At Kampai, subtle yet elegant creativity is evident in everything from the seared wagyu tataki to the handmade sake carafes.
The artful Japanese restaurant quietly opened their doors on Center Street in December, foregoing the fanfare of a big opening announcement and stirring up anticipation from locals in search of a unique dining experience. “We were intentionally quiet about it because we wanted the experience to speak for itself,” says Kampai General Manager Dan “Jiggy” Janjigian.
Jiggy’s career spans from front of house work at The Mangy Moose, Koshu, Local and Trio, to back of house at The Rose and as the Executive Sous Chef at Maho Catering. He works closely with Kampai’s Chef Chris Massad (of San Francisco’s Akiko’s, Pabu and Nobu) to bring the concept to life. “Our goal is for the food to be the main focus, but want to ensure that each and every detail from space to cutlery lends to giving our guests that intended, curated experience,” said Massad. Everything is carefully thought out, from the intricate ceramics to the Wilson-made wooden sushi holders.
The spacious restaurant seats a maximum of 125 guests per night, with a first-come first-serve bar in the back that Jiggy says is a nod to the locals looking for an impromptu walk-in.
We had space to double the seating capacity here. But that wasn’t the experience we were looking for. We want to provide a new class of dining experience in Jackson.
Kampai’s general manager, Dan “Jiggy” Janjigian
The vibe is decadent yet unpretentious, with starters like wagyu and foie gras dumplings and seared salmon with lemongrass ponzu to warm up the palate, and an impressive array of rotating nigiri, generous sashimi cuts and plump hand rolls. From Hokkaido scallops topped with dashi vinaigrette jelly and lemon zest to blue tuna hand rolls topped with caviar, the menu brings just enough familiar flavors to the table to draw diners in, with an imaginative take on Japanese cuisine that’s stands out from other high-end sushi bars.
From applewood-smoked snapper, barracuda with yuzu sauce, yellowtail belly, monkfish liver to rich unagi over vinegar-soaked rice, watching the sushi chefs expertly slice fresh fish flown in straight from Japan is like being immersed in a work of art. If you’re going to treat yourself to an omakase-style meal, Kampai is the place to do it.
While the fresh fish steals the show, the sake offerings and cocktail menu is not to be forgotten, integrating tried and true classics with unique Japanese twists. A highball machine whisks up effervescent concoctions such as Berries and Sherries (suntory toki, fino sherry, yuzu cordial, blackberry and seltzer), while The Hot Mango (takanotsume chili tequila, and mango sriracha chili salt) is Kampai’s fiery take on a spicy margarita, and the Sakura Sour (gin, aperol, pineapple, lime, egg white, and matcha) boasts the perfect amount of tang and a rich, silky texture.
The Hot Mango (left) and Sakura Sour
On the sake side, you can work your way from intro-level ginjo genshu on draft (served by the glass, carafe or bottle) and creamy, unfiltered nigori, up to soft, fragrant Eu du Desir and dry aromatic Daiginjo. Jiggy is enthusiastic about discussing the intricacies of different sake notes, and although complex and unfamiliar to most, it’s an encouraging environment to learn in.
If there’s room for dessert, a hojicha or vanilla softy, is an authentic Japanese sweet way to end the evening (soft-serve vanilla or green tea ice cream topped with cacao nibs or black sesame seeds).
A warm, inviting atmosphere, innovative menu, and knowledgeable sushi chefs dedicated to their craft, Kampai is a memorable way to spend a night in Jackson Hole.