London’s cosmopolitan population is the reason why it is one of the worlds dining Capital for culinary diversity. For Muslim consumers, the variety of London’s phenomenal food scene has been limited. That is until the past few years, where there has been a surge in the number of new restaurants embracing dietary requirements for Muslim consumers, bringing with it a progressive and dynamic change to London’s halal food landscape. Our beloved city is fast becoming one of the world’s Capital for halal gastronomy.
Chi Kitchen, a new addition to the London food scene, is a brand exclusively created for Debenhams by Restauranteur Eddie Lim, the man behind award winning Mango Tree in Belgravia, among others. Chi Kitchen is a Pan Asian restaurant encompassing influences from Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai and Chinese cuisine. The menu, created by Masterchef 2014 winner Ping Coombes is diverse and exotic, offering regional classics with a contemporary twist.
The interior is inspired by the 5 elements: Earth, Water, Metals, Fire and Wood, which synthesises together to create a simplistic canteen design concept, with minimalist furnishings, light timber and deep window booths, with dashes of teal adding a spot of colour amongst its predominantly light wooden surrounding. Combined with an open kitchen area, Chi Kitchen offers an inviting informal dining experience.
Chi Kitchen serves a full halal menu, with alcohol also served on the premises. Our meal began with a selection of dishes from the small plates and salad section.
The “Salt and Pepper Baby Squid” was lightly coated and seasoned with sea salt and cracked pepper. The freshness of the baby squid was evident with each bite and the squid itself was cooked well, not too rubbery nor chewy in texture. The batter was light and well seasoned. The dish was completed with the addition of spring onions which introduced a crunchy zing and the freshly cut red chillis added a hint of heat which caressed the tastebuds towards the end. The baby squid on its own was nothing extraordinary, but married with the sweet and spicy chilli sauce, was a match made in heaven.
The “Prawn Spring Rolls” were covered in a thin filo sheet and fried to a light brown colour. The filo pastry was crispy and crunchy whilst holding its form, and the prawn centre was moist and supple. As with the baby squid, the spring rolls on its own did not deliver big bold flavours. However, the sesame coating added nuttiness and an additional taste dimension which was a simple yet insightful addition. Moreover, the accompanying chilli sauce condiment augmented the flavours further.
The “Duck and Watermelon Salad” contained tender and beautifully aromatic shredded duck meat generously coated in a sapid, bold and flavoursome sauce. The watermelon added coolness, with its natural water content hydrating the palate with each bite. The sauce lubricated the meat which further enhanced the duck piquancy. With the nutiness of the cashews, the spiciness from the fresh Thai herbs and the juiciness from the pomegranate seeds, all the various contrasting taste and textures conjugated together so eloquently that this dish was nothing short of an ingeniously thought out and creative fare.
From the small plates robata BBQ grill section we tried the “Wagyu Beef Sliders”. Two miniature beef burgers arrived composed of Australian Wagyu beef patties, sandwiched between two eye catchingly vibrant yellow pickeled daikon, topped with spicy pink mayonnaise and held together by a toasted brioche bun, which had a beautiful golden glaze. Visually the sliders were a showstopper. The brioche bun was light, airy and buttery. The bun to beef ratio meant the Wagyu beef flavour was overpowered by the fresh buttery brioche bun. The patty was juicy and pink in the centre. The pickled daikon was an inspiring addition and added a crunchy dimension to the overall bite. The spicy mayonnaise however, was void of the spicy component, and with the absence of melted gooey cheese or caramelised onions which in our opinion are pre-requisites for a good burger, the burger struggled to deliver that synaesthetic experience that you yearn for from your very first bite. The accompanied chips were standard and nothing too out of the ordinary. Possibly some skinny fries with oriental seasoning or sea salt may have been slightly more inventive and therefore performed better.
From the large plate robata grill section we tried the “Japaneae Wafu Beef Steak”, “Seabass with Chilli and Lime” and the “Korean Steak with Bulgogi Sauce”.
The Japanese Wafu Beef Steak arrived sliced into thin pieces and was visually striking. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare and topped with a drizzle of wafu sauce. The steak was succulent in parts with the rich sweet wafu sauce binding the natural umami taste of the meat, thereby achieving an intensified flavour. The line of sea salt was visually dramatic and a clever approach to allowing you to season the steak to your desired preference. Some parts of the steak were unfortunately chewy but overall this was a delicate dish focusing on the natural umami flavour of the meat.
The Seabass with Chilli and Lime was undeniably a gustatory delight, and a beautiful example of how less is more, as such simple fresh ingredients delivered an intense taste sensation. The chilli and lime flavour erupted simultaneously in the mouth and continued to deliver detonations of flavour with each mastication. The heat from the chilli was subtle and pleasantly lingered on the tastebuds, whilst the lime was fresh and citrusy against a well seasoned and flaky piece of seabass. An expertly balanced dish with intricate flavours.
From the Sushi section we sampled the “Chi Kitchen Roll”, “Dragon Tempura Roll” and “Seared Scallop Roll”. The sushi platters made a dramatic entrance with a fog of dry ice theatrically erupting from the dishes, with sighs of awe and wonderment echoing from the diners. The freshness of the seafood components on each platter was apparent as there was no noisome piscine taste or aroma to diminish our enjoyment.
The Dragon Prawn Tempura Roll and Chi Kitchen roll were exceptionally good. Each bite brought multiple flavours and textures to the palate; heat from the wasabi, crunchiness from the fresh vegetables, hint of spice from the ginger, meatiness from the fresh seared seafood and occasional pops of fish eggs bursting in the mouth releasing their liquid centre.
The Seared Scallop roll did not achieve the same level of gastronomical joy as the former two. The scallop flavour was lost against a thick layer of rice and vegetables and unfortunately was quite insipid.
For drinks we tried the “Chi Kitchen Paradise” and “Director’s Special”, both from the non-alcoholic section.
The Chi Kitchen paradise contained fresh mango, orange, berries and fruit juice. The mango and berry taste could not be identified, as the orange flavour was overpowering, thus the drink tasted more like orange juice rather than a cocktail. The Director’s Special consisted of fresh mango and lychee with grenadine adding a hint of carbonation, lifting the drink to a superb mocktail standard. The lychee added sweetness and each sip was refreshing to the palate.
The dessert tasting platter consisted of “Chocolate Fondant” a scoop each of “Green Tea “and “Salted Caramel Ice Cream”, “Green Tea Creme Brûlée” and “Mango Cheesecake”, which also arrived with fumes of dry ice running through the plate.
The Mango Cheesecake had a mouse like texture which did not quite deliver the exotic taste of mangos. The Salted Caramel Ice Cream was rich in piquancy, yet the green tea flavour was meek. The chocolate fondant was gooey and spongy and one of the better desserts on the platter. The creme brûlée topped with salted cornflake ice cream did not have a hard caramel top as expected of a traditional creme brûlée. However, the centre was creamy with a hint of green tea coming through, which was not overpowering and complimented the creamy vanilla centre. Overall, the dessert platter did not achieve the gustatory impact as the savoury dishes. However, one thing worth noting is that Chi Kitchen continued the Pan-Asian theme through out the components of the dessert platter with green tea being a common occurrence, thus offering a South East Asian twist to classic desserts, which although was not completely to our tastebud, was not unpleasant either.
Chi Kitchen is a little Pan Asian gem that will bring an injection of energy into ones culinary experience. The attention to detail to deliver authentically mastered dishes which have been expertly balanced texturally and piquantly is admirable. There were a handul of dishes which did not successfully deliver the bold exotic flavours associated with Pan Asian food. However, there were also many dishes which were phenomenal and some of the bests we have tried in a long time. From small plates to freshly prepared sushi to expertly cooked meat on a robata grill, whatever your tastebuds, there is a little something for everyone on any budget. The prices are what you would expect for central London, with many dishes reasonably priced and other dishes a little on the steeper side as a reflection of the high quality produce used.
With its location in the heart of one of London’s iconic shopping hubs, Oxford Street, Chi Kitchen offers a relaxed sanctuary to enjoy beautifully crafted Pan Asian food with a contemporary twist, sending you on a culinary journey to experience the beautiful aromas, tastes and textures one has come to love and associate with this region. Follow their Halal Food Journey for an experience that will leave you wanting to come back again and again.
Disclaimer: We were invited by Chi Kitchen to review.