Chi Kitchen (Pan-Asian) – Oxford St
Chi Kitchen is a restaurant that’s out to impress. Not only is it located on the ground floor of Debenhams’ flagship Oxford Street store in Central London, but it also boasts a menu that’s been created by none other than 2014’s MasterChef winner, Ping Coombes.
With plenty of warm lighting and a capacity of 68, the place itself is elegantly designed with an interior comprised of marble, timber and leather that’s said to be “inspired by the five elements, namely: fire, water, wood, earth and metal”.
Although a champagne bar is located therein, it’s sufficiently tucked away so as not to serve as a distraction. Instead, what’s clearly visible for all to marvel over are the supreme knife-wielding skills of Chi Kitchen’s highly talented chefs as they freshly prepare sushi, sashimi and charcoal grilled delights.
But, what really stands out in this open plan setting is the large Robata grill that serves as the kitchen’s central feature. And the reason for it’s prominence lies behind the element of fire that’s been made to feature so strongly as part of both the restaurant’s overall theme, as well as the Chinese symbol for fire used for its brand logo. Hence, we are told:
By linking the word Chi, and the fire symbol together, Chi Kitchen plays on the way fire can be converted into energy.
Although the coconut came through nicely for this Virgin Colada, the pineapple was far too subtle for our liking. The consistency, however, was good – nice and creamy – just as it should be.
The lychee flavour in the Director Special was strong and distinct. A good drink, but nothing that knocked our hair back.
The Chi Kitchen Paradise was nothing special. With the mango barely discernible, this juice drink was underwhelming.
The Virgin Mojito was average at best. It was far too minty; and while this delivered a sharp, tangy kick, it was begging for some lime to counter all that tartness.
In all, and in spite of appearances, the drinks were disappointing, made worse by the addition of thin straws. When there’s crushed ice involved, it’s safer to go with larger straws. The last thing one wants in the middle of a long, satiating slurp is for a straw blockage caused by the ice!
This was arguably the dish of the evening.
An unbelievable salad that not just looked the part, but also challenged the taste buds while exciting the palate. This is probably as close as you’re going to get to a salad taking you on a journey across the six taste sensations, and all the food textures known to man.
There was plenty of the duck juices resting at the bottom of the plate, so be sure to give this a quick toss to really set things in motion before diving in.
What we had here were crispy duck pieces combining perfectly with large, sweet junks of watermelon that lifted the entire dish through the roof. Add to that the earthiness of the Thai herbs beautifully coated in the fatty juices of the duck, as well as the salty crunchiness of the cashew nuts, and you end up with a salad you’ll be dreaming about for days, nay, weeks to come thereafter.
These baby squids were deliciously addictive – crunchy with the sea salt coming through really well.
These deep fried tempura Popcorn Shrimps – crunchy on the outside and perfectly soft and succulent on the inside – were coated in a pleasantly light wasabi mayonnaise with a few pomegranate seeds scattered here, there and thither.
The addition of the seeds were, in our opinion, a touch of genius since the little burst of sweetness, we felt, went really well with the subtle heat generated by the wasabi.
First thing’s first; not only were these a sight to behold, but given the quantity, superbly priced too.
But, what really floored us, however, was, of course, its taste! Stunningly delicious, and as good as we’ve ever had!
Take the Dragon Prawn Tempura Roll. This was as fresh as fresh could be with flavours so complex, and yet so in harmony, that you’ll be left contemplating well after you’ve finished your first mouthful.
And whilst the same was also true of the Chi Kitchen Roll, we’ll end by saying that all these had a good amount of filling, were creamy, and… well, the rest we’re leave for you to decipher and enjoy.
SMALL PLATES - ROBATA BBQ
The char grilled prawns were well cooked, and the lime and chilli sauce very tasty.
Soft, delicious and juicy chicken covered in a sweet peanut sauce with a hint of chilli in the background.
These skewers were comprised of both large and not-so-large pieces of fairly good beef that varied in consistency. Thus, while the larger pieces melted in the mouth, the smaller ones were slightly on the chewy side. The marination had a sweet undertone and was pretty good.
As good as these were, we were in two minds as to whether we’d come back for these again.
The tastes were all subtle with the Mixed Seafood having a slight crunch to it, the Chicken & Prawn a subtle saltiness, and the Prawn an overall good taste.
LARGE PLATES - ROBATA BBQ
These beautifully soft, melt-in-your-mouth, large steak pieces were covered in a scrumptiously semi-thick sweet sauce. Adding the creamy chive mash, the firm green shoots, and earthy mushrooms, left us all very satisfied.
How delightfully satisfying was this large piece of perfectly pouched sea bass? The heat of the chilli was easily tempered by the salty lime sauce to leave a dish that just got better with every succeeding bite. Lovely!
This was arguably the best of the Robata BBQ dishes. The subtle sweet bean sauce was divine; the chops ever so soft, juicy and tender.
Although we could have this again and again and again, the only complaint we had given the dish’s price was with the small portion size.
So far so good; and, as a result, really looking forward to these Large Plate dishes. Unfortunately, high expectations can be a bitch!
This Thai Green Chicken Curry was beautifully creamy, but, that’s all she wrote! Despite the chilli and lemongrass coming through well, this was underwhelming.
And the same was true of this Thai red Duck Curry. Flavour-wise, we were hoping for more. In terms of consistency, this was creamy. And though the sweet and juicy pineapple pieces were needed to lift the bland duck, the entire dish was just screaming for that little extra.
The Sambal Prawns were fairly spicy actually. But yet again, while the prawns were well cooked, the overall dish was far too oily for our palates. Nothing special here.
Not only did this mango crème brûlée have that crème brûlée deal breaker (no pun intended) – a crunchy caramelised sugar topping, but also a soft mango custard with just the right amount of that gelatinous wobble.
What’s more, the sweet and tart mango sorbet was superbly refreshing, with the hot and cold going together really well.
This Chocolate Sphere was not only a fun dessert – delicately melting away as it did with the caramel being poured over the top – but it also tasted fantastic too.
The dark chocolate sphere went really well with this absolutely deliciously thick and velvety caramel sauce. Very sweet though, and very decadently naughty.
- YES/ NO
- CHILD SEATING
Yes, it's central-London-prices expensive you'll have to swallow, but what lets this place down somewhat (and this is a litmus-test that ought to be used to fundamentally judge all pan-Asian eateries) are the curries that quintessentially identify that part of the world, i.e. the green and red Thai curries. In this case, these were average at best.
Nevertheless, there's more than enough on offer here to look past said shortcoming. As such, our recommendation for a three course meal would be: a Virgin Colada, a Duck & Watermelon Salad, a Dragon Prawn Tempura sushi roll, a Lamb Rack, and a Chocolate Sphere for dessert.
Chi Kitchen is also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and offers a 15% discount to local businesses.
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