Hidden down the back of one of the side streets behind the Usher Hall, you’ll find Kanpai. This Japanese restaurant has an unassuming exterior but don’t be fooled – inside you’ll discover some of the best sushi in that can be possibly found in Edinburgh.
The place is a little bit off the beaten track, but fairly easy to find. As you approach the Usher Hall, keep on the right hand side and head towards the Traverse Theatre. Keep walking, even when the street gets quiet, and keep your eyes peeled for it on the right hand side.
The place is quite small, but always busy, so it’s a good idea to book ahead, even on weeknights.
The sushi chefs work in plain sight behind a bar, where you can admire all the fresh fish laid out and ready to be made into delicious sushi or sashimi. They work pretty fast, but its always fascinating to watch them put your food together as you wait.
I love the menu in Kanpai. Not just the food menu, but the ACTUAL menu itself. Not only does it have a beautiful front cover (pictured above) but inside there are large colour photos of every item, perfect if you are new to Japanese food or want to try something different.
The last time I was there, I had a couple of my old favourites and also tried a couple of new things. The results, as you should expect from a place like Kanpai, were absolutely delicious.
I normally start with a hand roll, this time I went for the salmon and avocado variety, but they also do the likes of spicy tuna, salmon and california rolls as well.
The roll comes in a fascinating structure, which from the looks of it can hold up to three rolls at a time. I’ve never been that hungry as of yet – but you never know, maybe one day!
Next up was the sweet egg nigiri. I always enjoy this sushi staple, especially at Kanpai. The generous slice of egg placed on top of the rice with a small seaweed tie always makes for a perfect addition to your meal, and the offering at Kanpai is no exception.
My favourite kind of sushi is the california roll, made from crabsticks, sweet egg and avocado, and Kanpai do it wonderfully. The plate comes with eight pieces and are covered with a generous helping of crab egg, which melt in your mouth with a satisfying pop.
This creamy and satisfying roll has no raw fish, so it’s a great place to start for someone who is nervous or new to sushi.
Finally, I tried decided to try something different. The grilled aubergine in a sweet miso sauce looked so tempting on the menu, I had to give it a go.
I’m glad I did, it came out warm and the sweet flesh easily came away when I pulled at it with my chopsticks. It made for a delicious treat and I think I might have found a new favourite on the menu!
Granted, the bill is a touch on the pricey side compared to most sushi joints in Edinburgh, but you can’t deny that Kanpai is a step above the rest. This is a great place to go if you have a special celebration, or just fancy giving yourself a well deserved treat. For a high quality sushi selection, Kanpai is definitely the way to go.
You can find Kanpai (website) at 8-10 Grindlay Street, EH3 9AS. You can get there via any bus that heads up Lothian Road – just get off at the stop outside the Usher Hall.