Chai Wu (Chinese) – HarrodsHALAL STATUS Japanese miyazaki striploin of beef NOT HALAL
Inspired by the five elements of Chinese philosophy: fire, water, wood, earth and metal, this classy eatery offers a number of traditional time-honoured classics, such as, the Beijing Duck and signature dishes that include Coconut Prawns.
Whilst fire is represented by the open kitchen’s theatrical robata grill that allows diners to enjoy the cooking of the finest selection of meat and fish, the restaurant’s elegant and luxurious interior decor, comprising of marble, leather and a mixture of dark timbers, accounts for the other elements.
With a capacity of 80, including a boothed section for those seeking extra privacy, Chai Wu provides breakfast, lunch or dinner for those seeking a bite to eat during a busy shopping spree.
And let’s not forget Harrods’ apt motto:
Omnia Omnibus Ubique – All things for all people, everywhere!
While the Chai Wu Paradise was a little too watered down, with the taste of the passionfruit barely coming through, the Chai Wu Beauty was light and aromatic. Its condensed milk base was the perfect foil for both the delicate flavour of the strawberry syrup and its dominant lychee counterpart in providing a smooth and deeply satisfying milky drink.
As for the Virgin Mojito, a classic that FtL’s always compelled to try on any menu, then the sharp tanginess of the lemon was only slightly offset by the addition of the mint. Nonetheless, a refreshing option to awaken the taste buds.
The dab of dark Beluga Cavier atop of the dumpling’s semi-translucent exterior made for an attractive little mouthful particularly when set against a dark green base.
The dough itself was soft and silky, and densely packed with a warm lobster filling whose fresh and natural sweet undertone married well with the touch of salt imparted by the Caviar.
However, these vibrantly green Alaskan Crab Spinach Dumplings, peculiarly presented against equally green discs, won the battle of the dumplings in terms of both texture and taste.
The sweet chilli kick of the XO sauce contrasted beautifully against the delicately salted crab meat and the lemongrass infused spinach interior.
CHILLED & FRESH
The flavours in this tuna-inspired Special Roll were clean and obvious, though rather subtle.
Sprinkled with a spice, the sticky rice delivered a sweet spiciness that lingered nicely without being overwhelming.
There’s a story behind this particular dish which was recommended by the manager. Whilst not officially on the menu, this Chicken Coconut is a variation of their Chicken Prawn signature, and is extremely popular among Arab shoppers who can, we were told, order this by the plate fulls.
Although this might come across as somewhat strange to some, and wouldn’t exactly qualify as traditional, we certainly came away appreciating both its popularity and its unique taste and texture.
What we had here were unbelievably soft, almost candy-like, chicken pieces marinated in a sweet and fleshy coconut wet paste, with a hint of heat running through the background. We’d go back just for this dish!
It’s also worth mentioning the suggestion of one Lion regarding how this would taste with plain rice!
Another very interesting and exciting little starter. Despite its simplicity, the crispy squid pieces were covered in crunchy sea salt that was well tempered by both the heat of the red chilli and the subtle lemony tang of what could only be the crushed Sichuan peppercorns.
Unique and worth getting for the experience!
RICE & NOODLES
If you haven’t had this style of noodles before, then it might be worth getting if only to experience the pleasant interplay between the wet and dry noodles.
It’s true that the scallops, prawns and langoustine were perfectly cooked; but, given both its price tag, and the distinct lack of any real taste other than its buttery composition, we’d recommend something else.
This is one of those dishes that had us debating longer than we would have liked.
While one Lion appreciated its fairly pungent and vinegary base – pleasantly lingering as it did – and addictively growing with each spoonful, the other found it to be all too uniform and a little too sour.
A crowd splitter for sure!
Good wagyu is wagyu; and this pricey sirloin certainly didn’t disappoint.
Not quite as good as its half-priced cousin over at Mango Tree in Belgravia, which we certainly recall having a sweeter undertone, this was, nonetheless, as moist and as succulent as you’d like.
But, given how powerful the accompanying black pepper sauce was, we’ll again repeat our sentiments vis–à–vis the wagyu had at said restaurant:
We considered the sauce far too intense for such delicate and deliciously tasting beef. Enjoy it only as it is!
These French trimmed lamb chops were sublime.
As soft, juicy and succulent as you’d ever want. With a thick sweet-chilli Szechuan Sauce, which was more chilli than sweet, this required only a tad to enhance its meaty flavour.
CHAI WU SIGNATURE DISHES
In spite of its intricate appearance, the flavours here were simple, distinct and straightforward. With the tail meat prettily presented within its shell, and the softer more sweeter claws set on the side, the light squeeze of lime and lemon was needed to balance against the pungent spicy-sweetness of the sauce. A small bite of the caviour added that touch of salt too, which was a clever touch.
We were also presented with two alternatives sauces: a citrus chilli (bottom), and a garlic butter sauce (top).
No doubt a visual spectacle, but one which, on account of its disparateness, didn’t quite live up to our expectations.
Even its arrival and presentation had a sense of theatre to it with a beautifully shiny, chocolate-coloured whole duck being carried shoulder high to our table by an immacutely dressed chef who, using a white handkerchief to support this large bird, proceeded to expertly carve it into slices.
This style of carving is, in fact, the traditional way of serving duck in that region, with the cook doing the honours of preparing it for the customer. For us, it was a rare privilege of experiencing this in person and one we’d like to take the opportunity here in thanking Chai Wu for.
Once carved up and presented with a variety of vegetable condiments and the following five sauces…
… the idea is to build, using either the steamed pancakes or the Mantou buns, a wrap to your taste and liking.
And what fun it was too given the number of possible combinations.
Of the two, we preferred the pancake over the Mantou due to the latter’s stodginess.
Yet, what we absolutely loved was the duck itself. We’d never had duck with such depth of flavour. Crispy, chewy, fatty, succulent, juicy pieces of meat covered in a sweet, sticky glaze – what more could one ask for?
Of the five sauces (though one was technically a salt), we found the sweet pepper salt the most interesting, and the mild yet addictive Truffle & Garlic the most intriguing.
What a wonderful concept and what fun!
But, what of the remaining trimmings of the duck? Would they go to waste? Not on your life…
… Instead, the duck is taken back, and its trimmings used to make either your choice of a 1) Duck Fried Rice, or 2) Minced Duck with Lettuce Wrap. We opted for the former.
And how good it was too with the deep, fatty taste of the duck imparting its strong flavour throughout the egg fried rice.
We found ourselves going back again and again for little spoon fulls.
Perhaps the above image better explains how… dead this alleged fondant was.
It seemed premade before being warmed up; the inside a mushy mess of sweetness which, surprisingly, went well with the smooth creamy ice cream.
Scooping out the passionfruit seeds over the top of the fondant merely provided a tangy edge, nothing else.
Otherwise, a thoroughly disappointing dessert.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
Nevertheless, some of the dishes here are undeniably worth that little extra, particularly that hugely impressive Beijing Duck which, given some of the mediocre ones we've had in the past, restored our faith in this humble bird. It really was a delicious eat.
Additionally, there aren't many places in London, if any, that offer Halal duck while presenting it in such a time honoured and traditional manner. This experience itself was worth the premium price.
And as you'd expect from such a high end eatery, the service was impeccable, the staff as friendly and as welcoming as you'd hope for.
UPDATE: Chai Wu was shortlisted for a number of our end of year awards, including Best Starter (Chicken Coconut), Best Main (Beijing Duck), Best Steak (Wagyu Steak Sirloin) and Best Restaurant.
In the end, it was voted Runner-Up for Best Steak by us, with the Beijing Duck being chosen as Best Main by our readers.
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