When you visit a restaurant that is self-proclaimed ‘pan-asian’, your first thoughts might be how likely it would be for the restaurant to perfect the culinary complexities of the vast variety in cooking styles of Asian countries. In the case of Chi Kitchen in Debenhams on Oxford Street, worry not because the restaurateur behind this project is none other than Eddie Lim, who owns Mango Tree and Chai Wu in Harrods.
Chi means energy in Chinese, whilst the symbol they have chosen for their logo means fire in Chinese and there are plenty of both in the restaurant from the energetic staff to the fiery robata grills. There is plenty of marble, timber and leather in the design of the restaurant to create a harmonious environment that is in tune with the five elements: fire, water, metal, wood and earth.
The only problem with dining at Chi Kitchen is the sheer amount of choices on offer; you might be spending a considerable amount of time deliberating on what to order. Their fresh sushi selection is definitely worthy of consideration, but their carefully grilled skewers are some of the highlights from the starters section. Whether it is Wagyu beef or chicken, they have been lightly cooked to ensure the meat remains tender and juicy and the skewers of meat are well-seasoned using sauces such as sweet soy or lemongrass and coriander along with peanut sauce.
You eat at a restaurant like Chi Kitchen because you want to experience exotic, unusual combinations. Their duck and watermelon salad certainly fits into that category. It is a light summer time dish with fragrant Thai herbs and crunchy cashew nuts.
There are likewise numerous signature main course dishes to consider: the grilled sea bass dish being one of them. Unlike western preparation of fish dishes which tends to be more one-dimensional, the version here is an explosion of flavours having been marinated with lemongrass and garlic and served with lime and seafood sauce. The only thing it was crying out for is a bowl of steamed rice to soak up the sauces.
Our favourite dish was the Korean steak, which was classic sirloin served with a heavenly Korean bulgogi sauce and a sumptuous bed of chive mash. The meat is as well cooked as any top steak house in London but infinitely more flavoursome with that added touch of bulgogi. I suspect in future, restaurants will be offering bulgogi alongside the classics like béarnaise and barbecue sauce.
If you have any room left for desserts, they have added oriental touches to traditional desserts like mango cheesecake and green tea crème brûlée.
If you want to celebrate special occasions like Korean Thanksgiving or Chinese New Year or simply to rest those tired shopping legs, Chi Kitchen is a great choice to consider.