Dinner was hot and dangerous


Talia Gottlieb

My friends pose in front of Kanpai in the Third Ward, Milwaukee.

“Hey guysss. So, for my 18th birthday, we’re all going to go downtown for dinner and dress up cute. Let me know if you can go! :)” The classic “let’s all go out to eat at an overpriced restaurant and we can take too many posed pictures so you all can post them on social media for me for my actual birthday” text. The superfluous birthday dinner celebration has been a favorite of mine since the beginning of high school, so this text came as no surprise. I replied yes; or rather, agreed to spend my hard earned money to eat food in my friend’s honor.

This was no ordinary birthday dinner though. This was an 18th birthday dinner. An 18th birthday dinner to put all other meals to shame. In honor of her official legality as an adult, my friend Sydney’s parents rented us a party bus for the night to take us downtown to a Japanese restaurant called Kanpai. For those of you who don’t know what a party bus is, it is legitimately a dance club on wheels. It’s basically a limo with a dance floor in the dead center. There are lights, speakers and leather seats around the edges, and no one expects you to do anything but take off your shoes and dance. There’s really nothing like passing hundreds of cars on the highway knowing they’re having no fun with their limited leg mobility while you’re jumping and jiving to your heart’s content.

Needless to say, I had been looking forward to this night since I got word of the party bus-sushi combo. However, I did not make the connection that the 15th was also the day I was taking a tour at the University of Michigan. So basically my day went as follows: I woke up in a hotel after getting a braggable six hours of sleep, walked in the cold through a very unpleasant tour of a school I ended up hating, spent seven hours in a car writing college applications, and returned home safely at 7 p.m., missing the party bus. Great.

I hurriedly picked out my cutest, most Instagrammable look, slapped on a weak layer of makeup, ran a burning hot straightening iron through my hair, and walked out the door looking and feeling like a strong six out of ten.

I drove down to the Third Ward, Milwaukee, as fast as I could (without speeding, of course. I’ve never gotten a $150 speeding ticket. I’m a good driver), and it turns out, I wasn’t even that late because my lucky friends on the party bus got to take an extra long route so they could get enough dancing in before dinner. I swallowed my jealousy as I was led to the fancy, private room in the back of the restaurant. Now, you might think you’ve been to a “real” Japanese restaurant, as I did, but you’ve really never experienced the true essence of asian culture until you go to a place like Kanpai. Here’s the deal: When you book a private room, you are expected to take your shoes off, as traditional Japanese people do, apparently, and sit cross legged on comfy chairs on the floor as you eat. Or at least that’s what I took from context after the lady had to explain to me too many times why I had to take off my strappy heels that took me three minutes to get into.

Shoeless and hungry, I opened the doors to the private room to see all my smiling best buds staring up at me. We all hugged and gave our extensive hellos, because we hadn’t seen each other in an elongated 18 hours, and I found my seat on the floor.

I am proud to say that we, as a group, took full advantage of the private room situation. We were dancing and laughing and telling stories and no one could stop us from doing so. We also ordered as much sushi as our wallets could handle and no one could stop us from doing that either.

First things first, we ordered lots and lots of edamame for the table. As expected, said edamame was gone before the waitress would disappear, so we locked in our orders then and there. Most often, it takes me the longest to order, especially at a place I’ve never been before. However, when the waitress was showing me to the table, I passed a couple eating a roll of sushi that was on fire. Their food was legitimately in flames. How do you pass up on a plate of raw fish that is purposely on fire for your personal enjoyment and satisfaction? You don’t. As soon as we locked eyes, I told her I wanted the “sushi on fire,” and she responded with, “Which one?” Yes. This place has not two but three blazing sushi rolls. I decided on the “Oh My God” roll because, “Oh my god, my food is about to come to me in flames.” I thought it was fitting.

Our food ended up taking a heck of a long time, but we honestly didn’t mind. We were having so much fun catching up and venting and celebrating all the great things happening in our lives, that the time ended up flying by. Also, when you order a flaming sushi roll, you can’t in good conscience expect a quick turnover time.

Eventually, we started getting cranky and hungry, plus time was running out to snap a good photo of our pretty sushi with good lighting. I don’t know if it’s just me, but my friends become so much more annoying the hungrier I get. Luckily for, well, everyone, the waitress opened the door to our private room and with plates and plates of sushi. My friend Katya, who had also ordered a flaming sushi roll, and I stared anxiously at the door, very impatiently and unwillingly waiting. I could’ve sworn everyone got else got their food hours before we did, but that was probably just the disorientation I had from how hungry and excited I was.

Finally, like a burst of light (literally), the waitress brought in our long-awaited, engulfed-in-flames sushi rolls. It was the hottest food I’d ever seen in every aspect: actually hot, and, going to be honest, physically hot. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

After I was done taking a fair amount of pictures, the fire was still burning, and “you’re not allowed to blow out the fire in order to avoid hazardous circumstances.” You have to just sit and wait for the dwindling flames to finally go out. I could not contain my temptation any longer, so I did what I had to do and innocently breathed in the direction of my dinner. And what do you know, the flame went out. Lucky me! I picked up my first piece, pretending to be unaffected by its scorching hot temperature, and ate it in one swift bite. I was too awestruck to speak. I’m pretty sure the whole roll was gone before I said a single word. As I looked around the room, I saw my all of my best friends, each in their own sushi-induced coma, happy as can be. Not to be sentimental, but I can’t tell you what I’m going to do without all of my lovely dinner dates next year.

After paying an honestly embarrassing $20 for my combusting meal came immense efforts to stand up from all the way on the floor with pounds of rice and seaweed in our stomachs, bend down again to put on our difficult shoes, and stand back up again to waltz our way back out to the party bus.

It was admittedly harder to dance after having eaten the equivalent of the inhabitants of Lake Michigan, but don’t think for a second that we didn’t dance like the innocent drivers on I-94 weren’t watching. By the time we got back to Sydney’s house, we’d burned off enough calories from all of our boogy-ing that we had room for Sydney’s vegan birthday cake. To no one’s surprise, it tasted like cardboard and month-old frosting. We ditched the dairy-free madness for a movie, and closed out a great night with passing out on the couch together. Meal: 10/10. Night: 10/10. Friends: 10/10.

Thanks for reading!