Even with halal restaurants becoming more prevalent, it can still be difficult to discover halal eateries that offer something a little out of the ordinary, a certain je ne sais quoi that leaves a lasting impression.
Executive Head Chef Ian Pengelley, under the direction of acclaimed restaurateur Eddie Lim have strived to achieve this very feat by offering the Muslim Community a taste of the exotic East in the form of Pan Chai.
Pan Chai is a Pan-Asian restaurant established inside the world renowned Harrods, within the Food Hall. Established in 2011, Pan Chai provides a unique concept of combining the menu and service of a fine dining establishment with the ambience of casual dining.
The restaurant has a sleek and modern design, with a striking jade green marble wall, which invoked nostalgic memories of the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz. There are 22 leather bar stools that surround the open plan kitchen so diners can witness the chefs’ culinary expertise.
From the platter section of the menu we ordered the “Omekase Platter”, which consisted of sashimi, sushi, tamago and sushi rolls. The Omekase Platter made a theatrical entrance, with the smoke from the dry ice prompting sounds of awe and excitement from the diners. The dish was outstanding, with the fish being ethereally fresh, with no negative piscine aftertaste. However, if you are not a raw fish enthusiast, then the soy sauce adds a vigorously salty, rich flavour that masks the taste of fish. The tamago, which is egg, was sweet and firm, adding a pleasurable texture against the delicate, smooth fish.
From the grill section of the menu, the first dish we ordered was the “Chicken Teriyaki”. The chicken was moist and supple due to the meat being chicken thigh; with a firm and crispy outer layer due to the thigh being prepared with a blowtorch and then lightly marinated in a delicate sweet glaze. The chicken was pleasant, but was subtle in flavour, however married together with the teriyaki sauce, which was sapid, rich and bold in piquancy; the combination brought jubilation to our tastebuds.
The “Rendang Daning” (Beef Rendang), which was slow cooked beef curry with coconut milk and Awana herbs was aromatically enticing and presented exquisitely. The beef was extremely tender and succulent, dissolving with ease with each mastication. The prominent flavour was lime, which made the dish citrusy, zesty and slightly bitter for our palate. The dish was executed immaculately, but we would have preferred a range of other flavours, possibly some heat or sweetness to give the dish a bit more dimension.
The next dish to arrive was the “Alaskan King Crab Leg” served with Korean spicy sauce. The crab was prepared impeccably, as texturally it was supple, yet meaty and once again fresh, as the high quality ingredients used to prepare the dish were clearly evident. This was one of our favourite dishes, as the Korean spicy sauce was packed full of molten heat, striking the palate with its addictively fiery chilli, but then slowly diffusing the heat by caressing the gustatory cells with a sweet and savoury aftertaste.
If you are a steak connoisseur, then how can you resist ordering the “Wagyu Beef Bulgogi”? Which is grilled sirloin wagyu beef, served with Korean barbecue sauce, garnished with Japanese mushrooms, asparagus and steamed rice. The aroma of the steak was sublime, along with the presentation; as the dish arrived smothered in delectable barbecue ambrosia and adorned with edible yellow flower petals. The seared steak provided a grilled, crisp and firm outer layer, yet moist, succulent and pink in the middle. However, certain segments of the steak were slightly chewy and required more tenderising. The sauce was sweet and sticky, conjugating well with the umami taste of the smoky, meaty wagyu beef, which was lifted further in piquancy due to the intense woody flavour from the mushrooms, and the fresh and green taste of the asparagus. The dish bordered on being superlative; only let down slightly by the chewy, dry texture of certain portions of the steak. Nonetheless, still an enjoyable dish in terms of flavour.
The final item ordered from the grill section of the menu was the “Whole Canadian Live Lobster”, grilled in Korean spicy sauce. The appearance of the dish was dramatic, with the erupting plumes of smoke stimulating a sensation of wonderment, yet the lobster’s legs resembling “tentacles” made the dish look spine-chillingly haunting. The Korean sauce was once again sensationally fiery, with a sweet aftertaste, due to the sauce containing apple and pear juice, so to provide respite from the chilli heat; truly divine. The lobster itself was unfortunately over cooked, so certain sections were rubbery in texture and tough to swallow. The lobster itself was fresh, with a clean briny aroma and no unfavourable odour of ammonia. With regards to taste, the dish had the correct ingredients to set the tastebuds alight, however the preparation of the lobster let the dish down marginally.
Lastly from the Pan Chai Signature dish section we selected the “Harrods Special”, which were snow crab, avocado and spicy mayonnaise rolls, topped with chopped seared scallops, orange and black caviar, and spring onions. The orange and black caviar were sumptuously delightful as each bite of the sushi rolls caused the caviar to pop and burst with elixir. The spicy mayonnaise had a tepid piquant, and therefore needed to be more prodigious in flavour. However, heat from the wasabi, creaminess from the avocado, hint of spice from the ginger, meatiness from the fresh seared scallop, all combined together to deliver a satisfying taste sensation.
The experience offered at Pan Chai is unquestionably exceptional and unique; as who would have thought that you could enjoy a fine dining experience in a Food Hall of a department store? But Harrods is not just your run of the mill, ordinary department store, and neither is Pan Chai just any other prosaic food outlet. The glamour and decadence that is associated with Harrods is equally present at Pan Chai. The service is exceptional, as you would expect from a haute cuisine establishment, but the turnaround of food is as fast as Virgin Broadband.
In terms of the cost, as a result of the fine ingredients used in the dishes, the culinary skills required to produce the fare and the location of the restaurant, the prices are on the high-end of the scale.
The dishes, while some fared better than others, still offered an adventurous food journey which any halal food connoisseur would relish. So be part of the evolving halal food chronicles and let Pan Chai guide you on an exotic far East experience.
Disclaimer: We were invited to review Pan Chai