Red fish, blew fish

Kampai Sushi & Grill is a new restaurant on Addison Circle next to Antonio Ristorante and across from the just-opened Avanti Euro Bistro. But this isn't the important thing. The important thing is that Kampai faces "Blueprints at Addison Circle," a structure that, according to the city of Addison, is riddled with the utmost importance. "Finally, seven years of hopes, dreams, and plans have become a reality," beams the city on its Web page. The city calls it "a very special landmark...a piece of public art that celebrates Addison's history and its future." But mostly, it's a $2 million sculpture that reaches 45 feet into the air, spans more than 140 feet of real estate, and has absorbed 410,000 pounds of steel and 650 gallons of custom-mixed "sharpie blue" paint, a shade that resembles the hue of that padded and embroidered $6.99 toilet seat.

Public art that celebrates civic pride can be a tricky thing, and people will see in it what they will. I for one see a series of bent-over goal posts tipped with flyswatters. But what do I know? My walls are loaded with fuzzy blacklight posters in gilded frames.

Yet that sharpie blue thing is all that's exciting about Kampai Sushi. Well, maybe not all that's exciting. The miso soup had little chunks of fried tofu, one of the few treatments you can give tofu to make it interesting. But other than that, the food simply fell as flat as the panels of polished maple that serve as wall art, which like many things Japanese, turn out to be astoundingly beautiful in their simplicity.

Unfortunately, most of the sushi is not. Hamachi ($4) and salmon ($3.75) were close to room temperature and didn't have that fresh, rich taste and silken texture that make swallowing raw fish so enjoyable. Most of the stuff -- from octopus scraps, to the strips of tuna, to the mushy, warm California rolls -- were barely adequate.

Then there was the tofu with salsa ($4.25), two pairs of seared tofu cubes pierced with a wooden skewer and cluttered with a mass of tomato, onion, and ginger: It was like dressing a pair of kitchen sponges.

A red-clam sushi special ($5.50) was good. The rippled sheet of beige mollusk flesh trimmed in red was cool, crisp, and supple. But Kampai box lunches suffered. Fireworks ($9.50), with chicken and beef teriyaki and four slices of limp California roll, was anything but. The chicken was washed out, and the beef was jaw-achingly tough. Plus, the bean sprouts were limp and greasy.

Triple delight box lunch ($9.50) included a delicious pile of tempura shrimp and vegetables, but the joy ended there. Beef karashiyaki, thin sheets of beef tenderloin sautéed in mustard sauce, was washed out and tough. The same greasy bean sprouts and limp California roll slices kept it company.

Service was painfully slow and inattentive, even during those periods when the place is scarcely populated. But maybe those service gaps are strategic, providing moments to ponder the stooped spindles of civic pride looped outside the window.


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