Vv Magazine’s Libby Roach get’s the exclusive on Cabbagetown’s newest Taiwanese joint, Kanpai Snack Bar.
Kanpai Snack Bar is ready to teach Toronto a thing or two about Taiwanese street food, with Chef (and part owner) Ike Huang (Liberty Noodle) and Trevor Lui (La Brea Food) set to rip the parchment on the windows down this Saturday in the heart of Cabbagetown (252 Parliament at Carlton).
Designed by Green Tangerine, the interior is a nod to the street market vibe that mirrors their menu, with a large mural flanking the open kitchen (wait for the omakase menu to kick it up a notch once they’ve found their groove) and row after row of recycled and reclaimed skids that add a bit of texture and warmth to the space. All the tables, stools and chairs are handmade, with the ever popular Edison bulbs and exposed piping illuminating the bar.
The bar menu features more North American classics to pair with their spicy xiaochi (snack style) menu, expect two cocktails on tap (think Negronis and Manhattans), a red and white VQA, a local sake, while Beau’s Lug Tread, Mill Street Organic, Sapporo, Great Lakes Brewery’s Canuck Pale Ale, Sam Adams Rebel IPA and Muskoka Detour are the beers on tap. The taps may contain Canada’s favourite bevies, but the handles are all imported knives from Taiwan- clearly the marriage carries through and there is purpose and thoughtfulness to each pairing. Interestingly, shots of Jameson will be $3 all day, every day, and their pal Dustin Keating (Montauk, Track & Field) has loaned one of his recipes-the Montauk Tame Impala, which you can find a reciprocal cocktail at their bar as well. Punch pots will be the drink of choice for most; a sampling was poured of their Oolong Island Iced Tea poured out of an antique pot, with matching crystal goblets adding a whiff of sophistication.
Most items will be from $3-$8, great for loitering over cocktails (or binge eating as it were) with stand outs from the kitchen like the Edamame Knock You Out, swathed in garlic and green onions, or the Fu Man Chu, a tiny tower of deep fried and crispy tofu with Taiwanese Sweet and Sour Sauce drizzled on top with great effect. Heads or Tails Shrimp are meant to be eaten whole, with more green onions and spicy red chilies making that second Punch Pot all but mandatory. The baos, sourced from a local shop in Toronto are super squishy soft, here with pork belly, carrots, cilantro and Taiwanese relish.
The hype will surely be focused on their addictive tribute to KFC- here; the bucket is replaced by a wooden platter, which barely contains a massive portion of crispy fried chicken. The meal dubbed Taiwanese Redneck Dinner (which requires 24-hour notice) will feed 6 for $108, and is a feast for the eyes as much as the stomach. The chicken is presented, and then garnished table side with a spicy sauce, cilantro and green onions and a dash of the inhalable wok-toasted-then ground up salt and pepper. Spicy fried rice and warm baos are served alongside kimchi, pickled cucumber and vermicelli noodles as a total pig out combo. A bucket of six PBR tallboys make this meal legendary and most certainly worth the required wait.
For those that haven’t been to a Taiwanese Street Market, Kanpai will temporarily take you there, with an energetic vibe that is unlike anything else this city has seen. Pop by from 5-6pm and 10-11pm for their $5 dolla make you holla menu. With only 52 seats and no reservations, expect to queue up for this one – trust me, it’ll be worth it.
What dishes are you most excited to try out at Kanpai Snack Bar? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.