The difference between Kofuku the restaurant and its adjoining lounge bar Kanpai is as stark as night and day. Kofuku is bright and cheery, Kanpai is dreary and dark. Kofuku is buzzing with activity and every table is occupied; Kanpai is a ghost town and the two of us are the only customers. When queried about the absence of customers we’re told that even though the lounge opened a few months ago, not too many people are aware of it.
I suspect the reasons are far simpler. Kanpai is a dull space. One wall is covered with two manga strips: one of a Japanese tourist in Mumbai and the other of an Indian tourist in Tokyo. Fake sakura blossoms hang from eaves below the ceiling and at the top of the bar. Neither provides much visual relief in the dark, sombre room.
Kanpai’s food and cocktail menu leaves much to be desired considering that they’re located on a road filled with buzzing bars keeping pace with international food and spirit trends. It’s a well-stocked bar - they’ve got some of the popular Japanese single malts and a good collection of whiskies and liqueurs.
While I was hoping they’d use fresh Japanese yuzu lime juice for the yuzu martini, the bottled juice brings freshness to the drink, without suppressing the aromatics from the gin. Nice, but hardly memorable, and not worth the price.
Since it’s a bar, Kanpai has a simple two-page menu, mostly of Japanese little bites like sushi, sashimi, yakitori, Chinese dim sum and cheung fan and one or two Korean inspired dishes. However, you can also order from the Kofuku menu.
We start with rock corn; kernels of sweet corn deep-fried into tempura-like balls that are crunchy and sweet, with an undertone of spiciness from a dusting of mixed-spice, shichimi powder. The grilled pork ribs are coated with a luscious sweet-spicy barbeque sauce with a hint of Korean gochujang but are quite tough and undercooked.
The kitchen blowtorch used to char the salmon-topped maki rolls was probably brought too close to the sushi. Our fire dragon rolls had a faint aftertaste of gas propellant. I liked the idea of making a crispy prawn cheung fan by encasing a tempura prawn with a wonton skin. It was a delightful interplay of textures, soft prawn, crisp tempura batter and soft wonton skin. I just wish the skin had more flavour.
The food wasn’t bad but nothing stood out. Everything we ordered was uniformly pedestrian and lacking the charm and drama of what you’ve come to expect from Kofuku.
The author tweets @chezantoine
WHAT: Kanpai Lounge & Bar
RATING: ** ½
WHERE: 6th floor, Suburbia Mall, Above Shoppers Stop, Linking Road, Bandra
WHEN: 6 pm to 1 am
COST: Rs 2,000 with one cocktail each
CALL: 6695-5105, 6695-5106