I noticed the sign of this place back in June. They turned the renovation around pretty quickly and opened a couple of weeks ago. I decided to check them out since they're located relatively close to both home and work. One thing I quickly noticed was the removal of the "Yakitori" in the signage....I'm guessing getting that robata thing straight might have been a bit too much.
Nice wide open space......
Cathy recently mentioned that all new restaurants are required to have a wood wall (which CC also mentioned). So of course Kanpai had to have one, right?
My server on both visits was a very gracious, friendly young man, from, if I recall Latvia. He was just perfect, great timing, and for some reason, reminded me of the kind of service we received in France.
It was way too hot for ramen on my first visit, so I ordered a couple of items from the menu.
I started with the Tsukune, because I was curious as to why the "yakitori" part on the sign was removed.
This was on the tough and rubbery side. The flavor was quite mild. The tare was different, sweet with some mild spice, more like teriyaki in texture than a traditional tare.
Like that wood wall; it seems like all "New Japanese" have some kind of Pork Belly Bun on the menu.
In terms of flavor the pork was decent, on the waxy side and cold, but ok. I think heating this up a bit more, getting some caramelization on the pork would make this better. The bun was cold and dry and this seemed a bit slapped together.
I also ordered the Katsudon; you know the iconic katsu (in this case chicken katsu), egg, tsuyu, onion, scallion, and rice bowl. What I got made me laugh.......it was literally "Katsu - Don".
No egg, no tsuyu, no onions/scallions........just overcooked chicken katsu; hard and dry....and overcooked rice....hard and dry. For some reason I just found this quite funny. Like someone figured out what "katsu" and "don" meant in Google Translate and took it literally.
Overall an interesting meal. I really liked the service, it was so very open, seemed really interested in my opinions, after a while, you can usually tell if someone is sincere when they ask for your opinion of the dishes. I did find out that the owner of Kanpai also owns Fish Attack.
With that in mind, I decided to return for lunch. On the menu there was a "special combination" menu which is ramen along with a rice bowl.
So I went with Tonkotsu Ramen with Karaage Don.
Beyond the standard Sriracha-mayo, this was good. The chicken was perfectly fried, light, crisp, not too salty, with a slight savory backbone. The rice was perfect this time around. I'd easily have this again.
I'd consider this, with consideration as a work in progress, as lower second tier ramen. The egg was fine; in fact much better than what I'd recently had at RakiRaki. The Chashu was decent. The noodles were typical wholesale ramen noodles and were overcooked. The broth was an uneven mixture of tonkotsu base with shoyu. It was much too thin, definitely lacking in richness, though the temperature was good.
I really liked the service, the folks here seem eager to please. I'll check back in a couple of months to see how the menu, and hopefully the food has evolved.
5430 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92117