Pan Asian at Chi Kitchen Oxford Street

Yes, this is the second Pan Asian restaurant in less than a month, following my visit to Too Too Moo Whetstone at the beginning of the year.

Chi Kitchen is located inside Debenhams’ flagship Oxford Street store, though it does have its own external entrance on the corner of Henrietta Place and Marylebone Lane. If you enter via Oxford Street (into the shop), be aware that the restaurant is poorly signposted but you’ll find it at the far back left corner of the ground floor.

The restaurant website describes the evolution of the Chi Kitchen brand as follows:

The brand Chi Kitchen was created after much thought. The word Chi means energy in Chinese. Our aim, therefore, is to build a brand that is not only going to offer great food, but also provide good energy to Debenhams customers, as well as the new customers that Chi Kitchen will attract. We have also chosen a Chinese symbol “” , which again has a strong meaning… it means Fire. We have managed to link the word Chi and the symbol together, as fire can be converted into energy. Fire also relates directly to our restaurant, as we are using a robata grill in all sites.

What drew me to accept an invitation to review was the knowledge that the menu has been created by MasterChef 2014 winner, Ping Coombes, who wowed with her Malaysian cooking, and has since been working in the industry as a chef and consultant. The menu is described as South-East Asian with influences from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese and cuisines.

Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (13)

Despite being inside a department store, once you are inside Chi Kitchen it feels like a standalone restaurant. Tables are well spaced out, and we have lots of room at our comfy dark turquoise leather banquette by the window. I like the fact that there is plenty of warm wood and soft leather; it’s a modern, light and attractive space. The kitchen is open, which I always appreciate, and lighting is reasonable – no doubt glorious during the summer when plenty of natural light will surely spill in through ground to ceiling windows.

First, drinks. Regular (and later, lychee) Mojitos are both decent, though a touch heavy on the ice to drink ratio for my tastes.

Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (1 of 12) Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (3 of 12)

The menu sections feel rather too numerous. Snacks, Raw, Maki Rolls, Dim Sum, Small Plates and Small Plates Robata all present small dishes. Mains are listed under Robata BBQ, Noodles & Rice, Signatures and Soup Noodles. Even sides are divided between Vegetables and Sides sections, despite all items within Vegetables being side portions. It’s not a big deal but makes the menu more confusing to navigate and understand.

From the Raw section we choose Salmon tartare (£7.95).

The theatrical way it’s served – with a pot of dry ice on the corner of the serving plate billowing thick white clouds of fog – is fun but feels out of keeping with both the menu and the casual comfortable vibe of the restaurant.

The flavours of this dish are good – the dressing on the salmon in particular is delicious and I like the avocado base – but the big let down is the quality of salmon; there are lots of chewy edges to the chopped cubes. A good cut of sashimi grade salmon would have a far silkier texture.

Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (2 of 12) Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (4 of 12)

Popcorn shrimp (£8.50), from Small Plates, is one of our two favourites of the meal though the portion is far smaller than it seems on arrival, especially given the price; five single-bite battered prawns are served over a pile of lettuce that makes the portion look more generous on arrival. The shrimp are tossed in a delicious wasabi mayonnaise and the burst of sweet-sharp pomegranate seeds appeals visually and in the mouth. Best eaten fast while they are hot and before the tempura crunch is lost.

The menu doesn’t specify which cut of beef is used for the Beef kushiyaki (£9.95 for two skewers) but unfortunately the lovely flavour of the unagi sauce is let down by very chewy meat. Virtually every piece on my friend’s skewer and more than half of mine take far more chewing than is ideal. I don’t like pappy beef but this is too far in the opposite direction and not acceptable at this price point.

Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (5 of 12)

Our first main course is Szechuan beef (£15.95). This is delicious, with punchy flavours, a decent but not overwhelming chilli heat and beautifully tender beef (specified on the menu as sirloin). It’s quite saucy, so I’d advise ordering some rice as one of your sides.

Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (7 of 12)

Our waitress recommends the King crab ho fun noodles (£18.95) and it’s certainly tasty, though I would expect a lot more crab for just shy of twenty pounds! Once again, the dish has good flavours, plus a nice mix of textures and some nice heat. The let down is that it’s served far too cold – the noodles are lukewarm and the crab on top is cold. Temperature aside, this is a decent dish and we enjoy it.

Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (6 of 12) Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (10 of 12)

Our two vegetables sides are both enjoyable. The Miso aubergine (£7.95) – a cross-sectional slice of aubergine rather than the more traditional (and generous) half – is soft, sweet from the miso marinade and tasty. The Baby pak choi (£5.50) is a touch overcooked but with bags of flavour in the garlic sauce and a touch of crunch left in the thicker stems.

Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (9 of 12) Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (8 of 12)

Our other favourite from the meal is Roti (£5.95 for 2 pieces), served with Malaysian curry sauce. The two flatbreads are superbly soft and flaky and oh my goodness, the curry sauce is sensational! In this one dish I finally see what the fuss is about when it comes to Ping Coombes’ way with South East Asian flavours! If they sold bottles of this sauce, I’d be first in the queue.

Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (1 of 2) Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (2 of 2)

When it comes to dessert, the one I really want to try – Baked green tea Alaska (£7.95) – is not available, so we order two others to share.

The Chocolate sphere (£7.50) has become a bit of a dessert cliché these days – two semi-spherical chocolate shells that are melted at the table by the pouring of hot sauce, to reveal the contents within. In this case, the caramel sauce is not hot enough and although the chocolate eventually slumps, it never melts away for that showy reveal. Inside is a slightly strange mix of white chocolate, raspberry and blueberries, plus the dark chocolate and caramel sauce. It’s alright, but a little too sweet and doesn’t quite hit the mark for me.

Chi Kitchen London © Kavey Eats (11 of 12)

Mango crème brulee (£6.95) is certainly intensely mango in flavour and very tasty. Texture-wise, it’s more of a silky cream like a posset, than a set custard but that’s not a big quibble. It’s served with a mango sorbet, whereas I think a contrasting flavour would be more interesting.

There’s a lot to like at Chi Kitchen. The flavours are certainly good, and I don’t get that jack of all trades master of none feeling that can sometimes occur in restaurants covering multiple cuisines. But there are a few missteps, both in quality of ingredients and in the serving temperature of a couple of dishes. Prices seem excessive for several of the dishes, even taking into account the Oxford Street department store location.

If I went back, it would be for those heavenly roti with curry sauce.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Chi Kitchen.

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46 Comments to "Pan Asian at Chi Kitchen Oxford Street"

  1. Fiona Maclean

    I’ve been considering trying this place out. Good tips on the dishes that worked and those that didn’t – and I love the look of the miso aubergine!

    Reply
  2. Anne

    The food pictures look amazing. It’s just a shame that the standard wasn’t what you were expecting, especially for the prices.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Some dishes we thought were great, but the quality of ingredients let a couple of dishes down, and the prices seemed high for some dishes.

    Reply
  3. Dorene

    Fantastic pics, I couldn’t stop staring at the King crab ho fun noodles (even if they were cold) Thanks for your deliciousness.

    Reply
  4. kaveyeats

    I long for the Japanese department stores, you can always find good, often excellent, restaurants in department stores there, both within the store and on a separate restaurant floor in the same building!

    Reply
  5. Jennifer

    It all looks delicious, but sounds like it was a bit pricey for the portion size and the quality since there wasn’t much crab in the noodle dish. Appreciate your honesty!

    Reply
  6. Megan Jerrard

    Thanks for the honest review – I love how most of the food is artfully presented, and I do like the mission to build a brand that is not only going to offer great food, but also provide good energy to those who dine there. I would love to visit and enjoy a meal, the diverse range of South East Asian influences is particularly appealing. Noted on the dishes which miss the mark a bit – I think it’s pretty rare to find a restaurant which gets everything right honestly, but maybe they could take the advice on hand and lower the prices on a couple of their menu items.

    Overall, you’ve convinced me I need to go!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, that’s a nice mission statement and overall, we liked the meal. I agree that many restaurants don’t deliver a faultless meal though I do feel there is a little room for improvement here. On the pricing, who knows, I imagine they have targeted it accurately to their primary audience, who must be willing to pay it!

    Reply
  7. Chrysoula

    Love your honest review, I would love to visit and taste the Szechuan beef and those fantastic desserts. Your chocolate ball might not have melted as it should but it looks delicious.

    Reply
  8. Camilla Hawkins

    Wow, what clean, fresh looking dishes which is what Iove about Asian cuisine, there’s no stodge just super sharp flavours paired with top notch ingredients. Would love to eat here!

    Reply
  9. Elizabeth

    What an utterly gorgeous place! You are so, so lucky to have access so such a wide variety of eateries. I have food envy, lol! I’ll have to visit this place next time I’m in London.

    Reply
  10. Jenna

    Yum! Looks like a delicious meal. I would love to try the Szechuan beef and the Roti. The desserts look really great too. Thanks for the heads up on the skewers–I don’t like chewy meat either so I’d probably skip that, but the restaurant looks great overall!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Those two are a good choice, the beef was tender and delicious and that roti with curry sauce was amazing!

    Reply
  11. Mar Pages

    It seems as though more and more department store restaurants are moving to fine-dining or a more upmarket scale. So these days, people actually visit the mall just to eat at a restaurant. The theatrical serving at Chi Kitchen sounds enticing. Sounds like you had some ups and downs, but overall a great foodie experience!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Yes, I agree, it’s definitely changing. When I was a kid it was always unadventurous school dinner type food, now it’s becoming more common to offer international cuisine, and decorate the space as a charming, and standalone style restaurant. And more pricy, yeah that too!

    Reply
  12. kaveyeats

    Thanks Michelle, and yes, flaky roti is so good, and the Chi Kitchen one (and accompanying sauce) is one of the best I’ve had. I actually went to a Malaysian restaurant a few days later and though their food was incredible, I would say that the Chi Kitchen roti and sauce were actually better.

    Reply
  13. Elisa

    Beautiful pictures, everything looks very delicious! Personally I’d be tempted to try those Popcorn shrimps, now I am curious!

    Reply

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