The first thing you have to know about Kampai is that it’s accessible via a semi-hidden staircase; there still wasn’t a sign on the frosted glass door last time I was there, so you’ll have to be alert, and spot it in between the air conditioned area of Tambai and the queue outside Wantusawa. Find the door and take the stairs to what used to be two second floor apartment units, merged into a dichotomous party space with a Japanese Steampunk vibe. There are two drinking areas, two separate bars, and even two restrooms, but everything is permeable; the crowd moves and sways as one as the music and the conversations get louder as the night outside gets darker.
The second thing you have to know about Tambai is that two of the most esteemed and most experienced bartenders in the country are behind the counters: Lee Watson of ABV and Vanessa Rabadon, back home after a stint at the Luna Bar in Shanghai. They each have their signature mixes: Lee’s, the “Kampai Gimlet” with Hendrick’s, matcha syrup, calamansi, and nori strips. Vannie has the “Cucumber Wasabi Martini” which has a Bombay Gin base, cucumber syrup, topped with a wasabi foam and garnished with black sesame. The wasabi doesn’t overpower the cocktail, but instead, teases with an sly samurai’s threat. The genius of this cocktail? You’ll actually want to chase the subtle wasabi flavor, so go ahead, and order another. And happily shout to the crowd chanting behind you, “Kampai!!!”
03 1 Cucumber Wasabi Martini 2 Staircase 3 Bartender Lee Watson