Master Chef David Kanai brings authentic Japanese food and service to Wichita KS with Kanai Sushi. One visit, and you’re hooked
Two weeks ago I went to Denver with Michele to take her son Jacksen to college orientation. It was a very quick trip; we drove to Denver on Thursday and then back to Stillwater on Saturday morning. Once you get out of Denver, there is almost nothing until you get to Wichita KS. On the way to Denver, we had lunch at The Cozy Inn in Salina KS. On the return trip, the options are slim until Wichita.
I’ve never spent time in Wichita, other than on my way home from the Big 12 basketball tournament in Kansas City. With a wide variety of restaurants, it’s the perfect stopping point for lunch on the way back. Michele wanted sushi, so I first searched restaurant.com, Groupon and Living Social for coupons. We struck out on all 3, so next I checked TripAdvisor. My usual standard is to focus on restaurants in the top 50 rated, or top 10% of a city. Kanai Sushi and Ninza Sushi Bar both fall in the top 10% of restaurants in Wichita. Both restaurants had good reviews, and were both about the same distance from the highway. I asked Michele to pick one, and she selected Kanai Sushi.
Kanai Sushi is in a strip mall in a nice area that seems out of the way, but that could simply be because we’re not familiar with the area. There is a patio out front with 5 tables. Inside, the restaurant is quite small, but they make use of every inch of space. There are 6 booths along the left wall, tables in the middle, a long sushi bar along the right wall, and a full bar as you walk in, to the right.
Master Sushi Chef David Kanai owns Kanai Sushi. Chef Kanai was behind the sushi bar, overseeing the entire operation. The sushi staff is almost all Asian, and the rest of the staff is nearly all American. As guests enter and leave, everyone on staff calls out to them in Japanese. We learned that all staff learn basic Japanese phrases, including welcome, thank you for coming, goodbye, etc.; that is such a great touch.
I’m normally not a big fan of sitting at the bar in restaurants. I find that the service at the bar tends to be lacking, because the bartender is taking care of you, while making drinks for everyone in the restaurant. Michele and I disagree on that front; she loves to sit at the bar and get to know other patrons. Well, Michele will talk to anyone and everyone, and I’m just the opposite. Michele won out on this trip, because there were no tables available. But you know what? That’s part of the reason Michele and I are such great friends…we can have completely opposite opinions on things, and it doesn’t diminish our friendship in the least.
Our bartender, Clayton, is a star. He interacted with us as he made drinks, and we never felt a lack of attention. More important, he knows everything about every single menu item. Not just the ingredients, but also the preparation. You see that from servers in fine dining restaurants, but very rarely from a more casual restaurant. I’m guessing Chef Kanai demands that universal of his staff. Again, I love that. The level of care and attention Chef Kanai puts into his restaurant reflects in the quality of food, and therefore its popularity. Last, but certainly not least, Clayton is an Oklahoma State grad!
The Kanai Sushi menu is substantial, and features a wide variety of rolls. We decided to start with the PiLi KaLa Calamari, one of the items on the traditional Japanese Pub Menu.
I’ve never seen calamari cut into thick chunks and breaded, which actually helps prevent overcooking the calamari. The sauce is very flavorful, although a side of the sauce would be better. Pouring the sauce over the calamari is a very quick way to have soggy breading.
The menu features a wide variety of rolls, so we focused on the most unique: funky tasty rolls, house special rolls, and five star rolls. We asked Clayton for suggestions and recommendations based on what we were thinking, and with his help we finally settled on Majide, Roppongi, and West End
Both of these rolls are fantastic, and it is hard to decide which one is better. The Majide wins by a very small margin, only because of the raw tuna on the West End, and I prefer seared tuna. The jalapeno in both rolls adds a great crunch, and the subtle heat is a great accompaniment to each roll.
The Roppongi is good, but is my least favorite of the three rolls. There is too much raw for my tastes, with raw both inside and on top. The garlic ponzu sauce adds a very nice flavor to the roll.
I will definitely go back to Kanai Sushi, and want to try more of the rolls. I thanked Chef Kanai, and told him that everything was delicious.