Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Kampai! Chef Mikel Zaguirre Redefines Japanese Bar Food at Kampai in Makati's Poblacion

One of the popular bars and dining destinations of the vibrant Poblacion neighborhood returns with its own creative take on Japanese cuisine...

After a long hiatus made longer by the quarantine, Kampai quietly comes home to the neighborhood of Poblacion. At its new location, the old regulars of Kampai will find the same familiar vibe of the original but in a much larger space. Without fanfare, the comeback is tempered by guarded optimism as the lingering pandemic continues with no clear end in sight. But it still is cause for a celebration, though muted, as the entire neighborhood presses the reset button. And the extensive new menu is just one of many reasons to revisit one of the best bars in the 'hood. 

A Familiar Dive Rises...

The quarantine experience placed everything on hold, changing and transforming our daily routine. As the economy slowly opens up, a familiar name reopens pumping life back to the once filled and crowded streets of Poblacion. Now located along Fermina Street, it's hard to miss Kampai.   

Bigger and better, just look for the koi...

A colorful mural marks the spot leading you to their bold signage adorned with a pair of koi fish. Step inside, and you'll notice changes like a much wider space yet the character remains the same. Think of it as a lavish version upgrade with a formal yet cozy dining area on the ground floor with its own long bar set-up and that familiar bar feel up the second floor reminiscent of Kampai's early days. But bigger. 

At the helm of Kampai's kitchen is one of the metro's inventive noted culinary personalities, Chef Mikel Zaguirre. That's right. The same genius behind Locavore, Bad Bowl, Ovo Manila and many more. And off the bat, you can expect some inventive spins on traditional Japanese flavors. Chef Mikel has been constantly pushing culinary boundaries, redefining tradition with a creative take transforming the familiar into something refreshingly new and different. It's that same brand of innovation that one can expect with the menu at Kampai. From bar food to sumptuous dishes, have another round of drinks and stay awhile to get reacquainted with an old friend from 'hood... 

Bar Bites and Nibbles

The usual edamame gets a flavorful upgrade with the Truffle Edamame (P 210), grilled and drizzled with indulgent truffle oil. The sweetness of the edamame is elevated by the deep, nutty notes of the truffle followed by smoky hints from the grill...

...while the crisscut Nori Fries (P 240) brings the delectable briny notes of seaweed pairing well with the creamy Black Garlic Aioli. In true Chef Mikel style, the usual is transformed. Truffle in edamame and nori in fries are just some of the little details that define Kampai's modern approach to Japanese cuisine.

The aptly named Street Food Curry (P 350) with assorted surimi and quail egg draped in a rich curry sauce is another savory option at Kampai. The richness of the Japanese-style curry brings bold flavors to these tasty bites, served with a skewer to complete the street food-inspired dish. 

Heat things up with the Spicy Tuna Tostada (P 350), a flavorful dish with fresh tuna cured in seaweed and aged for a softer, smoother texture and more intense notes served with a delicately crisp rice cracker. Simply break off a piece and scoop up the creamy and spicy tuna and prepare for a vibrant burst of flavors and textures.  

The Spicy Mayo adds both soothing heat and a smooth texture to the dish complementing the soft and sweet tuna while the rice cracker bring textural contrasts into play. Finely tuned and balanced, the Spicy Tuna Tostada is a light yet tasty dish pairing well with your favorite cocktails at Kampai.

Pair it with Patron Tequila

Soothing libations have always been the calling card of Kampai as they explore yet another fine spirit to play with, this time with Patron Tequila with the refreshing Reposado Mule. The deep, rich and earthy notes of a fine reposado are highlighted with a special dish reflecting a seamless fusion of Filipino and Japanese inspired flavors you can only find at Kampai with the Salmon Teppansilog

Chef Mikel Zaguirre, in collaboration with Patron Tequila, serves his homage to a hearty Filipino breakfast with the Salmon Teppansilog. And it's a dish that looks more complex and complicated than it appears with layers of richness woven with each bite. The premium salmon is cured in konbu for 24 hours before hitting the hot teppan flat iron griddle, generously basted with Reposado Soy Butter to keep it moist and juicy. You can already imagine the flavorful layers of the dish. The dish is completed with garlic fried rice covered with a soft and silky smooth Japanese style omelette with chives and served with a side of pickled vegetables, salt, pepper and lime juice. 

Japanese aesthetics gives the dish a simple zen-like presentation punctuated by vibrant colors. After all, any Japanese dish must first feed the eyes. The fresh and clean flavors of the salmon infused with the subtle hints of konbu drapes the palate with an indulgent and rich briny sweetness perfectly paired with the deep yet refreshing notes from the Reposado Mule.

All the plated elements combine for a hearty meal with a uniquely Kampai twist, completed by the Reposado Mule. Delicately nuanced with an elegant finish from the bold Japanese flavors, Chef Mikel does it again with his usual flair. You can also try Chef Mikel's Tuna or Watermelon with konbu-cured tuna and sweet watermelon crusted with truffle salt and black pepper paired with Patron Tequila.

Turning Japanese gets creative...

The izakaya concept of Kampai comes through with their specialty Kushiyaki, savory morsels fresh off the grill. Enjoy a variety of grilled treats including Chicken Breast (P 170), Chicken Thigh (P 170), Pork Belly (P 170), Wagyu Cubes (P 280), Quail Egg (P 120) and Chicken Wings (P 150), each one delicately grilled with a lightly charred finish for bold and intense smoky flavors.

The chicken and pork remain juicy in texture, releasing deep savory notes with each bite. The quail eggs add a whole different finish and flavor to the mix, while the dips add even more layers to the grilled meats. It's the perfect dish paired with a cold beer or your favorite cocktail.  

Have you ever seen a more elegant dog in a bun? The Japa Dawg (P 420) with a smoked link topped with Cheddar and slathered in a rich and creamy Wasabi Slaw and nori in a toasted brioche roll is as lavish as it gets with that Chef Mikel touch. A generous topping of fish roe is the perfect finishing touch to this extravagant dog.

A big bite delivers a variety of flavors and textures from the smoky dog with its delectable snap to the distinct notes of the nori, the creamy Wasabi Slaw with its smooth yet mildly bold bite, the sharpness of the Cheddar and the flavorful pop of the fish roe rounded out by the buttery brioche. Pure unrestrained flavors with nothing held back, it's just what you'd expect from Chef Mikel at Kampai.

If you're still hungry, the Kurobuta Katsudon (P 500) with tender and juicy Kurobuta loin draped with a crisp breading on fluffy egg, negi or leeks and served with steamed white rice should do the trick. Pickled vegetables and garden-fresh baby greens complete the dish. 

The egg becomes rich counterpoint to the Kurobuta loin, adding contrasting textures to the juicy crunch of the pork. Each component is masterfully executed, combining for a sumptuous dish at Kampai.

The Hamburg Omu Rice (P 420) features Philippine Wagyu beef patty laid on thick Japanese Brown Sauce and served with Omu Rice is one meal to cap your session at Kampai. The juicy beef patty and the brown sauce pack a savory punch made even richer with the Japanese mayo and Omu Rice combo. A bite of kimchi cleanses the palate and you're ready for another round.

Perfectly seared to seal in the beefy juiciness, the side of kimchi and a dollop of Japanese mayo allows your palate to dance with a different beat, alternating from smooth and creamy to intensely sharp flavors that enhance and temper the beef patty and brown sauce with each bite. 

And just when you thought Chef Mikel was done, he serves up yet another dish to cap our experience at Kampai. The Steak Rice & Foie (P 540) with fork tender and melt-in-your-mouth Kitayama Beef on steak rice, negi, garlic, sous-vide egg and foie gras is the fitting finale at Kampai.

A sumptuous rice bowl elevated to a whole new savory experience like no other, the richness of the premium beef with its juicy pink center is made even richer with the sous-vide egg draping the palate with its decadent finish. But it's the foie gras with its buttery richness that adds depth to the dish, perfectly balanced by the side of pickled vegetables. This dish alone is enough reason to revisit Kampai.

Just take a closer look at the Steak Rice & Foie, nothing more needs to be said. And if you're craving for ribeye steaks, Kampai's got the goods like USDA Choice Ribeye, USDA Prime Ribeye and USDA Super Prime Ribeye. They also serve a mean Kurobuta Pork Tomahawk. The return of Kampai to Poblacion marks another chapter in the colorful neighborhood's evolving story in a challenging new normal. It's the creative and cool Poblacion vibe, momentarily paused and refreshed, celebrated with the return of Kampai.    

Kampai is located at 5857 Alfonso corner Fermina Street, Poblacion, Makati or call 0917 318 1385 for inquiries. 

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