Tokyo Inn aims to fill the same niche as Kampai, except on the west side. The offerings are almost identical, and so is the level of quality. It's a bit prettier, with a spare, serene decor. The tiered dining area gives the room a little class. So do the plum tablecloths, green linen napkins and vase of silk flowers on each table. A few paper lanterns hang over the small, nine-seat sushi bar, and low Japanese music plays in the background. My favorite touch: a voice chime by the door, that welcomes you (in Japanese) when you enter, and thanks you for your patronage when you leave. (I thought of a much better use for this technology. Every time the kids walk out my front door, it would chirp, "Did you put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket?") The food here is not fancy, but it is effective. The waitress told me that fresh fish for sushi gets flown in every other day. The maguro (tuna) certainly sported all the right qualities. So did the crunchy shrimp roll and ikura, golden-orange salmon roe. And someday I'll come back and just fill up on the sushi topped with unagi, the meaty strips of charbroiled eel I'm so fond of. Like Kampai, Tokyo Inn offers finicky diners alternatives to sushi. The gyoza here don't have much of a taste zip, but they come with a pleasing crunch. Vegetable tempura brings a generous portion of sweet potato, cauliflower, green pepper and squash. But it comes up a bit short in quality. This time, the problem isn't heavy breading, as at Kampai. It's oiliness. There's better tempura at Ayako of Tokyo or Kyoto. The main dishes offer good value, especially since Tokyo Inn recently lowered its already reasonable prices.

Pork lovers can get cheap thrills in two ways. The pork katsu here is distinguished by its noticeably fresh-fried taste. There's also pork shogayaki, an unusually strong-flavored Japanese dish. It's made with thin strips of marinated pork combined with snout-clearing amounts of ginger. Less adventurous diners shouldn't have any problems with the salmon teriyaki. It's a smallish piece, perfectly cooked, and coated with a light, sweet teriyaki glaze. Like all the dinners here, it comes with miso soup, sunomono (vinegary cucumber salad) and rice. There's almost no difference between Tokyo Inn's nabeyaki udon and Kampai's version. The ingredients are identical, except Tokyo Inn stocks the bowl with shiitake mushrooms and skips the chicken. The subtly aromatic broth also plays a helpful role. Unfortunately, there's no unaju here. But you can get an individual order of sukiyaki, at a budget $10.95 price. Most Japanese restaurants serve this specialty for two for somewhere between 15 and 20 bucks a person. Of course, you can't expect the full treatment: tabletop preparation, the constant attentions of deferential waitresses, colorful platters of millimeter-thin sliced beef and heaps of exotic vegetables. The sukiyaki here is prepared in the kitchen. The beef isn't cut to transparency. The vegetables are limited to bok choy and mushrooms. But the ingredients, simmered in a soy-and-sweet-sake-accented broth, are fragrant and filling. The one area where Tokyo Inn could use some work is service, which is sweetly ineffective. If there was any sort of schedule for food to come out of the kitchen, I couldn't figure it out. Confused servers occasionally dropped off dishes that we hadn't ordered, and didn't bring the ones we had. Still, Tokyo Inn offers west-siders a Japanese dining destination that furnishes a good combination of taste and value in a relaxing setting. Japanese meals, like Japanese cars, seem utterly reliable.

Location Info


Kampai Japanese Restaurant

2945 E. Bell Road
Phoenix, AZ 85032

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: North Phoenix

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