Kanpai's Happy-Hour Sushi Ain't a Steal, But It's Damn Good Fish

Photos by Matthew Piel
The Place: Kanpai, 900 Eighth Ave., 588-2769, FIRST HILL.

The Hours: Mon.-Fri. 3-6 p.m.; all day Sat.-Sun.

The Deal: With the purchase of a $2.75 beer, you have access to Kanpai's happy-hour list, an impressively broad sampling of the dinner menu. The famed baked mussels, several signature rolls, and raw fish staples--especially tuna and salmon--all make an appearance. The deal isn't your standard happy-hour bargain. Where some restaurants use the pre-dinner hour to sell full-sized entrees at half-price, Kanpai sells smaller portions for smaller sums.

It's not the greatest financial bargain, but you should still skip out of work early to make it in before six.

The Digs: Kanpai is owned and operated by the ever-friendly Tom Jung, his wife Stephanie, and their adorable toddler Andy, whose primary job is drawing coos from the patrons.

It has the comfort of family in a setting lovely enough to put you at ease eating raw food. Sitting at the base of the M Street apartments, just east of I-5 off Madison, Kanpai is close enough to downtown to be an easy hike from work. But because it sits on the far side of the freeway, it doesn't draw the crowds of more central downtown establishments.

The Verdict: Four pieces of nigiri, all at the discretion of Jung, costs you $6 during happy hour. In a city filled with $1 or even 50-cent afternoon sushi deals, it's easy to feel this sum is too steep. But with sushi, you very much get what you pay for. Pay pennies for a hunk of salmon and you're destined to get something a little tough, with that cringe-inducing fishy taste.

Not once, in a half-dozen meals at Kanpai, have I eaten a bit of fish that was anything other than perfectly tender, deliciously fresh, and ideally balanced to its small lump of rice and wasabi. Cheaper sushi happy hours litter the city, but few can boast the consistent quality of every dish at Kanpai.

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