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.

My Walnut and Coffee/Vanilla Cake

So today I started my healthy living diet, and ended up making a not so healthy walnut and coffee/vanilla cake. I couldn’t help it. As soon as that word diet slipped into my head my body basically became an obstructor to the salad drawer and tricked me into making a sponge.

This sponge, I’m a big fan of a rustic looking cake.

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Sorry body, but I’m not sorry.

I thought, seeing as it was a big hit with my dad when he managed to get a piece that I’d put down the recipe for you to follow. Please bear in mind I’m not expert, in fact I’m pretty new to making cakes having always made cupcakes instead. This recipe is just what seems to work for me, as well as the oven temperature and baking time, but all appliances really vary so just watch out for that.

Ingredients for the Vanilla Sponge

I tend to make a vanilla sponge because I like to play it safe, and I’ve not got my perfect chocolate cake mix to perfection yet. This sponge goes really beautifully with the butter cream coffee icing and it always seems to end up spongey and moist. You will need:

– 220g of caster sugar

– 220g of butter (I really like Kerrygold Irish)

– 220g of plain flour

– tsp of baking powder

– 3 medium eggs

– 1- 2 tsp of vanilla extract

– 2 tbsp of milk (if you like a more crumbly cake add some more milk)

Method

It’s crazy really when you think about how easy it is to mix up the ingredients.

Preheat your oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3

Cream the butter and sugar together until it looks and feels light and perhaps obviously a bit like cream. I love to use my grandmother’s tablespoon for this (I’m really big and doing the work by hand) but an electric whisk will get it done faster. I like to crack my eggs straight into the bowl and begin to mix this together. As the mixture begins to curdle I’ll add a tablespoon of flour and the baking powder in at a time. Eventually you’ll have added all the flour in and the mixture, I tend to find, is a bit tough to stir. Add the milk and vanilla and stir this all in until you have a uniformed and creamy luscious mess sitting in your bowl.

Butter up two tins of the same size, I like those silicone ones as the cakes tend to fall right out of them after cooking and split the mixture evenly into both. Once you’ve got your mixture split up, I swear by lifting up the tins and dropping them onto the tabletop to get the air pockets out of them. I’m not talking from a great height just a little lift and drop. Then pop them into the oven. Without fail my cakes are done after 20minutes, but I always check mine with a skewer, which will come out clean when the cakes are done. The cakes should be springy to touch (yum). Place them on a wire rack and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before turning them out. I hate getting those lines from the wire racks so I place a tea towel on them before I turn out my cakes.

Let the cakes cool completely before you ice them.

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Ingredients for the Coffee Butter Cream Icing

– 250g of butter

– Icing sugar (for me this is all about adding as I go)

– 1tbsp of coffee

– 1tsp of milk (optional)

Method

I definitely use an electric whisk for this bit, the cream becomes ten times more creamer and lighter with an electric then by hand. Cream the butter by itself first, to make sure it’s soft enough and then gently I repeat gently add the icing sugar a bit at a time. If you have a taste of your mixture you should not be able to taste too much butter but rather more sugar. I like to add the milk in at this point as I reckon it makes the mixture more creamy and yummy. Then add the coffee liquid, but remember to add this to flavour. It’s totally possible that as you add the liquid  you will get some curdling so keep on adding that icing sugar.

Another optional WALNUT PIECES

Now of course I mentioned walnuts in this cake and as you can see by the decoration I basically smothered the cake in them after I iced it.

But another secret for those who love lots of nutty bits is to add some into the middle buttercream before you sandwich your two cakes together.  Firstly add a few heaps of coffee buttercream to one sponge, once you’ve got your layer drop in a bunch of walnuts spread evenly, then add a light layer of buttercream to the other cake and sandwich the two bits together. Simple.

I kept my decoration simple, but as I said before smothering the cake in walnut pieces and sieving some icing sugar over the top. I would definitely also add smashed chocolate bits to the top of this cake as well, but seeing as it was spur of the moment I didn’t have any on hand.

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I seriously loved making this cake and although I know that I have to be good from now on I know it’s not the end of my cake making days. Watch this space.