Chi Kitchen Pulls Out The Pan-Asian Stops, Oxford Street

07 Jan 2017

Hunger for Pan-Asian cannot be sated. Rice, noodles, dim-sum and soups are keeping bellies full and man a business thriving. It can be found in high-end restaurants, dingy street stalls and cute cafes, it's even hit the conspicuous setting of the Oxford Street Debenhams ground floor.

Memories of bleak, barely breathing supermarket cafes immediately come to mind, where the pastries sit waiting to be put out of their misery and the only thing more jaded than the coffee is your parents, who have spent all day on busy high streets with four children. Fear not though, it’s apparent that Chi Kitchen oozes class as soon as you step into the main eating area and at £28pp for the set menu, you couldn’t and wouldn’t say no.

We were greeted with cocktails, the highlight of which was the Sweet Snow, a mixture of Kahlua, milk, cinnamon and cognac, ceremoniously set on fire before serving.

The restaurant had a few nooks and crannies reserved for those who associate culinary experience with luxury. With a champagne bar and private tables, Chi Kitchen didn’t try and overwork any kind of Asian decoration. Instead, taking inspiration from the elements. The darkness of the colour scheme and dimmed lights married together like the perfect melodies from your favourite tune.

It quickly becomes clear that the food selection isn’t quite as Pan-Asian as the name and branding might suggest. Even so, the small but important idiosyncrasies of any Asian restaurant – the rice sticking together with ease, the spices being recognisable but not necessarily obvious – were all executed with perfection.

The Chilli Prawns and Fried Sweet Potato were dangerously moreish, especially when accompanied by baby pink berry mayonnaise. However, the Turkey Sliders were a little on the dry side – it’s the only appetizer that wouldn’t have been missed.

Turkey Insal, Choo Chee Prawns (which were huge and the absolute highlight), Yuzu Salmon and sweet, sticky rice and snow peas arrived for main. As with the starters, each dish made an absolute show of itself, presented beautifully on wooden boards and china.

Dessert came in the form of a chocolate sphere. As I said before, they were happy to step outside their Pan Asian identity, creating a ball of chocolate, with added ice cream and melted caramel sauce that was absolutely stunning. And despite being ambiguous in its cultural identity, the dish was presented in a way that felt like a natural sequel to the courses that preceded. Nothing felt out of place, nothing forced, just flavour and taste taking centre stage as it should.

Chi Kitchen is on the tenuous bridge between high class and accessible, affordable dining. It’s created the kind of atmosphere diners ask of this type of restaurant nowadays. Nothing too showy, or out of place, they just do what they do, really well. And best of all? You’d never ever, ever, guess you were on the ground floor of Debenhams.

Lindsey

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