Review of "Kampai Sushi & Grill" in Addison, Texas
In recent history there seems to have been quite an explosion of Japanese restaurants across Middle America, and like many deeply landlocked cities this is a relatively new phenomenon for us here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. Twenty-five years ago our choices for unique Asian cuisine were dominated by a plethora of mediocre American-style Chinese restaurants. Sushi was reserved for artsy fartsy people with too much money. After all what kind of weirdo would eat raw fish?
Then a strange thing happened. It seemed to sneak up on us in the night, because if we saw it we would have fought it off with a stick...or a steak. Yeah probably a steak; this is cattle country after all. A variety of interesting and exotic foods showed up on our doorstep carried in the wave of a culturally rich epicurean revolution. Popular middle-class Asian cuisine was no longer just limited to one or two Americanized deep-fried nationalities. Sushi was all of a sudden trendy and accessible to the common man. Now there's virtually no place in the area that isn't a stone's throw from a sushi joint.
At the time of this review there are four other sushi restaurants within a mile radius of Kampai's Addison Circle location. This does not necessarily pose a problem with competition as each of these sushi restaurants caters to a different crowd. However, of all the local sushi places I have to say that this is my favorite.
The place is quite small, hardly bigger than someone's living room. It's mainly a local establishment for the people living in Addison Circle. It's right on the circle in front of Addison's iconic sculpture known as "Blueprints", so it's in a prime location to attract new business. However, for all the many times I've been here I've never had to wait for a table.
The contemporary styling of the room is covered in light wooden walls decorated with a few traditional Japanese decorations. Several areas are dedicated to posting photographs of their regular customers. It's quite a popular place, and they seem to be running out of wall space.
The sushi itself is pretty standard fare. Most of the rolls you can find in almost any Japanese restaurant. The old standbys are all there (California roll, Philadelphia roll, spicy tuna roll, salmon roll, rainbow roll, spider roll, etc.). Like other sushi bars they serve up their own signature rolls such as the Kampai "Fire" Hamachi, which is yellow tail, in lemon yuzu sauce, with jalapeno, cilantro, and shiracha.
They also serve a variety of rice, noodle, and bento box entrees, which are good if you're not feeling in the mood for a barrage of sushi. If you're looking for fried rice or Katsu Don (pork cutlet over rice with egg and vegetable) they have it here. Tempura with udon or soba noodles are also available, along with the always reliable Nabeyaki udon soup.
The ingredients are always fresh. There's no fishy smell at all. The restaurant is kept very clean and neatly arranged. The restrooms are very clean, giving me an indication that the kitchen is kept clean too. From what I can see from the sushi bar the prep area is kept very clean as well. Overall on the surface this appears to be a pretty standard Japanese restaurant. So what's the big deal? Why do I like this place so much?
It's the aura of the place.
You're probably questioning my sanity at this point, and that's fine. I'm a creative writer; we're insane by default. Most restaurants are trying to get that welcoming vibe no matter what the prices on the menu say. From what I can feel Kampai nails it! From the outside there is nothing really special about the place. It's just a sign, and a door, and the lights are on. But as soon as you walk in there is a general warmth to the place, like you're stepping into someone's home and they would love it if you would stay for dinner. Well maybe it's not that personal, but there is a very friendly and laid-back feeling all throughout the place.
Service was speedy. I always drink Dr. Pepper with my sushi, and I go through a glass pretty quickly. So they were prompt to keep enough liquid in my cup to help wash the food down. They were always quick to check up on us, get us our bill, and present us with a complimentary sliced orange for dessert. Of course they give those to every guest, but from the complex manner in which they slice the orange it seems quite personal.
This is the place we walked a half-mile to in the blistering cold when Dallas was snowed in and the roads were iced over. We were feeling the cabin fever, and we weren't dumb enough to try driving in a city that goes crazy when winter hits every few years.
I've written at least two short stories where this sushi bar makes an appearance (The Werewolf at the Sushi Bar and Werewolf's Moon Over the Circle). Sure it's not named, and all the characters are different, but it's pretty obvious seeing as this is the only Japanese restaurant in Addison Circle.
This is a definite place to check out for anyone who happens to be passing through Addison Circle and has a hankering for sushi.
My rating: 5 stars!
Restaurant is located directly on the circle between Antonio Ristorante and Polk-A-Dot Bakery. Free parking is available in a garage in back.