Come to sushi spot Kampai any day of the week—bar Monday when it’s closed—and you’ll find groups of friends attempting to decipher an ambiguous WhatsApp message, hungry families in need of sustenance after a trip to Holland Park, and solo diners who just happened to spot a free seat at the sushi bar. Whether they’re Gen Z-ers or still make calls from the landline, the one thing all these people have in common is that they know Kampai is serving some top-tier sushi.
A plain-fronted spot between Hammersmith and Kensington that blends in with the surrounding cafes and takeaway shops, Kampai is a low-key Japanese restaurant that doesn’t have to scream and shout to get people in. The focus is very much on what’s happening in the kitchen and specifically behind the bar, where the sushi chef is slicing away, prepping order after order of crunchy dragon rolls, tender chu-toro, and excellent sake nigiri.
The dining room is compact but comfortable, with wooden bamboo walls, black ceilings, and enough space between each table that you won't worry about elbowing your neighbour’s rock shrimp and baby spinach salad on the way to the bathroom. Perfect for a sushi date if you’re in west London, or treating your parents to a dinner that won’t leave you rationing rice crackers until the next payday, it’s a solid spot to bring just about anyone who’s interested in eating quality raw fish.
There’s a lot to choose from, with a menu that’s split into small plates, donburi, and pages and pages of sushi. We’d recommend getting one of those horenso salads, some tempura—because, fried stuff—and focusing the rest of your efforts on the nigiri list because the sushi section is what we’d get on a bus to travel here for. The rest of the menu, with things like salmon teriyaki bento boxes and halal chicken katsu, means that even if someone isn’t in the mood for raw fish, they’ll be more than OK.
Salads don’t have to be boring. Exhibit A: the deep-fried rock shrimp covered in a spicy mayo dressing that you’ll find on this baby spinach salad. The only right way to start your meal.
A tower of citrusy, spicy, and refreshing avocado topped with chunks of salmon, tobiko, and crispy shallots. Creamy from the spicy sesame mayo, with a slight crunch from the shallots.
King Dragon Roll
The inside out rolls are all solid here, but you should also get involved in the chef’s specials. In particular this crunchy, tempura king prawn and tobiko number.
Warm vinegared rice, with a melt-in-the-mouth piece of fish on top. We’ve found that the two piece nigiri is better than the mix you’ll find in the platters section. Pick with confidence, but know that our favourites are the hotate and the chu toro.
Chicken Katsu Curry
For a spot that feels like it’s all about the sushi, Kampai makes a really great katsu curry. It’s moreish and filled with softened vegetables and crispy panko fried chicken. This generous portion is enough to fill you up until breakfast the next day.