Kanpai Snack Bar Serves Taiwanese Dishes in Toronto’s Cabbagetown

Kanpai Snack Bar is Toronto’s best Taiwanese restaurant. The popular Chinese restaurant is located in Cabbagetown on Calrton Street.

Kanpai Snack Bar is also one of Cabbagetown’s best bars. The Asian restaurant is perfect for those in Toronto’s east end keen to sip creative cocktails, fine wine and craft beer.

Hot in Herre pork wontons at Kanpai Snack Bar.
Hot in Herre pork wontons at Kanpai Snack Bar.

Exploring Toronto’s Asian Flavours

I travel a lot. Last year I visited 25 destinations and often feel like I spend more time rushing through airports than I do at the gym. Ever since I started globetrotting I’ve taken up the practice of “tasting a trip before I leave.” It’s a finger-licking-good ritual all travellers should embrace with glee.

Before moving to Korea in 2008 I zoomed over to Christie Station to sample Toronto’s finest bulgogi and bibimbap. I had just signed a one year contract that would have me teaching in Seoul and realized I’d never properly tasted my way through the country’s kimchi-centric cuisine. I’ll never forget burning my mouth on hot sauce, the sizzle of samgyeopsal on the grill and aroma of sliced garlic bubbling in sesame oil.

This is why I love Toronto. I can explore unfamiliar cultures through their cuisine, from learning to eat with my hands at an Ethiopian restaurant on Bloor to exploring India’s deep fried fetish on Gerrard East. Sometimes the flavours are wildly exotic, forcing me to pause so my brain can register new textures and aromas. In other instances, say, when I’m readying for a flight to France, a bottle of Burgundy and wedge of brie will do just fine.

This year I decided to skip winter entirely. I’ll be blogging from the beach for three months, soaking up the sun from Bali to Boracay. My first stop on the itinerary? The famous foodie city, Taipei. I’ve been eager to visit Taiwan for some time now and I thought there would be no better way to celebrate my farewell from Canada’s frigid blizzard season than by skipping over to Cabbagetown to feast on Toronto’s finest taste of Taiwan.

Kanpai Snack Bar serves dishes inspired by Taiwanese street food.
Kanpai Snack Bar serves dishes inspired by Taiwanese street food.

Step Inside Kanpai Snack Bar

I hopped up at the bar at Kanpai Snack Bar, keen to find romance in my first tastes of Taipei. Taiwanese cuisine offers a melting melting pot of culinary delights derived from historical Taiwanese influences of Japan and regions of Mainland China, the likes of Fujian province and Hakka-style, the markets are a landing spot for the ultimate epicurean mash-up.

Kanpai Snack Bar’s menu is laden with exciting xiaochi or “cheap snacks” from wok-fried delights to infamous family-style fried chicken dinners (fun fact: Taiwan is the largest per capita consumer of fried chicken in the world). And it’s fitting then that Kanpai’s signature dish is a perfectly crunchy platter of fried chicken (slathered in sweet meets spicy chili sauce).

I was beyond blissed out after feasting through pork belly stuffed O.G. Bao, hearty bowl of Wu Tang Beef and addictive Hot in Herre pork wontons (the owner loves his hip hop, can you tell?) I now feel like I’ve been on a date with Taipei so when I land in the Taiwanese capital I’ll simply say “hello beautiful,” as we’ve clearly already introduced ourselves.

Craft cocktails at Kanpai Snack Bar in Cabbagetown.
Craft cocktails at Kanpai Snack Bar in Cabbagetown.

Drinks at Kanpai Snack Bar

The restaurant’s Cabbagetown bar offers an Asian inspired cocktail menu, local wines from Niagara, sake from Ontario Spring Water Sake Company, and a selection of local craft beer on draft.

  • Ooh Long Island Iced Tea: absolut vodka, havana anejo blanco rum, tromba blanco tequila, beefeater, house-steeped oolong tea, fresh lemon juice, basil syrup
  • The Cheating Communist: tanaka moonlight shochu, lillet, calpico, lemongrass, lime juice
  • Bonita Applebum: calvados, angostura 1919 rum, apricot brandy, ginger syrup, aromatic bitters
  • DA Wreckin’ Ball: soho lychee, haymans sloe gin, cranberry juice, fresh lemon juice, grenadine, egg white
  • Hot & Sour: lot 40 canadian whiskey, triple sec, fresh lemon juice, chili syrup, egg white
  • C-Town Trombonitromba blanco tequila, aperol, cinzano sweet
  • In Da Club: dillon’s rose gin, st.germain elderflower, pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, egg white
  • The Broham: tromba blanco tequila, ginger beer, chai syrup, cucumber, lime juice
  • Hip Hop Inksailor jerry tattoo rum, ginger beer, bitters, lime
  • Chang Kai’s Caesar: choice of vodka, gin, sake or tequila with sambal, worcestershire, shoyu, schichimi togarashi rim
  • Fat Joe Upgradechang kai’s caesar with 2 oz booze + piece of fried chicken
  • Nino Brown: patron cafe xo, pitu cachaca, station cold brew coffee, muddled lime + sugar
  • The Carl Winslow: wild turkey honey bourbon, kahlua, station cold brew, calpico
  • Silky Johnson: wyborowa wodka, muddled fruit, peche de vin, peach jelly sake, lemon juice, honey
Kanpai Snack Bar's famous Taiwanese Fried Chicken.
Kanpai Snack Bar’s famous Taiwanese Fried Chicken.

Kanpai Snack Bar Menu

Kanpai Snack Bar’s kitchen is open from lunch until around midnight every day of the week. Gluten-sensitive diners will love the menu as it lists a wide variety of dishes that can be accommodated.

Kanpai Snack Bar’s Taiwanese Fried Chicken

The restaurant’s most famous dish is its deep-fried chicken, which is smothered in Taiwanese spices.

  • 3 Piece Taiwanese Fried Chicken: good for 1-2 people
  • 8 Piece Taiwanese Fried Chicken Bucket: good for 3-4 people
  • 12 Piece Taiwanese Fried Chicken Platter: good for 1-2 people
O.G. Bao with spiced pork, relish, pickled cabbage, teriyaki shoyu, crushed peanuts
O.G. Bao with spiced pork, relish, pickled cabbage, teriyaki shoyu, crushed peanuts

Kanpai Snack Bar Entrees

The majority of Kanpai Snack Bar’s menu is a collection of small plates perfect for sharing. Prices typically range from $4-8 each.

  • Deep Fried Goldmember: golden fried morsels of squid served with our house-made kanpai cocktail sauce
  • MC Hammer: taiwanese popcorn chicken with fried basil leaf in chef’s secret blend of herbs and spices
  • Player Hater: golden fried chicken skin tossed in our  blend of taiwanese spices
  • Piggie Smalls: small chunks of pork belly with big ass flavour, deep fried and tossed with secret spices
  • FU Manchu: crispy morsels of fried tofu tossed in a light sweet-chili sauce
  • O.G. Bao: original night market sammie with slow-cooked 5-spice pork, taiwanese relish, pickled cabbage, teriyaki shoyu, crushed peanuts
  • Das Bao: popular shilin market fried chicken schnitzel with pickled garnish, taiwanese kewpie, teriyaki shoyu
  • MC Lyte Bao: veggie lover’s deep fried thick cut sweet potato, pickled cukes, green cabbage, homemade 1000 island
  • Edamame Said Knock You Out: flash fried edamame tossed with shoyu butter and garlic chips OR flash fried and tossed with garlic chili oil
  • Ain’t Nothing But A Green Bean Baby: wok fired green beans in a light chili garlic sauce
  • Wu Tang Beef: 36 chambers of flava sirloin and onions with black pepper sauce
  • Kung Pao 5-Spice Cauliflower: lightly battered, deep-fried cauliflower, edamame beans and mixed veggies in a kung-pao vinaigrette, garnished with crushed peanuts and dry chili
Schricken Satay with shrimp and chicken at Kanpai Snack Bar Toronto.
Schricken Satay with shrimp and chicken at Kanpai Snack Bar Toronto.

Kanpai Snack Bar Rice Dishes

  • Mo Money: rich green spinach purée with mixed vegetables
  • Red Rooster: stir fried pork with mixed vegetables in a spicy
  • Rice Rice Baby: plain jane steamed rice
Wu Tang Beef at Kanpai Snack Bar restaurant.
Wu Tang Beef at Kanpai Snack Bar restaurant.

Kanpai Snack Bar Hours

Monday to Thursday: 5-11pm

Friday and Saturday: 5pm-12am

Sunday: 5-10pm

Kanpai Snack Bar Reservations

252 Carlton Street, 416-968-6888

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