Editor's note: This is the first in a regular series about vegetarian dining options in Central Oregon from new Source correspondent Nikki Jefford. Look for more features in upcoming issues, including a look at Typhoon's veggie menu.
I suppose vegan sushi is an oxymoron, kinda like when I spread humus and salsa between two tortillas, toast it on the skillet, and call it a quesadilla. "It's called queso," my husband informs me. "Meaning CHEESE!" Fine, but beanodilla just doesn't have the same ring.
Personally, I prefer the term "vegan sushi" to "rolls" because the latter always conjures up images of doughy balls of dinner bread, not raw slices of cucumber and avocado rolled up in seaweed and rice with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and nearly translucent slivers of ginger.
Sébastien and I went in search of aforementioned rolls at Kanpai where we were presented with a front and back veggie menu and a waiter named William who kept the food coming all evening. We started with Fresh Spring Rolls and peanut dipping sauce ($6) then moved onto William's recommendation of crispy-fried Tofu Agedashi ($6). Although I'm a vegan, I rarely order anything with the word "tofu" in the title. I'm as hesitant as the next person when it comes to that white block of tasteless bean curb. However, when expertly prepared and properly seasoned: it is, in fact, sublime. These triangles of tofu were perfectly pan-seared, crispy on the outside, moist within where each piece had been slit down the center and stuffed with sautéed mushrooms.
Given that veggie rolls were our original intent, we looked over the 10 choices on the back of the menu. I was stumped. Usually there is one classic veggie roll, not 10 unique creations and an invitation, like a pizza joint, for diners to build their own. Once again William came to the rescue and presented us with a chef's selection featuring four samplings (eight a piece), including an asparagus tempera topper - the first time I'd seen tempera end up in the middle of a roll. (A winning combination, if you ask me.)
Feeling that we could eat all night long, we ordered our next dish: the Szechuan Style Green Beans ($4) in a peppercorn sauce we were warned might make our mouths go numb. I thought wasabi was strong, but peppercorn... woo-eee!