After my review of , a reader suggested I try Kanpai in Azusa. Since recommendations of establishments for this column are always welcome (as well as reasons to eat sushi), I was eager to check it out.
I brought along my favorite budding sushi protégée—my seven-year-old daughter. As we sat down, she announced she was starving, so we started straight off with an order of ebi (shrimp) nigiri ($3.95), a Fire Lobster roll ($10.95) and a salmon roll with avocado ($5.95).
After placing our initial order, I was able to take some time to peruse the menu and our surroundings. The long, narrow space with unfinished brick walls and high ceilings gave the room an urban loft vibe.
The menu offered over 50 different rolls, as well as teriyaki, udon (noodles) and don (rice bowl) dishes. Nigiri sushi was not listed on the menu, but we discovered the staff was very accommodating.
Our ebi and rolls arrived just as we finished adding a two-item special combo with mixed sushi and crunch roll ($8.95), and an order of hamachi (yellowtail) nigiri ($4.50) to our order.
My daughter quickly gobbled down her shrimp nigiri before I could grab a bite, but I was able to note that it looked bright and fresh before she threw them down her gullet like a pelican tossing back live fish.
Fortunately, this slowed her down enough to allow me time to enjoy the salmon and avocado roll instead of having to race against her for a piece. The salmon was delightfully silky and buttery, blending with the smooth avocado. Cucumber added just the right amount of complementary crunch.
The fire lobster roll was a California roll topped with lobster morsels, drenched with sweet and slightly spicy dynamite sauce, then broiled until the sauce caramelized and transformed it all into what I like to call “sushi candy”.
Besides the fact that I am a huge fan of sushi and candy, what was particularly enjoyable about this roll was that the crab in the California roll was not a nightmarish version of crab salad, drowning in mayonnaise. In fact, if there was any mayonnaise at all, it was hardly discernible, which is as it should be. Both rolls got two thumbs up from my daughter as well.
The special combo arrived next, starting with a bowl of soothing miso soup. The miso was not too salty and was perfect for this chilly fall afternoon. The salad was crisp as the autumn air outside, dressed with a splash of miso vinaigrette.
The beautifully arranged bento also included a huge mound of rice, which I passed over in favor of the other goodies. The crunch roll was gargantuan: a hefty piece of shrimp tempura wrapped in a California roll sprinkled with crunchy tempura flakes. Like the other rolls, it met our approval.
The mixed sushi was four pieces of nigiri: ahi (tuna), salmon, ebi and snapper. The salmon nigiri, like the salmon in the roll, was wonderfully velvety and full of flavor.
The ahi and the snapper, however, were both just average. The texture was slightly off and the flesh was not smooth, but appeared as if it might break apart in sections. It tasted good, but the flavor was not as strong and fresh as the salmon.
I finished the meal off with the hamachi nigiri. Like the ahi and snapper, it had a strange, segmented appearance. However, it tasted fresh and almost melted in my mouth. Although the nigiri was satisfactory, it is clear why Kanpai features so many sushi rolls on their menu—it is where they excel.
We left the meal more than satisfied. Lunch was by no means inexpensive, but I felt we ordered a ridiculous amount of food. The special combo alone would have been more than sufficient for me and was a good value at under nine bucks. I will return soon with my daughter for another round of “training”.
Address: 722 N. Azusa Ave., Azusa 91702
Business Hours: Monday – Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.; Saturday 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Phone Number: (626) 815-1919
Price Range: $5.95 - $29.95
Type of Cuisine: Sushi, Japanese
Standout Dish: Salmon Roll with Avocado, Fire Lobster Roll