Recently, there’s been a flurry of new foreign-owned restaurants that specialise in a cuisine other than their own. There’s Oreno, the Japanese-owned Italian and French eatery in Xintiandi; Sweet & Sour, the Australian-owned Chinese spot on Nanjing Xi Lu; and now Kanpai Classic, a Taiwanese owned Japanese barbecue joint – the latest entrant into the Five on the Bund complex.
A high-end yakiniku(Japanese grill) chain in its native Taiwan, Kanpai Classic is probably best known for its extensive marbled beef collection. The meat hails from award-winning Australian provider Sher Wagyu (known as Sher Black in Japan) and, unsurprisingly, does not come cheap. On one visit, prices range from 89RMB for 100 grams of standard marbled (cuts vary) to 320RMB for 100 grams of premium boneless short rib.
The Kanpai classic roll is a wonderful place to start the meal, and at 68RMB, it’s a relative steal. The large reverse sushi roll arrives in five segments, encased in sesame seeds, and stuffed with warm shredded beef, kimchi and seaweed. Each bite is rich in flavour, with a generous ratio of meat stuffed between the tasty rice.
But as the smell of barbecuing beef wafts around the dining room, you’ll be increasingly keen to get stuck into the main event. The meat arrives in thin barbecue-ready strips, beautifully presented on a slate tray, interspersed with greenery and herbs. Waiters set you up with coals and are happy to cook your beef for you; their experience can come in handy, especially when you’re paying top dollar for expensive cuts.
As you’d expect given the reputation that proceeds it, the beef is top notch and it’s hard to go wrong when selecting a cut from the menu. Every option we try is rich and well-marbled; even the 89RMB standard marbled (what passes for a cheap cut at Kanpai Classic) is delicious.
If you’re looking to fill out your meal with sides, the baked cheese potato with truffle (68RMB), served sizzling in a hot plate, is a must order. The sliced spuds are wonderfully cheesy and packed with earthy black truffle among a very generous slathering of gooey mozzarella. It’s a rich accompaniment but an incredibly moreish one. If you’re after something a little lighter to balance things out, the crab and avocado organic baby leaf salad is a solid dish, although feels somewhat overpriced at 98RMB.
The kamameshi (kettle rice) is another interesting accompaniment for your barbecue. There’s a variety of flavours on offer, so expect your waiter to steer you away from the traditional offering in favour of something a little more exciting. We tried the mixed mushroom (75RMB for a small, 135RMB for a large), which looks fantastic, but unfortunately ends up being more style over substance. It’s beautifully presented, but the mushrooms don’t impart much oomph and overall the dish is bland. The accompanying soup, however, is a highlight – rich and thick, soothing and warming. It’s worth putting up with some of the sub-par rice just to get your spoon into this broth. Of course, at these prices any small misstep becomes magnified, but while there is still work to do at Kanpai Classic, the meat is high quality and the starters and sides are interesting enough to make it worthy of recommendation (though not for vegetarians). Prices too, are not entirely out of step with its neighbours on The Bund. A little more finesse and it will doubtless become a prime destination.