Kanpai, Downtown Dubai – Food/Restaurant Review

Since I moved to Dubai, I’ve been really busy starting my postgraduate and settling into life. I haven’t done any blog posts since moving here and I know that really needs to change. So I decided to kick things off with a review about a Japanese/Asian Fusion Restaurant and Bar in Downtown Dubai, Kanpai.

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Located in Souk Al Bahar just beside the Burj Khalifa, this gem of an Asian restaurant can be found hiding on the second floor. I say hiding, but in reality as you walk towards it you get greeted by this handsome gentleman along the walls.

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It might seem a little strange to feel slightly intimidated as you enter Kanpai, but with those wonderful Samauri-esque greeting you, you might understand my fear. However in reality my family and I were met but some really warm and friendly front of house staff, who took us to our table, asked how the music was for us and really made us feel special about having booked our table with them.

Interestingly enough, whilst we were there Kanpai was having a photoshoot to help further their brand in Dubai. Even though there was this photoshoot going on in the background with the occasional flash of a flash gun or the fake laughter of models told to: “enjoy themselves,” in the next few pictures I didn’t feel like it hindered our visit at all. Perhaps, occasionally they was a longer wait time then we perhaps would’ve liked, particularly when it came to getting the bill, as there were more people dining then, but honestly I felt they dealt with the situation very professionally.

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We had a wonderful server, whose name I’m sure was Mignonne or something similar but in reality she looked just like my favourite Abbi Sciuto from NCIS. I literally couldn’t handle the similarities, she was gorgeous and was there when a glass needed refilling or to guide us through the menu, namely the cocktail menu helping us chose from the different varieties of alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks which we could then make alcoholic. I have to say I was totally impressed with her as a waitress, as the restaurant seemed to fill she did seem to be serving everybody and she handled that pressure wonderfully. She looked as if she was enjoying herself, she was friendly, calm and helped sort out any issues we had at any given time alongside everybody else.

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You’ll probably want to hear about the food at some point. But very quickly, the setting.

Honestly I don’t know what everybody’s problem is in Dubai, but for some reason and maybe it’s just me but the last few places I’ve been to the lights have been turned so low they might as well have been off, Nobu I’m literally pointing all fingers at you. Whilst Kanpai was a little dark for my liking actually being able to read the menu without asking for a nightlight, and being able to see the food in from of me as well as the people opposite me was an absolute bonus. The lighting was low enough to set an atmosphere but not low enough to destroy any chance of mood. in the same way the music, which when we entered was pretty loud (probably due to the photoshoot), was turned down to make sure we could all hear any person on our table. Honestly touches like that really make the evening so much more enjoyable. Whilst it was pretty classy inside I loved that I wouldn’t necessarily have felt out of place wearing some smart casual trousers and flat shoes, it just felt like there were no pretensions. For me that is amazing, there is nothing worse then going to an eatery, a club or whatever and feeling like you don’t deserve to be there.

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As for the food, well if telling you we had two lots of starters before our main course doesn’t speak volumes for the quality of the food I don’t know what does. There was plenty to go around, and everything from the Spicy Chilli Edamame Bean to the Vegetable Spring Rolls was a wonderful experience for your tastebuds.

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The chefs and management at Kanpai seriously outdid themselves with their starters, and achieved a succinct and beautiful matching Asian delight. I was impressed with the speed that the starters came out, and there was no problems with us ordering in our very awkward fashion: Starter, Starter, Main without given any time to prepare anything else. Really well done for the starters:

  • Spicy Edamame Beans
  • Crab Cakes
  • Vegetable Spring Rolls
  • Some interesting, not to sure if I liked them/didn’t like them mango and vegetable parcels

Honestly, I can’t qualify if I like the last food item or not, I had one thought: “Not my thing,” and then went back for more because I’m sure it was.

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Main course, for me went a lot like the first course. I ordered:

  • Roast chicken in a spicy cream sauce with mushrooms and baby potatoes

It was delicious. But, and yes really this shouldn’t be a but, BUT: a) I wish the potatoes has been cooked a little longer and b) I felt like I could have had a much bigger portion. But then I’m a pig. Even after two loads of sharing platter starters I wanted more food, which does go to show how well prepared the food was.  We only had a slight problem with one dish, that thankfully wasn’t mine (evil laugh), that was slightly too cold but they rectified the situation immediately, and honestly it’s not even worth complaining about.

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As it was a birthday, they very kindly let me choose a desert for the birthday girl – my beautiful mum, and wrote: “Happy Birthday Veda” (surprisingly her name) on the plate. I chose the desert called Ka, or Fire which was some kind of cheesecake which was set on fire at the table. The photograph I have of it is not wonderful but you get the generally idea. I like they came out with a sparkler as well, and thankfully enough when I asked them not to sing happy birthday because my mum would have sunk under the table stayed true to their word and just brought it all out. Enough for her to be embarrassed, not enough for her to disappear – a good balance I think.

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If you want to book a table at Kanpai – which I strongly suggest visit their website or call them on 04-441-9262. Their opening times are 12pm – 2am.

A fabulous restaurant, with some amazing staff, food and just pure quality entertainment.

A French Adventure – Honfleur

So the last French adventure I’m having is in Honfleur. Now on my third visit in so many years this is a great place to stop on the way back to Calais to get the train. From Honfleur you can see the Normandy bridge which takes you closer to home, England.

A port town this is one of my favourite places in the world.

It’s peaceful, it’s fun and the food. Well the food is simply gorgeous. And if that’s not enough to win you over. They have a massive butterfly house!

Honfleur15_08One of the main things that always strikes me first about Honfleur is how beautiful a port town can be. It doesn’t seem to have any pretentious about it, and the people are so ridiculously friendly. The first year we went I got a parking fine (hangs head in shame) and everyone was so helpful in telling me how I went about sorting the whole thing out.

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I know that I promised I wouldn’t make my dad get on any other small trains but I discovered Honfleur had one, and I’m sorry to report I made him get on it. We managed to grab the front seats which made the journey so much more fun, although didn’t give me enough time to get my camera ready for upcoming shots. It’s amazing how fast those little trains can travel. Having walked around Honfleur before I was so grateful that the train took us up the hill to this beautiful church called Notre Dame de Grace. Sitting on top of a hill, which let me tell you know is a bloody hard walk, it has such a quaint feel to it. Nothing too extravagant, except for the bells. Which of course, in my awe-struckedness I didn’t take a picture of, so thank you google for this:

They are located outside of the Notre Dame de Grace and sound beautifully on the hour. In sync and with an absolutely amazing rhythm, I guess part of the appeal is that I’ve never been close to bells ringing before and weirdly enough it’s wonderful.

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The train takes you on a tour around Honfleur and shows you the beach on the outskirts which is lovely. We’d never been before so it was fantastic to see some other areas of Honfleur that really were that bit too far to walk to. Apart from Notre Dame de Grace though, you don’t get a chance to get off the train so really it’s more of a quick look and drive past and if you want to visit you need to set your mind to walking.

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Of course no trip to Honfleur would be complete without getting a ticket to the Naturospace (click the link to go to the website). It’s a wonderful site where you can spend time with butterflies, parrots, giant moths, little ground dwelling birds and fish. I love a good koi pond. It really is beautiful.

Note: It is really humid, so you know take a glasses cloth if you wear glasses and avoid keeping your hats on if you don’t want a sweaty head. (Yes, experience)

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This year is a special year for me though, because for the last two I have been trying to photograph the elusive blue butterfly, of course no exact names given as I don’t know them, but if you ever go you will know which one I mean. It’s fast, it’s electric blue on the inside of it’s wings and it almost never settles on tress or plants. But this year, and yes it’s an awful photograph, but I got a picture of it!

So Freaking Proud of this blurry photograph
So proud of this blurry photograph

I was so happy, especially as I thought all my snapping of them flying around had been in vain.

Check out some of my other photos of my day in Honfleur.

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Well that’s the French Adventure over, I wonder where to next?

A French Adventure – Reims

Reims, should probably be a longer post then this but we were literally there no time at all. So, as usual I forced my poor and unsuspecting father into one of those mini trains. Literally, if you could hear the evil laughter that the memory brings back for me you will think I’m an awful person. But anyway, I made him get in that one – last one I promise, poor man. And we went, perhaps unsurprisingly around the city of Reims.

The home of Champagne. Drool face.

What I love most about Reims is that the cathedral, bear in mind I’ve now been three or four times, is still partially covered in scaffolding. This year I think I’ve completed the circuit of the cathedral but unfortunately the cover is directly in the middle of the front of this beautiful building. Apparently it’s a long haul cleaning trip around, and by the time they’ve finished they’ll probably have to restart.

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Full of Gothic architecture, Reims is a place of imagination (at least in my eyes it is). The place, specifically the cathedral has gone through a lot. During WWI and then WWII it was heavily bombarded with shells and ended up being fully restored, thankfully, after both wars. It’s hard to describe Reims, with it’s old style buildings but totally modern feel to it as you continue to walk around I always feel slightly confused as to where I’m actually headed.

The cathedral is home to the smiling angel, see if you can spot her/him in this photo. Key hint: The Angel is smiling!

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As I write this I literally just googled the Gold Angel, and my last blog post on Reims popped up. I think that finishes this blog post (face palm slap). But I will add the link to the previous post which is basically what we did this year, but will add some photos below.

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A French Adventure – Lyon – Part Three – A River Cruise

There’s not really much to write about this river cruise. I think the photographs speak for themselves. But, as we all realise I quite like listening or reading my own words, #sorrynotsorry I’ll be brief.

This was one of the my favourite parts of the whole French holiday. Even through the mass red sunburn, and yes I was wearing suncream, and the constant fear of dropping my camera in either the River Rhône or River Saône or the bit where they come together, it was amazing.

The two women who captained the boat and gave us the tour; in both English and French I might add, were literally perfection. A smooth ride, and a witty line or too which translated well in both languages they really made the trip stand out.  When you go and get your tickets from the teeny weeny office, remember there are other trips that go in a different direction on offer too!

So without further ado, here’s what you can look forward to on the trip we took.

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So Excited. Happy Faces and Happy Hats!

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To Catch up on my French Adventure join me at the beginning in Dijon here. Or read about the other two aspects of my Lyon trip: The Basilique or The Museums.

A French Adventure – Lyon – Part Two – A Look Around

After the breathtaking goodness of the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière I was a little bit conscious of the fact that perhaps we had seen all that Lyon had to offer.

Of course, my fears (as usual) were unfounded. Although in my opinion: “not as good as the Basilique,” the rest of Lyon was simply wonderful – which perhaps is saying a lot for Lyon as a whole. If you haven’t check out my Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière click the link, and if you don’t fancy reading about museums and a little bit of ice cream follow my link to the Lyon River Cruise here, and if you don’t fancy that – well I can’t help you.

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One of the key places to go in Lyon if you want to feel all culturally aware, which we did, is the Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon or The Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon. It is possibly the largest Fine Arts museums I’ve ever been in and took us a staggering four hours to get round, mind I ran some of the way.
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Showcased in a beautiful 17th century building, the 70-room collection is extensive, amazing and if I’m being honest completely tiring. From Ancient Egypt to a room solely dedicated to different medals this museum is not for the faint hearted – or those wearing inappropriate footwear. But, and it is a large but, even though the last 30 or so rooms are pretty blurry to me in a mass of art of all different ages/styles the bits I do remember, such as this beautiful piece of wood carving that I believe was from Iran,

Syria - Wood carving from a door about 1277
Syria – Wood carving from a door about 1277

and this ever so slightly terrifying sculpture from Laurent-Honoré Marqueste’s Perseus killing a Gorgon, are things that I literally will keep with me forever. Cheesy, yep I know.

Perss et la Gorgone - Laurent Marqueste
Perseus et la Gorgone – Laurent Marqueste

I think one of the biggest failings of this museum which is ironic really as it is also it’s positives is just how much the museum houses. Perhaps, if we’d of had enough time I would have gone back more then once to actually feel like I was seeing everything which in some cases I was merely walking past trying to finish the museum. I still highly recommend it though, and as stated before wear some bloody comfortable shoes.

Odalisque by James Pradier
Odalisque by James Pradier

After a trek and a half around the Museum of Fine Arts I decided that of course it was time for an ice-cream. And not just any ice-cream, oh no, an ice-cream I had been waiting for since arriving in Lyon. A rose shaped ice-cream. Could life get any better. I literally found out it couldn’t. Bearing in mind it started raining as soon as I had my first and last ice-cream of the holiday it was a dream.

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Before lunch on the second day of the trip in Lyon, and before our river cruise – see that blog here, I dragged my poor dad along to the Musée Miniature et Cinéma which was amazing. At least I thought so.

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Filled with bits and bobs from some ridiculously random movies; Hollywood, French and Bollywood and others the multiple-floored movie exhibit is brilliant. It’s light-hearted with the occasional curtain which reveals it might be too much for young eyes (such as some of the latex props from Buffy (yes Buffy, and yes double brackets)) but it also showed short films on how props were made, and how and what behind the scenes entailed on some sets.

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Alongside the film memorabilia (which is all original and from the actually films credited) was the miniature part of the museum. It was slightly odd, such as a miniature unused swimming pool but very intriguing. How anyone has created as much detail on some of the rooms and objects in this section was completely beyond my comprehension. It was exquisite craftsmanship, and really pretty awesome.

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There is one part of the museum I didn’t photograph, partially because I was took freaked out to hold my camera and secondly because I was so ridiculously freaked out I just wanted to get out of the exhibition – which was all to do with dolls. Not pretty dolls of the Disney-kind but creepy dolls – with bicycle wheels for hands and strangely terrifying music which made me feel like I was hyperventilating. If you fancy that kind of thing go for it, but if I ever visit again I will be avoiding that floor in its total.

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Lyon15_232If you’ve enjoyed this blog post feel free to check out my first A French Adventure in Dijon here.

A French Adventure – Lyon – Part One – Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière

Bonjour Lyon, it’s literally been amazing to meet and explore you.

The bustling, but in a slightly relaxed way, heart of Lyon sits perfectly perched between two of France’s rivers; The Saône and the Rhône just before they come together. It’s a place full of beauty, food and amazing weather. Today felt like the longest yet shortest day yet. We did so much at the end I felt as if my feet were going to fall off. By the way I apologise for having to split Lyon into three parts but this deserves a blog to itself.

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Staying in the Presqu’île which is a small slither of land between the two rivers, we had a marvellous hour and a half walk (at least) up towards one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen. The Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière which is, apparently a small basilica in Lyon (small my ass but whatever).

When I saw it I got an immediate feel of Egyptian/Byzantine architecture – clearly it’s not that old but that seemed to be the sort of style they were going for when they built it. As we got there pretty early on during the day, the haze across Lyon had yet to be ‘dissolved’ by the sun, but the panoramic view was still pretty amazing.

The basilica itself contains three chapels. The first I walked into (which is the furthest around, near the museum on the right) and was left feeling slightly depressed – it was small, no photograph allowed and there was a service taking place. As I toddled out I couldn’t believe I’d been dragged up the hill of greatest and about 300 stairs for that. But as I walked into the main body of the basilica and was given the option of up or down (go down first) I felt a tingling (cringe) of excitement. The beautiful curling banisters that led down the stairs were enough to start my brain working in overdrive about what I was about to see.

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First of all, it was dark. Second, my photos will never do the place justice, but there the best I could manage. The downstairs chapel was dark, but used vibrant yellows and some blues which my dad and I found totally bizarre for a chapel. Only scratching the surface we moved round this building and noticed the use of one particular blue – a sort of pastel green/blue if you will. In all the churches, basilicas, mosques and other religious buildings I have ever been lucky enough to step foot into I have never seen a colour like this used. Downstairs, it was dark and the colour was hard to see but then you moved upstairs and…well, how do you describe something that is almost indescribable.

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A massive church filled with detailed carvings in its arches. From the flowers that circled the bottom of each column to the mosaic tiled walls which told stories of Jeanne D’Arc (Joan of Arc) and other Christian tales. Never have I ever been overwhelmed by a church, but here in one of France’s cities I was left feeling slightly weightless but very much in awe of how a place like this could exist. How on earth was something so beautiful made? Stained glass windows. Tall columns holding up these beautifully painted ceilings and walls. I wish I could show you so much more of this building than the internet in France will let me.

If you ever have the chance to visit Lyon, go. Go to this place that caused the people who walked through the doors to gasp. I can’t even begin to describe the different mix of emotions that surge through your body as you walk around this place. Sometimes I wonder whether religion should fit in this world, but then you see places like Fourvière and you realise how priceless someone’s faith can be. How faith in one deity or many can lead to people dreaming and imagining places like this, and making those dreams happen.

The magic happened here for me, I bet it would for you too.

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A French Adventure – Avignon Part Two

I did have to split my time in Avignon in two, even if today’s adventures weren’t quite as expansive as yesterday was. It was more about the travelling I did between the two, and by travelling I mean by foot.

We got up extra early this morning to walk over two bridges and discover the Fort Saint-Andre.

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The walk was long, the wind was strong and the small inclines felt like mountains, but it was a good trip. Fort Saint-Andre is across the river from Avignon situated in a small town called Villeneuve lez Avignon. According to our guide pamphlet it is a: “perfect example of medieval military architecture,” honestly I’m not so sure.

The walk up there wasn’t as tough as I’m making out. It took us approximately an hour and half both ways and was a bit up and down to say the least.  When we finally arrived we got told the gardens and the abbey, which I had wrongly assumed were attached (although they are) were not open, so it was only the fort we could see. Although the fort was fine, I can’t think of a better dull but good adjective for it, the only real thing about it was the panoramic views of Avignon that we got from the top of a battlement.

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There were some interesting ruins but we couldn’t access them to see more. It did seem a little strange that we could only get to one of the three places, but it was affirmed to me by our concierge later that evening that most tourist attractions were closed on a Monday. Note to all travellers: don’t come to Avignon on a Monday.

That being said, after we managed the walk back we found a beautiful restaurant, that was by the Porte de L’Oule opening in the city’s walls.

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My poor dad was more then happy to go back to the hotel to sleep after this meal, but I decided that it was time to try the Avignon mini train that I kept seeing making its rounds around the city. Can I just apologise now to my dad, although good (?) it was bumpy, uncomfortable and honestly although it gave you some slight historic knowledge I felt that having already been around most of its stops I knew it all already.

Having said that it is a nice and easy 40 minutes drive where you don’t have to do anything bar trying to stay in the carriage.

I tried a panorama, but in reality I was too close to the Palais des Papes.
I tried a panorama, but in reality I was too close to the Palais des Papes. Still kind of love it though