Tel: +44 (0)20 7833 1380
Address: 26 Penton Street, Islington, London N1
Cuisine Type: Japanese and Mediterranean
Away from the bustle of Upper Street, Kam Pai advertises itself as a Japanese / Mediterranean restaurant. A glance at the menu, however, indicates that this is not one of a new brigade of questionable fusion ventures, but simply a restaurant serving both traditional Japanese and Mediterranean dishes. Having said that, the vast majority are Japanese and we decided to stick to what it appeared they did best.
We started with Tai (£3.70), incredibly fresh slices of iridescent sea bass shashimi layered with paper-thin circles of cucumber. Una Don (£9.80) came with a generous portion of barbecued eel – almost as much fish as rice – pickles and miso soup. But the star of the meal was my Kam Pai Special, a bento set with pork siu mai dumplings, king prawn and vegetable tempura, shashimi of tuna and vinegared mackerel, three skewers of yakitori chicken, rice, pickles and miso soup – a true bargain at £10.50. Nor was the quality compromised – the tempura was light and still crispy when served, the gleaming cuts of shashimi again wonderfully fresh, and the yakitori chicken had a slightly unusual taste that made it some of the best I’ve had (much better than Jin Kichi – see earlier review).
Service is efficient and charming; unusually, a 10% / 12.5% service charge is not automatically wacked onto the cost of the food, so they certainly don’t take it for granted that clientele will put up with poor service. Green tea is free ? so you can have a budget meal without having to bolster restaurant margins by paying a huge premium for drinks (though sake and beer are available). Clean and tidy premises, painted in striking block colours, make for a pleasant dining environment. Best of all, though I can’t vouch for the Mediterranean dishes, high quality food at more than reasonable prices. All in all, this is now one of my favourite restaurants in London. My only complaint is that it isn’t situated at the end of my road.