Inspired by five main elements- water, fire, wood, metal and earth-, Chi Kitchen incorporates the five elements and transforms them into a ‘source of energy’ that nourishes and sustains their customers needs. ‘Chi’ translates as ‘energy’ in Chinese and interlinked with their ‘fire’ symbol, the combination of ‘fire’ and ‘energy’ is a play on words, relating to how ‘fire’ or in Chi’s case ‘passion’ can energize us into ‘feeling good’. It is Chi’s heady mix of spiritualism and Pan Asian cuisine, that makes its brand all the more mysterious and curious to find out more, I decided to get my ‘food critic’ hat on and head down to its London branch, situated in Oxford Street, Debenhams.
A small intimate restaurant, with a capacity of accommodating 68 guests, Chi Kitchen is low lit, making use of its natural outdoor lighting that streams through the windows. The effect is stunning and its marble, timber and leather interior design helps create an elegant but warm and welcoming atmosphere as you enter the restaurant. My guest Anna Maria (On The Edge Blog) was running late but the restaurant were more than happy to show me to our reserved window seat booth. Our server, ‘N’ demonstrated to us what a ‘good example of customer service’ entailed and went above and beyond with her dedication to providing an excellent culinary experience. Not only did she highlight all the vegetarian meals on the menu, but she also checked to see if I had any other dietary requirements and whether I had any allergies that the staff needed to know about. Moreover, in contrast to Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa, there was a large selection of vegetarian dishes available and N even took the time to show me which dishes could be personalized to my own individual taste palette.
After kindly handing me a photocopy of the menu to take home with me, we began by ordering our drinks, which in celebrating our one and only day off, had to be alcoholic of course. While mojitos tend to be my favourite, I decided to venture outside of my comfort zone and pick the ‘Raspberry dream’, while Anna chose the ‘Bangkok Fizz’. Both were beautifully presented; the Raspberry Dream used raspberry puree, with fresh raspberries, while the Bangkok fizz, came in a large wine glass. The raspberry dream was sweet but had a distinctive sour edge which prevented it from tasting too ‘sweet’, while the Bangkok Fizz reminded us of the Caribbean, with its Havana rum vibes. Out of the two, we preferred the ‘Raspberry Dream’ as the Bangkok Fizz was a bit too sweet for our tastes and was not as refreshing.
The drinks were suitably flavoured and complimented our small plates perfectly. To begin with, we chose Kimchi and Edamame with Truffle Sea Salt, both priced at £4.50 and £4.25 respectively. The Kimchi used ‘spiced pickled cabbage’ in a spiced sauteed sauce, which had the perfect blend of ‘heat’ and ‘intensity of flavour’ while the fresh edamame was seasoned with rare black truffles that had been mixed with pink sea salt. Out of the two small plates, I preferred the Kimchi because it had a greater degree of flavour, but the edamame was surprisingly delicious too and large for a small plate. In Anna’s case she did not try the Kimchi ( as she does not like spice) and was not too keen on the edamame as she found them hard to eat. The kimchi was a ‘small portion’ and suited the ‘small plate’ aesthetic but I would have preferred if there was a main meal version as that was how delicious the Kimchi was to me. Plus my favourite drag queen is Kim-Chi, so what’s not to love?
Next we moved onto the starters and we both decided on sushi: while Anna went for the ‘Californian Crab Rolls’, I chose the ‘veggie rolls’ that were made from avocado. Anna stated that her crab rolls had a reasonable amount of flavour and had just the right amount of spice for her taste level, while I found my rolls to be a little dry, even with the soy sauce that was provided but nevertheless still polished off my sushi dish in record speed. Although Anna stated that she had tasted better sushi, she still said that the crab rolls were her favourite ‘savory dish’ out of all the ones she had sampled. In between all the dishes, we noted that the service was quick and efficient and if we needed anything added to our dishes, the staff were more than happy to oblige.
The main courses became the hardest dish to pick, while I was set on something ‘spicy’, Anna likes as little spice as possible and wanted to try something different to her usual ‘Katsu curry’ option. Unfortunately we established – with help from the chef and staff- that Katsu or black bean curry was her best option so she decided to choose the Katsu, as it’s a dish that she has always enjoyed before. For me, I was all about trying new dishes and wanted to venture away from the usual Thai Green Curry that I would normally pick and instead chose the Vegetable and Tofu Nyonya Curry, which I paired with Steamed Jasmine rice. Tailored to my own personal taste, the dish which originally contained aubergine, was replaced with Pak Choi, green beans, broccoli, pureed potatoes, tofu and packed plenty of heat. At first the dish was sent out with aubergine but being the kind and accommodating staff that they are, they quickly replaced the dish with the version that I had asked for.
The Nyonya was ‘spicy’ although I would have preferred it to be more spicy, but had a wonderful authentic Malaysian taste and tasted far fresher than many Pan- Asian meals that I have tried before. It was in short delicious and I even packed some leftovers to take home with me, to enjoy for lunch the next day. In contrast Anna’s katsu curry was average; although she stated that it was good value for money, because she was not a fan of spice and the chef had made the sauce ‘mild’ it turned out quite bland and the rice was cold. The sauce needed more flavour and she said that the rice being cold made the dish sub-standard. Of course, if the dish had been made to the original recipe it would have definitely had more flavour but she was still pleased that the chef tried to create a tailored, less spicy meal that she could enjoy.
We had polished off our drinks by this point and was dying for another drink to quench our thirst. I settled for the Hibiscus Flower Fizz Champagne (£9.00), while Anna chose the Lychee infused mojito, which admittedly I drank more of. The hibiscus fizz was beautifully presented and featured a hibiscus flower nestled in the champagne glass. In all fairness it tasted like regular champagne despite being infused with hibiscus puree but looked pretty so I wasn’t going to complain. Anna’s mojito was very sweet and had too many mint leaves, so by the time that we had got down to the middle of the glass we were quite literally chomping on leaves, so to improve on this less leaves and a stronger taste of lychee to differentiate it from a regular mojito would be preferable.
To accompany our chosen drinks we chose some deserts: Anna decided on the Chocolate Sphere (£7.95), while I went for a trusty caramel cheesecake (£5.95). The caramel cheesecake was described as having a biscuit base, although the consistency was more ‘mousse like’ but I still immensely enjoyed the cheesecake. The ratio of caramel to cream was perfect in my eyes although Anna was not too keen on her chocolate sphere, which while aesthetically pleasing to look at, had too much caramel in the desert. The chocolate was overpowering and tasted too sickly, something that we both agreed on but would be a delicious treat for someone who liked rich deserts. To finish our meal, I chose a warm mango creme brule with fresh mint tea, while Anna chose a pot of fresh Jasmine tea.
The mango brulee was on par with the kimchi for the best dish in the meal and Anna loved the melt in your mouth mango ice cream that came alongside it. Although traditional creme brulee is served chilled, the warm version was even better and you could taste how fresh the ingredients were that had been used in the desert, while the fresh mint tea soothed my bloated stomach. Anna’s Jasmine green tea, which I couldn’t try as it had caffeine, was perfumed and bitter, something which Anna looks for in her tea selection. She rated it a solid 8/10 and would have awarded more points if it had a stronger, more distinctive taste.
Service Rating: 9.5/10
Food Rating: For Me- 9/10/ For Anna- 7/10
Overall, we both enjoyed sampling Pan Asian cuisine and would recommend Chi Kitchen for its superb customer service, variety of dietary options and the chance to tailor your own dishes, which is not often found in London restaurants. The price per dish was reasonable and portion sizes were excellent.
What Are Your Thoughts On Pan Asian Cuisine?
Please note we were guests at Chi Kitchen and were given a budget for our food but this does not affect our thoughts and all opinions are our own.