Restaurant: Kanpai Snack Bar
Location: 252 Carlton Street, Toronto, ON M5A 2L3
Price Range: $$
Located at the corner of Carlton & Parliament, Kanpai is a much welcomed addition to the almost-no-restaurants-in-the-area of Cabbagetown. The restaurant is small and seat about 50 people, but with open windows and a nice view, its the perfect place to met up with friends and dig into some delicious Taiwanese tapas food. If you are coming with a group of 4 or more I would book a reservation as I saw some people waiting quite a while for a table. I have been here twice so the post will combine those experiences, thus forgive me for the noobie iPhone pictures :).
I really liked the vibe there – modern and rustic. It can get quite loud on busy nights though and the service wasn’t super attentive either. It was extremely hard to waive down the waitress to refill water or even getting the bill.
I’m not sure if this was supposed to be served cold but the tofu had a crispy skin and soft on the inside. The tofu can be bland on its own but the sauce added just a hint of sweetness and heat to it!
For those that have never had pig’s ear, the texture is somewhat crunchy in the middle from the cartilage, and has a fatty skin layer on both sides. Unfortunately the pig ears were sliced too thick and bland. The chili oil didn’t come through either and all I tasted was the heat from the raw green onions.
The kung-pao cauliflower at Kanpai was nothing like the one I had at Thoroughbred at all. The dish was saucy, bland and the cauliflower was undercooked. It was not kung pao style at all, flavour-wise.
The bao was huge (almost as big as my face!) so I found really good value there since it was only $6. The pork belly was marinated in a typical 5 spice with a crunchy and balancing slaw. The only thing I didn’t like was the large margin of fat on the belly. In addition, being a sauce-boss, I’d like this bao more if they added more sauce to it.
I’ve always liked Taiwanese popcorn chicken and this one definitely topped it. There wasn’t too much breading and each nugget is well-seasoned. Juicy and tender pieces of chicken that kept its crunch? Too good, especially paired with that side of sweet chili sauce. Try having a piece with the fried Thai basil leaves, they added a hint of aromatic that makes it outstanding. Delish!
The squid was also tasty, but after ordering the popcorn chicken, the dish felt a little repetitive as it shared the same breading and sweet chili sauce as the popcorn chicken.
The fried chicken was out of this world and each piece was enormous! I expected it to be a little dry but it was so moist and tender on the inside. Amazingly crispy enough on the outside and seasoned perfectly. Highly recommended!
While they had an eclectic mixes of really fun-named dishes, almost everything on their menu is either spicy or fried and some of the dishes were not as good as I expected it to be. On both occasions we didn’t want to order too much meat but it was quite tough to do so as they have limited choices for veggie dishes. With that said, I thought the food was reasonably priced and the portions were easily shareable between 2-3 people, thus I would recommend this place if you are looking for some snacks and drinks!