“Kampai” is the Japanese term for “Cheers!” used when social drinking. The Japs love their sake (rice wine). But making it the name of a restaurant in Riyadh is very ironic because alcoholic beverages are prohibited in Saudi Arabia. But we have no objections. It’s apt. I guess we can still say “Kampai!” with our Saudi
Kampai is the newest Japanese restaurant in Riyadh, located in Tahlia Street among the clusters of restos serving international cuisines. My friends and I are huge fans of Japanese cuisine and while we’re happy with the Japanese restos we already have here in Riyadh, one more couldn’t possibly hurt right?
The restaurant is currently by reservation only because a lot of people are already trying it. They’re always full. We went before the maghreb prayer and found our table waiting for us. The interiors inside are calming, mainly because of the soft green color of the bamboo designs in the wall and also refreshing with the warm lights and abstract images hung on the wall. The restaurant is simple in terms of tables and chairs; even their sushi and beverage areas. As expected in Japanese restaurants, wood is widely used in their aesthetics.
Since they just opened, we understand the few shortcomings: they served our dishes in an unorganized manner and they were still preparing the utensils when we got to our table. Anyway, we were mainly here for the food, which a lot of Foursquare users have been raving about. Our array of orders:
This is our favorite salad in one of the more popular Japanese restaurants in the city (for sure you know what it is) so it is just fitting to compare Kampai’s version with our tried and tested favorite. We were not surprised that Kampai’s spicy salmon salad falls short of our expectations. It was bland and the serving was a bit too small for its price (this will be a recurring theme in their dishes so don’t act surprised when you see them served before you). We love how they’re generous with the fresh salmon though and I love how crunchy the sprinkled breading is. There was little cabbage though. All in all, it just didn’t create any impact.
My friend enjoyed this miso soup. It was hot and tasty. The soup and its simple ingredients swirl and blend wonderfully.
Our waiter suggested this. I’m a fan of tom yum so I was looking forward to it but since this is a Thai food in a Japanese restaurant menu, I’m not really expecting much from it. And true to my lackluster expectation, it didn’t wow me. Even if it was filled with seafood, the soup was sour and tart with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Their maki, four pieces each per order, are a bit expensive at SR30- SR50 each. These are our favorites though because they have a lot of varieties and their execution and plating are creative. My favorite in this bunch (my friends and I are maki lovers have I told you that?) is the rainbow maki. I love the slivers of mango in it. The one topped with crab sticks is also delicious. Sorry I couldn’t remember the names of all our maki orders! Haha! They came in a flat rock-like tray.
This is probably the most disappointing order we got. The shrimps were sad-looking but I have to hand it to their breading, which was crunchy and spread like a coral reef. I say you forego this and try the hot dishes instead.
This is one of the superb dishes they have. The siomai is meaty and juicy at the same time. The wrapper is thin but enough to hold the meat and little soup inside. Dipping it in the sauce and chili it came with adds depth in the flavors. Yummy! Three pieces are not enough!
Teriyaki is a bestseller in Japanese cuisine. It’s no wonder, especially for Asians because we like our food sweet and savory. Kampai’s chicken teriyaki is good. The sauce is a bit thick: salty, and sweet at the same time. The chicken is juicy and tender. But what’s with the puny serving? Hehe.
Kampai’s menu is extensive and the place is almost high-end. They have a series of cold dishes (salad, appetizers, sushi, maki, etc.) and hot dishes (katsu, teriyaki, etc.) but compared to other Japanese restaurants in Riyadh, the prices are expensive. While we enjoyed our food, it will take a few months before we go back again, especially when we can get more affordable Japanese food elsewhere. It is worth trying though so go and see/taste it for yourself! Arigato gozaimaz! ~ Sundrenched
Tahlia Street (after Chili’s)
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia