Kampai is a small chain, with locations in Duluth and Lithonia, whose focus these days is on steaks, sushi, and tapas. You don’t need to take my word for it. It’s on the side of the building of their new location in Lawrenceville, in the same plaza (Avenue Webb Ginn) that houses Ted’s Montana Grill and Red Robin. Kampai is in the building that used to house On the Border, and they’ve done nice things to the inside. It’s a good looking place. There is a lot of black stain, natural wood finish, and brick, and a decent number of flat screens.

Though I arrived at lunch, after commenting on the lack of useful selection on their lunch menu, I ended up with their dinner menu. This menu is pretty large, with two pages devoted to various tapas and three pages to sushi rolls alone. This doesn’t count the extensive coverage of tempura dishes and also their hibachi meals. I’ve never been a huge tempura fan and hibachi would be dietary overkill. I focused on sushi and tapas, looking for items I could eat.

I rapidly found the edamame, which I ordered and their braised pork belly on sauteed tofu. Along with that I ordered salmon nigiri and salmon roe nigiri (or so I thought) and also what they called a diet roll. There were no tapas available that had just a vegetable. I would have liked some steamed greens, or spinach, or bok choy with my meal.

The edamame came out steamed and the serving was large. I was very appreciative of what I was offered. The pork belly was smaller than I expected, looking a lot like a thick cut slice of bacon cut into squares and placed on a bed of tofu. Still, fat is a luxury I can afford. The flavor was good and the tofu welcome.

The nigiri ended up sashimi instead. It wasn’t what I expected but this was rather a welcome mistake. The foods were on mint leaves and then placed on what looked like daikon slivers. Both were fresh and flavorful. The diet roll was just okay. Edible yes, but no mind blowing flavors. I would have dropped this if there were a single steamed vegetable tapas, but no such luck at this time.

In retrospect, this small chain seems to do well on the edges of the metro area. The style of the place, to cater to many different trends in the industry, is similar to Sakegura and indeed, Nakato. It’s not as popular the closer to the city you get, as people seem to want specialized eateries in places like Buckhead and Midtown. But it should do well in the Avenue Webb Ginn mall area. It has a nice upscale look. When I showed, it was attracting Asian and American clientele. With the local Urban Flats shut down for the time being, it fills a niche for better dining in the neighborhood, and it is far quieter than Bonefish. I like its chances, and wish this chain the best.

Verdict: Versatile upscale dining in the Avenue Webb Ginn area. Highly recommended.

Kampai
1250 Scenic Highway #1300
Lawrenceville GA 30045
(678) 951-1000

Kampai on Urbanspoon

9700 Medlock Bridge Rd
Duluth, GA 30097
(678) 417-0086

Kampai Japanese & Hibachi on Urbanspoon

7105 Stonecrest Pkwy
Lithonia, GA 30038
(770) 484-1801

Kampai Sushi & Hibachi on Urbanspoon

Notes: There have been many behind the scenes conversations with Mike Stock (Gadget Geek) about the Avenue Webb Ginn area. He was the one who pointed out to me that Urban Flats was closed, among other things.

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