Christmas is the time for family, and for us this year it included an early January visit for my father. We wanted to take him somewhere special, with his only stipulation being that he wanted to dine at a Japanese restaurant. After much deliberation and canvassing of recommendations we settled on a place that an American friend with a keen interest in Japanese culture recommended: Kanpai.
Kanpai, which means ‘cheers’ or ‘ganbei’ in Japanese, is a rapidly growing chain of restaurants specializing in quality Japanese barbecue. But their philosophy is more than just about good food; they hope you can enjoy the moment of joy of being with someone important in your life, to experience the feeling of ‘it’s great to be with you’ (有你真好). For us, this created the perfect scene for a family gathering, and judging by the number of families in the semi-private rooms, it seems we were not the only ones. We also bumped into a friend shyly on a first date, so the theme also works for hopeful romantics.
Kanpai prides itself on quality, evidenced by the expensive cuts of meat available. While there is a range of seafood, pork, chicken and duck we gravitated to the high-grade, marbled Australian beef. Like kids in a candy store, us barbecue loving Aussies bypassed the healthy salad options, appetizers and vegetables and headed straight for the meat. In fact we went a little overboard, reflected in the shock we got when we received the bill at the end of the meal. But to us, every mouthful of that tender beef was worth it.
On our waitress’s strong recommendation, we ordered a slice of choice rib-eye cut steak (NT890 per 100g). The chef wheeled a trolley out for us to view the marbled slab, before cutting and weighing a thick slice in front of us. After sprinkling it with Italian sea salt, he allowed it to rest and defrost. When it was eventually placed on the barbecue, the meat bubbled and hissed contentedly as it cooked. Our waitress then used sharp shears to cut it into bite sized pieces and instructed us to enjoy the tender beef unimpeded by condiments.
We also ordered several other dishes, including a small serving of the special wagyu beef combination featuring six types of beef (NT$1980). This in itself was quite a large serving, and was arguably enough for our party of three (did I mention we ordered way too much?) I loved the way our waitress skillful barbecued the slices of beef topped with spring onion, folding it over to make a neat parcel.
We also enjoyed a serving of the kanpai classic limited beef tongue (NT$460), which was delicious dipped in lemon juice. Served in thin slices, I thought this was one of the standout dishes. It was delicious wrapped in the complementary lettuce leaves.
Not all our dishes were beef. We also squeezed in a serving of scallops (NT$260) and cuttlefish (NT$150). These were dressed in a lemon marinade, and were a nice complement to the heavier beef.
And we did order one token vegetable – golden butter mushroom soup (NT$150). This was quite rich, and coming at the end of our meal, arrived when we were already full.
Our meal was quite a feast. The service was excellent, with a dedicated waitress to help us grill our meat to perfection. (She offered to retreat if we preferred privacy). They were also quick with the beer refills, too, perhaps reflecting their ‘kanpai’ philosophy.
Kanpai is at several locations around Taipei. We dined at one of the ‘Kanpai Classic’ restaurants, on the eighth floor of Xinyi’s Mitsukoshi A9 floor. It opens for lunch from 11.30am to 2.30pm, and for dinner from 5.00pm to midnight. For reservations call (02) 2725 3311.