Kampai populates chopsticks with a menu of Japanese flavors, which culinary craftsmen roll into sushi, stir-fry with noodles, and brush onto grilled meats. Appetizer-hounds can nibble on spicy gyoza dumplings ($5) or feast on octopus salad ($5) until they ingest enough suction cups to hang from the rear window of their car. For one-bite wonders, diners can mouth-dive into the Norwegian mackerel sashimi ($13), the dynamite maki roll with spicy salmon and pickle radish ($8), or the specialty kampai roll's bundle of tempura shrimp, avocado, smelt roe, and spicy tuna ($9). In addition to mini sushi morsels, the kitchen employs skilled giants to prepare larger entrees such as gyu yaki soba noodles with shrimp ($12).
To the Japanese, the words “sama zama” mean “variety.” But to a food critic from the Pitch, the unfamiliar phrase has become synonymous with “serious snacks.” That’s how she described the fare at Sama Zama, an eatery run by One Bite Japanese Grill's owner, Erika Koike. Perhaps the most intriguing of Erika's family recipes and culinary experiments is the okonomi yaki, a savory pancake often dubbed Japanese-style pizza. It consists of grilled dough crowned with the meat or veggies of your choice, a fried egg, sweet sauces, and crunchy noodles.
Exposed brick juts out from an orange accent wall in Sama Zama's Tokyo-inspired interior, which is splashed with circles and triangles that appear to move of their own volition under the light cast by bare bulbs and the baby suns tethered to the ceiling.
Bambu embraces traditional recipes and dining practices to create an authentic Vietnamese dining experience. Their pho soup packs noodles into a beef or chicken stock made on site and simmered for 12 hours to fully coax out flavors and create a dish named Best Hangover Remedy by the editors of 417 Magazine. The menu showcases rich house specialties, including Bun Bo Hue, a soup from the old imperial capital of Central Vietnam with a spicy broth made from long-simmered beef bones. Most items come with a plate of fiery chilis, fresh herbs, and lime to season dishes instead of boring salt- and peppershakers or somber personal chefs. The courteous wait staff caters to every diner's needs, providing gluten-free menus to those with dietary restrictions and bibs to protect from soup splatters.
Blu Sesame marries Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean culinary traditions in their Asian bistro, where scarlet walls emblazoned with pinwheel designs border the jet-black upholstery of cushy banquettes. There, patrons settle in and browse a list of more than 100 beers and sakes to accompany entrees of Vietnamese noodles, Korean barbecue, or the kitchen’s specialty fried chicken breast glazed one of six sauces. Though many of the restaurant’s sushi rolls honor their heritage with morsels of raw fish, some specialty rolls embrace the touch of flame—the Cardinal roll daubs sweet-chili vinaigrette over a heart of peppery seared tuna, and the spicy-crab-topped Stop, Drop & Roll is actually set on fire, just like the sushi rolls that light the chef’s apartment at night.
Superbly balanced flavors and creative presentation characterize the dishes on Manee Thai's menu. Take advantage of lunch specials such as soy-basted broccoli and a ginger and mushroom medley, with choice of chicken, beef, pork, tofu, or vegetables ($7.99). Meals are sided with a spring roll, crab angel, and daily soup. More elaborate entrees (chow mien, fried rice, and the Manee Thai noodle), are available for $8.99. For later cravings, pique stomach rumbles with appetizers ranging from fried tofu ($4.95) to Thai beef jerky ($7.95). Broth-based noodle-and-rice bowls (from $9.95), salads, and wok noodles make tempting main courses, or try a selection from the specialties menu. From Thai shrimp tempura ($16.95) drizzled in sweet-and-sour sauce to sea bass plated with steamed veggies ($19.95), the authentic offerings cater to a variety of specifications, allergies, and phobias.
At each of The Drunken Fish's upscale restaurants, chefs create traditional and specialty sushi, along with stir-fries and other Japanese entrees. Fresh tuna nigiri and garlic and soy-infused New York-style strip steaks make for tasty pairings with signature cocktails, such as the Madame Butterfly with raspberry vodka, mango puree, and pineapple juice. The Drunken Fish has three convenient locations within St. Louis, each featuring modern decor.