“Omnia Omnibus Ubique”, Harrods motto, which translates to “All Things for All People, Everywhere”, is a perfect aphorism for the current halal landscape, as we as halal consumers experience an exciting period in the halal chronicles. With the growing variety of halal food now available to us, we really are living in a generation where there is “All Things For all People, Everywhere”.
Chai Wu, one of this years highly anticipated new openings, is a contemporary Chinese restaurant, located on the fifth floor of Harrods. Inspired by the five elements of Chinese philosophy, the interior exudes understated elegance and refinement. Lavish materials of an assortment of earthy tones, paired with marbled walls, leather seating and an open sushi dining bar, combine to offer fine dining in an intimate setting.
The menu is extensive and elegant, boasting an array of fine ingredients and haute cuisine, in addition to offering some of the most unique and inspiring halal dishes.
Once seated, the exotic aromas from the kitchen started to stimulate our old factory senses; igniting excitement and anticipation as we embarked on our mystical eastern Chai Wu journey.
The first course to arrive was Chai Wu’s speciality half Beijing Duck. Beijing Duck is a staple of Chinese cuisine, however, authentic halal Beijing Duck is some what of a rarity. Furthermore, finding a restaurant that serves halal Beijing Duck in a traditional manner, carved in-situ, is a rare encounter, which made the experience at Chai Wu that more unique.
The Beijing Duck arrived whole, with a glossy dark caramel chocolate tone. The duck was skillfully carved table-side into bite-size pieces, with the remaining pieces sent back to the kitchen to be served as duck fried rice. Chai Wu’s concept allows you to enjoy the duck as two-courses. For the first course the carved duck pieces were served with fresh pancakes and the softest, cushion-like Mantou buns we have come across. The duck meat was succulent, richly umami in flavour and the skin was perfectly golden and crispy with the right amount of fat, further enhancing its flavour. The element of extravagance did not stop there, as an impressive selection of 7 condiments accompanied the duck: hoisin sauce, plum sauce, spicy sauce, garlic infused with truffle and a sugar a pepper concoction. The hoisin sauce, our favourite of the selection was bold, intensely flavoured and married perfectly with the sumptuously succulent duck pieces. The garlic and truffle oil was light and aromatic. The spicy sauce, although flavoursome, the chilli element was a little too subtle for our palate. The sugar and pepper combination was a unique and intriguing combination, and surprisingly worked. The Beijing Duck was undeniably the highlight of our meal which also restored our love for duck.
The Wagyu Puffs topped with black sesame seeds and edible gold were decadently indulgent. The pastry, with its beautifully golden glazed skin, was remarkably soft with a rich buttery taste that caused the pastry to dissolve effortlessly with each mastication, complimenting the well seasoned Wagyu filling whilst not being overpowering.
The Sweet and Sour Chicken with Dragon Fruit was aesthetically stunning in appearance with the glossy vivid orange sweet and sour chicken pieces paired with the vibrantly pink dragon fruit shell. The chicken was crispy with the sweet and sour flavour coming through strongly. The dragon fruit pieces added a cooling and smooth contrast against the crispy coated chicken. The thickness of the crispy coating could benefit from a slight reduction as the chicken meat was slightly masked in the thick batter. However, if you are a lover of the sweet and sour combination, this classic flavour combination was sumptuously intense and delightful.
The Szechuan Chicken was another strikingly colourful dish. The chicken was well seasoned and generously coated in the Szechuan sauce. The heat was subtle, providing a chilli kick, without assaulting the palate. The peppers added a crunchy texture and overall was an enjoyable dish.
The Coconut Prawns consisted of king prawns generously covered in a Malaysian inspired toasted and grated coconut coating and topped with curry leaves. The prawns were of an impressively large size. The grated coconut was a refreshing change from the usual smooth consistency, whilst the toasted coconut flakes added a nutty texture. The coconut flavour stood out as the only prominent flavour, and overall, we just felt something was missing to really lift the dish to a higher level of enjoyment.
The Korean Lobster consisted of lobster meat in a spicy honey sauce. Another visually awe-inspiring and colourful dish presented with the intack Lobster head taking centre piece. The lobster coating was crispy with a hint of honey coming through whilst the chilli component was subtle. Lobster is a delicate and exquisite crustacean and although the dish was very enjoyable, the delicate lobster meat flavour was masked against the crispy coating. The small amount of elixir which settled at the bottom of the plate was simply devine and further enhanced the flavour.
The steamed Wagyu Beef Dumpling topped with caviar was well seasoned with the natural umami taste of the Wagyu beef flavour coming through with each bite and complimented the silky smoothness of the dough. This single parcel of delicate meaty goodness was a surprise hit.
The Mixed Sashimi Platter consisted of fatty tuna, salmon, yellow tail and scallop. The platter arrived on a bed of ice, keeping the fish fresh, with fumes of dry ice adding a touch of theatre to the dining experience. The sashimi was fresh and of a high quality, evident through its vivid colour; the salmon was bright orange in colour with a shiny translucent like appearance, the scallop was beautifully firm and tender and the fatty tuna and yellow fish were shiny and oily in appearance. If you are a lover of sashimi, you will not be disappointed with this platter.
The Wagyu Steak with black pepper sauce had a golden brown and well charred outer layer, sliced into thin pieces, revealing a beautifully medium rare centre, with scatters of sea salt allowing you to adjust the seasoning to your preference. The steak was cooked perfectly, pink and juicy in the centre with a slight crispy charred skin. The skin was unfortunately slightly on the oily side. If you prefer your steak slathered in sauce, this would not be the right steak for you. This was a delicate steak dish with minimal seasoning, focusing on enjoying the natural rich umami flavour of the Wagyu beef, which is how steak should be enjoyed. The steak was cooked and seasoned very well, but slightly marred by its oily exterior.
The Lamb with Szechuan sauce was a dainty and elegant dish in appearance with the bones perfectly ‘frenched’, presented upright with a side of Szechuan sauce and lime wedge. Each cutlet was of a generous thickness, and cutting through revealed a juicy pink centre, much to our delight. The cutlet was minimally seasoned with a squeeze of lime adding sharpness against the subtle spicy Szechuan sauce and overall was a delicate and delightful dish to devour.
The Giant Tiger Prawn dish arrived with the prawn meat removed, lightly wok fried and presented back in its shell. Again, another visually striking dish which certainly catches your attention. The prawn meat was minimally seasoned allowing you to enjoy the delicate meat pieces ‘au natural’ without complicated and unnecessary additions masking the flavour. The side of spicy sauce was present to add an additional flavour dimension if needed.
There is one thing Chai Wu know how to do perfectly and that is deliver captivatingly attractive dishes that set your tastebuds alight. The Prawn Tempura California Sushi Roll boasted an impressive array of ingredients, adding numerous taste and textures that no one two bite was quite the same. You could distinguish the flavour of the meaty lightly battered prawns, soft avocado and chives. The rice was soft and held the rolls in shape. The shichimi powder added a hint of spiciness, whilst the green tobiko added a crunchy texture. The unagi sauce and yuzu mayonnaise further enhanced the flavour explosion in each bite.
The Wagyu Tarter was visually minimalist with an intriguing addition of Chinese pear. Preparation of the Wagyu tarter occurred table-side; with the egg and Chinese pear mixed with the meat. Wagyu tarter is somewhat a delicacy for halal consumers as it is rare to come across. It is also one of those dishes which will either agree or disagree with your palate. As much as we appreciated the delicacy, in our case, the latter was true.
For drinks we ordered the Chai Wu Beauty and Berries Garden, both from the non-alcholic cocktail section. The Chai Wu Beauty, just as its name was a beauty. The prominent flavour was lychee and was a refreshing and inspiring concoction owing to the addition of condense milk, which was a fitting accompaniment to a delicate and refined meal. The Berries Garden, although refreshing and light, did not achieve the same lasting impression as the Chai Wu Beauty.
There is a saying that when visiting Beijing there are two things one must do; visit the great wall of China and eat Beijing Roast Duck. When it comes to visiting Harrods for your culinary delectation, there are two things one must do; visit Chai Wu and order their Beijing Roast Duck, which was undeniably the highlight of our meal and one of those dishes that will forever leave a lasting impression, not only because it was sumptuously delicious but also because of its rarity to halal consumers. That combined with their extensive menu, boasting some unique delicacies that are not an every day encounter for halal consumers, is what makes Chai Wu an exclusive and memorable experience.
Eating as we know is a multi-sensory experience; our eyes are the first to experience the culinary journey. A key attraction to the Chai Wu experience is the optically alluring dishes that are skilfully crafted to deliver vivid, vibrant and texturally diverse cuisines that are nothing short of visually dazzling.
Chai Wu, although is a modern Chinese restaurant, the menu does offer Pan-Asian dishes. The cost for a meal for two at Chai Wu is undoubtedly on the high-end, but the cost does take into account its hedonistically luxurious location, high quality ingredients and culinary expertise in preparing the dishes, and the prices are comparative to other fine-dining establishments in Harrods.
Whether you fancy a modern take on Chinese food or luxury sushi/ sashimi, or you are simply a halal food adventurer who is not afraid to push the boundaries with your tastebuds and try something different, Chai Wu is unquestionably somewhere you would want to visit, especially for that special occasion.
Disclaimer: We were invited to review Chai Wu.