There’s no doubt that Brits love food from the Far East. Which is why there’s always a new place opening up, especially in London. But sometimes they’re not always easily accessible, and it can be quite daunting if you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine.
Chi Kitchen takes all of those worries away. It’s located inside Debenhams on London’s Oxford Street and in the Bullring in Birmingham – one of the UK’s favourite department stores, and has a variety of dishes from all parts of the Far East. So you’re bound to find something you like. Another reason for us Brits to like Chi Kitchen, is that the executive chef is the winner of Masterchef 2014 Ping Coombes. Greg and John absolutely loved her creations on the show and only had good words for her.
The menu is influenced by Thai, Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean food. The interior design is inspired by the five elements: fire, water, wood, earth and metal. So you can tell that a lot of thought is behind Chi Kitchen.
With all that in mind, we had quite a lot to look forward to when we went to have a taste at Chi Kitchen’s London branch.
Aromatic Duck Spring Roll (£5.95) – This is a take on the traditional aromatic duck with pancakes. Shredded duck is wrapped in a spring roll pastry and then deep fried, served with some hoisin sauce. There was the distinctive fragrance from the five spice, which is exactly what you’d expect from aromatic duck. Hoisin sauce can be quite salty so we only dipped the roll slightly into the sauce to get some flavour. The first thing we noticed when biting into the roll, is that the duck itself was quite dry. Even with the five spice seasoning, overall the roll was quite one dimensional in texture – would’ve been better if there was some green served inside or with the roll, like spring onion or cucumber.
Prawn Tempura (£7.95) – visually, the prawn tempura did not look the part. The prawn were pretty small and thin, and the batter didn’t look particularly crispy either. There were two sauces served with the prawns – a spicy truffle mayo and an orange ponzu sauce. Biting into the prawns validated our initial thought – the batter wasn’t crispy and was in fact a little soggy. So a pretty big disappointment, especially for the price we were paying. Having said that, the prawn itself, although not very meaty, tasted delicious! It was a nice juicy and hearty prawn – exactly what you’d expect from a prawn tempura. It’s just a shame the coating didn’t live up to compliment the prawn’s yumminess.
Chicken Satay (£5.95) – our third and final starter was from the robata grill small places section. Chi Kitchen take pride in having a robata grill in both their restaurants. And so they should, since this was by far the best starter out of the three we had. The taste of the Malaysian satay chicken was extremely authentic, full of fragrance and packed with flavours. The barbecue char on the chicken gave it that extra smoky flavour. The chicken thigh was moist, tender and cooked just right. The accompanying satay sauce was sweet, creamy and with the pieces of crushed peanuts was full of texture and flavour. Overall, the Chicken Satay is definitely worth trying, but we would’ve preferred if it had a bit of spice to it.
Miso Aubergine (£7.95) – out of all the side dishes on the menu, the miso aubergine sounded the most interesting. The presentation of the dish was very simple. It was a thickly sliced aubergine, cooked on the grill and glazed with a shiny sauce. Cutting into the aubergine was almost effortless, it was soft like butter. It looked amazing and tasted even better! The aubergine was really juicy and you could really taste the flavours from the grill. The sauce was hearty, sweet yet savoury from the pungent miso flavour. This was a new way to experience aubergine and miso for me – we loved it and highly recommend you give this a go!
Nasi lemak (£15.95) – this is a staple dish in Malaysia, and Chi Kitchen got it right! Which is no wonder, since Ping is a native Malaysian. The dish was presented exactly how you’d expect to get it in Malaysia. The coconut steamed rice accompanied with all the different goodies on the side: the hard boiled egg, salted peanuts, crispy anchovies, cucumber and that sweet spicy sambal paste. And of course, a serving of the Malaysian curry chicken. With all the flavours mixed together to eat, the sensation from the first bite to the last was truly amazing! There are so many different textures and flavours that all merge so well together, with each ingredient complimenting each other. The crunchy nuts and anchovies coated in the sambal sauce worked so well with the soft coconut rice, paired with the egg yolk for extra creaminess. The curry sauce bonded everything together with the moist chicken giving the dish some body. The raw cucumber added a touch of freshness with it’s crunchy texture cutting through the richness of the dish. If there’s one thing Chi Kitchen does well, it’s giving us authentic nasi lemak.
Chicken Katsu Curry Rice (£14.95) – to go with our classic Malaysian main, we thought we’d order a traditional Japanese main too. So we opted for the Chicken Katsu curry with rice. When it arrived, it definitely looked the part. However, as with the prawn tempura, the chicken katsu was also very thin. The chicken was also quite dry, which was another big let down. Having said that, the panko breadcrumb coating on the chicken was seasoned well. The curry was cooked exactly how a Japanese curry should be: fragrant, sweet and spicy flavours all balanced well. Would’ve been better if a thicker piece of chicken was served or if Japanese rice was used instead of long grain rice. So, overall a pretty average chicken katsu curry rice.
Passion Fruit Cheesecake (£5.95) – the cheesecake itself was actually not very sweet at all but it did have a strong passion fruit taste. The sharpness from the passion fruit was just right, but the cheesecake biscuit base didn’t have much texture and was a bit soggy.
Mango Creme Brulee (£6.95) – a classic french desert with a tropical touch. This was incredibly creamy. The scoop of mango sorbet served on top was really refreshing and combined with the crispy caramel sugar and the creme brulee itself was excellent. Absolutely yummy!
Overall, our experience at Chi Kitchen was pretty good. The staff were really nice. The overall atmosphere there was also pretty good and it was a nice environment to have a decent meal. Some dishes were great, but some were average. So we’re going to give Chi Kitchen a total of 4 yums as it’s worth a try. If you book through Open Table, you’ll also get 50% off your bill – but hurry though, this offer is only until 10th August 2016! Click on this link for more details: http://www.opentable.co.uk/chi-kitchen-oxford-circus#
Address: Ground Floor Debenhams, 334-348 Oxford Street, London, W1C 1JG
Telephone: 020 3841 6888
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 7.30am – 11pm (last order 10.15pm), Sunday 11.30am – 10pm (last order 9.15pm)