Fried is Better at Kampai Sushi & Grill

17 Sep

There are two kinds of eateries in restaurant mecca Addison, the ones with prime locations off of the main strip on Belt Line (with a noticeably larger percent of chains and bigger scale operations) that draw people from all over DFW and the ones located off of the side streets with a decidedly more neighborhood feel.  Kampai Sushi & Grill, with a quiet location nestled in Addison Circle, belongs to the latter group.

The reputable and more well known sushi restaurants in Dallas are always packed.  An otherwise pleasant meal is often blemished by rushed service and a noisy dining room.  Kampai isn’t at all that way.  It’s a small operation but offers sufficient seating between the main dining room and the outdoor patio overlooking that mysterious blue monster of a statue in Addison Circle.  In fact, for this weeknight dinner, there were only three other tables of patrons.  Hooray for immediate seating with no wait.

We started off the evening with some artery clogging fun: tempura, of course!  One order of vegetable tempura ($3.95) and one order of mixed tempura ($4.95, shrimp and veggies) was sufficient for our group of five.

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One bite into the airy, light batter and you’ll realize that tempura is definitely one of Kampai’s strong suits.  It was as tempura should be, not overwhelming with greasiness, accenting the veggies and shrimp instead of overpowering them.

Onto the fish!  We ordered the smoked salmon sashimi, a couple of pieces of toro (fatty tuna), and assorted rolls.

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The smoked salmon sashimi (5 pieces, $10), though very tasty, presented a rather stingy portion for the price. 

As is always the case, Kampai was out of toro.  Instead, we received two pieces of salmon sushi on our platter.  I found this a bit odd since I was only informed of the toro situation when the platter was brought out and the salmon already on the plate.  It seemed weird not to give the customer the choice for a substitution or cancellation.  Lucky for Kampai, I am a salmon fan so I didn’t have too big of a complaint.

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Starting from top to bottom (and left to right), we have the calamari tempura roll ($4.95), spider roll ($8.95), eel roll ($5.50), salmon sushi ($4.25), California roll ($5.00), and Cajun crawfish roll ($5.95). 

The salmon was fresh and practically melted in my mouth.  The sushi piece had just the right amount of wasabi for a bite but didn’t mask the flavor of the fish.  Out of the rolls, the favorites among the group were the calamari tempura roll and the spider roll.  It’s no coincidence that these rolls included Kampai’s excellent tempura batter.  The perfect amount of crunchiness and airiness made these rolls stand out among unimpressive renditions at other sushi establishments.  The Cajun crawfish roll shared the same delightful tempura batter, but was overly dry and needed a moisture-adding ingredient.  Perhaps some of that spicy mayonnaise from the Volcano roll would have helped?  Eel roll was standard stuff.  The California roll had too much mayonnaise in the imitation crab mixture for my liking.

We ended our meal with more fried goodness, thinking that anything with tempura at Kampai could do no wrong.  Not one, but two, orders of tempura ice cream (one green tea, one vanilla, $5.00 each) marked the end of our gluttonous feast of batter.

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I’ve never had ice cream tempura anywhere else (does fried ice cream at a Mexican restaurant count?) so I can’t give any kind of comparison.  I do know that these two desserts gave me no reason to order ice cream tempura ever again (unless someone has a strong recommendation for a specific restaurant).  Something about the combination of the ice cream and the batter reminded me more of soggy funnel cake than some spectacular contrast of creaminess and crunchiness.  A disappointing ending to our visit considering tempura was Kampai’s steady strong suit until this course. 

Service was friendly and attentive with exception to the one oddity regarding the toro/salmon substitution. 

Kampai is a moderately priced neighborhood sushi joint with fresh fish that fits the bill in that context.  In fact, the owners opened Wasabi Sushi & Grill in McKinney for that same purpose.  It’s not mind-blowing cuisine worth a special trip across town, but it provides a quiet, relaxed atmosphere foreign to most Addison restaurants.  If you’re in the area, it’s a solid contender for decent sushi, particularly when you take into account the likeliness of a brief or nonexistent wait.  As it is with most neighborhood eateries, some the food could use a little improvement (and you’ll likely find your favorite items and stick to those) but the convenience of the location is what draws you to it.

Rating: 3 / 5

Kampai Sushi
4995 Addison Cir
Addison, TX 75001

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