actually called “silky mild,” it holds much more character than the one-note clear stuff.
The sake plays especially nice off the layered vegetal essence of our fine Futo roll, packed with carrot, cucumber, daikon, Japanese pumpkin, krab, tamago (omelet) and inari (fried tofu). But our best bites of the visit come via the Hot August Night roll and a not-cheap-but-totally-worth-it special of the evening: uni (sea urchin) nigiri, two pieces for $14.95. (Pricier rolls can be found, but all of ours ranged from $6.95 to $8.95, and overall Sushi Kanpai’s more affordable than most.)
Tempura shrimp, cucumbers, cilantro, green onions and creamy cashews combine with a mildly hot, sweet chile drizzle to taste like an awesome Chinese stir-fry as a sushi bite in the roll. The uni arrives elegantly arranged on a long plate with abundant white porcelain negative space brightly offset by a banana leaf sliver, blushing pink ginger shavings and a fanned wasabi dollop capped by parsley foliage, like a mini edible banzai tree. The sensational and notably fresh urchin dissolves like melting butter over the tongue, with an airy lightness, gifting ephemeral bliss. A trace of brine whispers in the finish. ... To have come this far from donuts and corn dogs ... Remarkable. Kanpai! (Cheers!)