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Tanya Tandoc

Restaurant Review: Kanai


Sushi has been the subject of many a dinner negotiation. I adore sushi and will bargain outrageously with my non-sushi-loving family to get to go eat it. I’ll promise to fold laundry, or dance a little jig, or even listen to Steely Dan to get to eat sushi. They have gamely tried to enjoy it but it’s just too weird for them. Too cold, too many textures, the unforgivable presence of seaweed…not to mention the raw fish part.  That just puts it over the edge.

I argue that there are many kinds of sushi that are made entirely of vegetables or cooked food. Some restaurants make outrageous combinations of maki rolls that contain the most unlikely ingredients, like one I had recently with banana, grilled tuna and monkfish liver. I also try to tempt them with deep-fried maki so rich and crispy that one forgets that there’s a sushi under all that tempura batter. No dice. The boys have dug in and will not be lured out of their caves.

Lucky for me, I have found fabulous compromise: Kanai. Kanai is located in West Wichita, and serves a wonderfully varied menu full of not only fresh and inventive sushi, but many other Japanese dishes that have nothing at all to do with raw fish or seaweed. I can eat the Survival roll, stuffed with face-meltingly spicy Hamachi and wrapped in soy paper, or a traditional nigiri with grilled eel and wasabi. Non-sushi people can enjoy pork tonkatsu—a fried pork cutlet served with sweet soy glaze—or a lovely grilled veggie salad with creamy sesame dressing and pistachios. Chef Kanai works meticulously and is always present, making sure everything is up to his exacting standards. They don’t take reservations, and can be packed on weekends, but you can have a sake or fun cocktail at the bar while you wait. Good fish is expensive, so be warned, Kanai is a splurge but is worth every penny.