Who Said Jalapenos Were Just for Mexican: Avant Garde Sushi at Kanpai

Last night, I had the opportunity to try a (relatively) new restaurant, courtesy of a Milwaukee Foodies fundraiser.  The benefit was for Youthaiti, an organization focused on projects of ecological sanitation that is helping the rural people of Haiti with things like hygiene projects and sustainable agriculture.  Good food and a good cause–how’s that for a great night!

Kanpai Restaurant, Milwaukee

Kanpai Restaurant

Our host for the evening was Kanpai, a local sushi establishment whose name derives from the traditional Japanese toast–think Cheers!  Opened in 2012, it  is located in Milwaukee’s historic third ward–a perfect spot for an innovative restaurant offering Japanese fusion cuisine.

Kanpai Japanese fusion menu

Kanpai Japanese fusion menu

The event began at 5:30, just in time to start the evening with a couple of happy hour drink specials.  We decided to indulge in the large-for-the-price-of-a-small Sapporo beer and one of their more unique offerings–sake spiked martinis.  Ginger lover that I am I was delighted to find a Gingertini, while the other couple at our table tried a pear-flavored version.  Both were delicious and looking around the room, the martinis and Japanese beer were a broad hit.

Saketinis and Japanese Beer

Saketinis and Japanese Beer!

Kanpai’s extensive menu features traditional sushi and sashimi along with classic and unique maki combinations and an impressive list of tapas;  our generous samples focused on the creative.  Just think along the lines of… if I were a sushi chef, what distinctive ingredients would I add to my rolls?


Yes, that is jalepeno in there!

When I saw the beef and jalapeno combination, I admit to pausing for a minute. In the end, I thought why not–I love the kick in spicy tuna rolls!  A chunk of mushroom was another novelty and both my husband and the other couple commented how surprised they were that it worked so well.  In the end, we were totally won over to the fresh and flavorful new combinations that still retained the essence of sushi.

Kanpai selections

Kanpai selections

Small plates are the specialty at Kanpei, which makes perfect sense given the variety offered by their menu .  Of course if you are seriously hungry there are a number of combo dishes including the impressive “Love Boat” which a neighboring table indulged in.

Love Boat at Kanpai

Love Boat

My husband works about a mile from Kanpai and at the end of the evening I leaned over to him and said, “I’m picking you up for happy hour one of these days.”

I may even need to look for the old sushi kit and try a few of my own…  Any home sushi makers out there, feel free to advise!

Kanpai Restaurant Milwaukee

And a good time was had by all

Kanpai Izakaya on Urbanspoon

20 thoughts on “Who Said Jalapenos Were Just for Mexican: Avant Garde Sushi at Kanpai

    1. Inger Post author

      Thanks Freeda. Yes I am now wordpress.org and I really like being able to control everything. It was a pretty challenging move though–partly because I changed themes and did everything myself. But glad I did it!

  1. Karis

    Sounds like a fun MKEfoodies event! I’ve been wanting to try making sushi at home, but haven’t gotten up the courage yet. I’ve only seen it made once, but that was by a Japanese native, so the experience did not increase my confidence 🙂

    1. Inger Post author

      I have wanted to try it too–bought the “kit” ages ago and it is still unopened. I’ve tried and failed to get in a class a couple times too. I did see something online that gave me more optimism. If you ever want to brave winging it with me some time let me know!

      1. Karis

        I love the idea of winging it together!! Chris bought a kit when he visited Japan a couple years ago which is still in the package 🙂

    1. Inger Post author

      I love the wasabi as well (and I swear it has cured an early cold more than once)!

  2. Lynn

    I love sushi too, but haven’t been brave enough to try it at home yet either!

    All that food looks divine! I love the Ginger Martini idea – I never would have thought to do that.

    1. Inger Post author

      I love events like this–they really push you to stretch your thinking about food. Hopefully that extends to my cooking skills this time too 😉

  3. Beth

    What a fun evening! I couldn’t believe the size of the Love Boat – I’d go for the small plates like you did. I love trying a little bit of several flavours.

    1. Inger Post author

      It was fun! My oldest has a quick two days in town between college graduation and leaving for a job and I think we’ll be doing a fast happy hour celebration (with a whole variety of small plates)!

    1. Inger Post author

      One of my favorite rolls (which they have almost everywhere I think) has tempura battered & fried soft shelled crab in it. Not exactly health food anymore but mmmmm….

  4. Kathy

    I would have never thought, Inger! Have never really ever liked sushi much before either. Would love to visit this special place, though.

    1. Inger Post author

      Indeed! You can get the essence of sushi with no raw fish! I will admit that I worked my way up to raw via California rolls and it took me a couple years…

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