Again, on my first visit, I tucked into a plate of nigiri sushi: maguro, red snapper, hamachi and mackerel. It's easy enough to tell good sushi from bad sushi, but as I said above, the line between very good and fantastic — or, in the other direction, from very good to good to satisfactory — is more difficult to pinpoint. At Kampai I found the nigiri sushi to vary between good and satisfactory. The individual pieces were fresh, but the flavors didn't pop. And several pieces were cut too thick. It was difficult to judge, let alone enjoy, the texture.

The roll selection is broad, but few of the choices stand out from the standard array of California, Philadelphia, etc., etc. rolls. On this first visit, I tried the "Central" roll. As befits its name, this was rather middle-of-the road, with (cooked) shrimp inside the roll and a sweet, tangy "cocktail" sauce drizzled atop it. On my second visit, I tried the more promising "Fire Dragon" roll, a spicy-tuna roll with unagi (grilled freshwater eel) on top, dressed with sriracha sauce. This was very spicy — so much so that I couldn't really taste the unagi.

Best was the "Kampai Special." All you need to know about this roll is that its interior features deep-fried lobster tail. It's indulgent, yes, though the light tempura batter keeps it from being overwhelming.

Tani's Jessica Ho and the Oh My God roll.
Jennifer Silverberg
Tani's Jessica Ho and the Oh My God roll.

Location Info

Map

Tani Sushi Bistro

16 S. Bemiston Ave.
Clayton, MO 63105

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Clayton

Tani Sushi Bistro
16 South Bemiston Avenue, Clayton; 314-727-8264.
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
Dinner 4:30-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 4:30-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. (Closed Sun.)
Kampai
4949 West Pine Boulevard; 314-367-2020.
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
Dinner 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 5-9 p.m. Sun.

I also had better luck with nigiri sushi on this return visit. While nothing jumped into the category of fantastic, the pieces were the appropriate thickness, and a piece of salmon had that vibrant flavor and buttery texture that mark very-good sushi. Those seeking a sushi fix, if not a transformative experience, will find Kampai a rewarding destination.

For me, however, the tension between these two reactions — a pleasant sushi fix and a transformative experience — is what I take away from my multiple sushi visits this month. Has sushi become too commonplace? This isn't just idle speculation. This very week, three separate organizations issued consumer advisories on which kinds of sushi to avoid because demand has led to the collapse of fish stocks.

Most at risk? The bluefin tuna. Our love of this creature, from prepackaged supermarket rolls to the occasional toro splurge, has driven it to the point of extinction. It's something to consider the next time you sit down for your maguro fix.

I love maguro and toro and even, sometimes, those cheap prepackaged supermarket rolls. I love them enough not to eat them again for several years.

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