We were looking for a special restaurant for our anniversary recently and had narrowed it down to two West side places. Unfortunately, our first choice must not have any working clocks in their establishment, because they were closed when we arrived 30 minutes before their listed closing time. Luckily we had Kanai as our back-up, a place we have been wanting to check out for a while. Kanai is a newer Japanese and Sushi restaurant located way out there at 119th and Maple. In its short time in Wichita, Kanai has quickly become one of the best places to get sushi and it is easy to see why.
As we walked into the nearly empty restaurant we were promptly greeted by the hostess as well as the Sushi chefs. The restaurant is nicely decorated on the interior with a small bar as well as a sushi bar on one side. The other side has a mix of tables and booths for your sitting pleasure. The only TV in the place was playing a soothing tropical fish DVD. That really set the mood. Our waitress brought out a sample of their Japanese version of chicken salad with fried tofu and sesame oil flavor. It was a nice start to our meal. Their menu covers a lot of bases as far as Japanese and sushi dishes are concerned. The sushi menu is rather expansive and has many unique maki rolls, including one that features a whole lobster tail. We had a difficult time deciding which maki rolls to go with, but soon narrowed it down to 4. We decided to try the crunchy California roll, a snowcrab and avocado roll(Dragon roll), a tempura shrimp and asparagus roll, and the snowball roll which featured asparagus and a crab mixture on top. We also ordered some tempura calamari because we were both pretty hungry.
While we sipped on $8 dollar cocktails our food was prepared by several sushi chefs. The calamari was brought out first in a large bowl. This was not your typical little rings of squid, there were nice thick strips that had been fried in a delicious tempura batter. A scallion sauce was drizzled over the tempura for added flavor. We both enjoyed the dish, but wished the sauce would have been served on the side because some the calamari got a bit soggy. Our sushi came out soon after we had finished the calamari. Two large platters were placed before us with 4 large rolls of unparalleled beauty begging us to devour them. I started off with the snowball roll and was impressed. The crunchiness of the asparagus complemented the creamy crab mixture which was elegantly placed on top of the roll. The tempura shrimp roll was very good as well with fresh asparagus balancing the fried shrimp nicely. Next was the Dragon roll which was excellent and good-sized. It was topped with a delicious sweet sauce with bits of what our server told us was Unagi. Unagi is freshwater eel, but don’t let that turn you off from this roll. With the sauce there is no real discernible flavor from the eel. Just think of it as a mushroom. The final roll was a colossal California roll that had been dipped in tempura batter to make it warm and crunchy. It came out as six huge pieces that required some fine skill to eat with chopsticks. It was wonderful of course. The most impressive part of our dinner was the sushi rice. Sometimes when attempting to dip the piece of sushi into soy sauce and shove in your mouth the piece has a tendency to fall apart. None of these rolls did that, because the rice was perfect. I have read that the real hardcore sushi chefs of Japan study for years to learn the art of making sticky sushi rice and I think the chef at Kanai has done that. His rice was perfection.
While consuming all this delightful food I became increasingly aware that my stomach was reaching capacity. I tried to wiggle into the corner of the booth in an effort to ease the pressure, but there was no denying the power of sushi. It has a way of sneaking up on you “like a thief in the night” so to speak. Thus, stuffed and satisfied Steph and I managed enough power to roll ourselves out of, in my opinion, the best place for sushi in Wichita.