My colleague Ann Christenson, to whom I defer on all things, said in 2012 that the new Kanpai Japanese fusion restaurant at 408 E. Chicago St. had a “pared-down menu.” Either it’s grown, or our standards of variety are radically different. Either way, this remains one of the more mellow places in town to tuck into a lot of fine sushi, with tall booths bordering what’s normally a quiet street.
The Downtown Dining prix fixe lunch travels down two distinct paths: sushi and bento box, the latter being a Zen-master-version of the container that originated in lowly box lunches and dinners. In the little squares, you get chicken, salmon, tofu or beef and some light, flavorful vegetable tempura (the sweet potato is killer). If you go down the sushi road, you can also have sweet potato, or tekka, sake, shrimp tempura, California, spicy tuna or avocado. For a grand total of $12.50, you start with a plain miso soup, a salad with ginger dressing, or humble edamame and end with chocolate pudding or vanilla ice cream. This is fusion, after all.
Dinner rises significantly in price ($35) and adds more fusion, with Wagyu waving all over the place. The beef is used in Jalapeno poppers, a starter, and in one of three entrée choices: a piece of Wagyu steak paired with some shrimp. A truffle demi-glace is involved, as are wasabi and asparagus. You’d be mistaken to pass over the sushi and maki rolls, however, the latter having been wrapped in tangy seaweed.