Chi Kitchen, located right behind Debenhams at Oxford Street, is a halal contemporary Pan-Asian restaurant that offers a range of Asian flavours. Their menu is influenced by Thai, Malaysian, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine – so it’s going to be fusion of the best flavours from the Far East. Recently, for this summer, the executive chef Ping Coombes has launched a summer special drinks menu featuring some of the most popular South-East Asian quenchers.
Ping comes from a Malaysian background and was crowned winner of BBC’s Masterchef in 2014. I am so happy for this summer freshers menu because these are flavours that are close to my roots too. This exciting menu includes:
- Kopi Jelly (Malaysian Iced Coffee with Grass Jelly)
- Jelly Rose Bandung (Iced Rose Syrup with Milk and Grass Jelly)
- Green Breeze (Sparkling Ice Cream Soda)
- Frozen Fire (Sparkling Iced Rose Syrup)
- Soya Jelly (Iced Soya Milk with Grass Jelly and a touch of Coconut Cream)
- Cha Yen (Thai Iced Tea).
- Cendol (a famous South East Asian dessert)
Kopi is Malaysian Coffee, and jelly means Grass Jelly. This iced coffee really brought me back to home. The aroma and full-bodied flavour hits that nostalgic taste of home. There’s this richness and natural sweet caramel flavour that makes it so addictive. The funny thing is, my first reaction to the coffee was actually how much it resembles a Hong Kong style one rather than specifically Malaysian. Our cultures do influence one another a lot so it’s not surprising – it was just a really good hit of home to me.
Despite not being a fan of grass jelly myself, I do actually enjoyed it in this one. The jelly adds a lovely texture to the drink and I like how it wasn’t too chunky so that it blends well with the kopi. It is a nice flavour combo where the sweetness of the kopi balances with the mild bitterness of the grass jelly.
This Cha Yen, a.k.a Thai Iced Milk Tea, is definitely my favourite one from the menu. Not only did this give me a nostalgic taste of home, it also sent us this really satisfying sensation to the taste buds. The flavours of the strongly brewed Ceylon Tea really popped in this drink. The richness and intensity were simply spot on. That rich full-bodied texture was what gave all that satisfaction. With the use of evaporated milk for the tea, it also creates a velvety texture to sip from. Visually it has this vibrant orange-y colour which is very fitting to the summery theme. I highly recommend ordering this if you’re trying out this summer freshers menu!
Cendol is a famous dessert from South East Asia which involves Coconut Milk, Pandan, Palm Sugar, Red Beans and crushed ice. You get to choose from having it as a drink or a dessert – and we got it as a dessert as recommended by the staff at the Chi Kitchen.
At first we felt we couldn’t taste the flavours fully with the tiny teaspoons as it’s quite runny. So we then decided to put our straws in and enjoyed it as a drink. I absolutely love an iced coconut milk dessert and this was no exception. I used to be rather hesitant over Cendol because of the worm-like green rice flour jellies. With that, I guess it’s a good thing that they didn’t have many of that at Chi Kitchen’s take on this classic Malaysian dessert.
Though the coconut milk in overall was relatively runny, it kept the drink light instead of an overloading richness that’s typical in coconut based foods. The crushed ice and the sweet red beans then really helped to add texture to it. All in all I think it was very well balanced and it came out more refreshing than I anticipated.
The Food at Chi Kitchen
To go with the drinks, we of course also ordered some food. Their food menu is really vast. They offer such a wide variety of Asian dishes which was making it so hard for us to choose! Luckily our waitress was really helpful and gave us a bunch of recommendations – and we followed:
Roast Wagyu Beef Puffs
I must say my eyes lit up immediately seeing this on the menu. The word Wagyu never fails to stand out on a menu. While typically you see Wagyu served as a steak, for this dish, it’s honey glazed roasted Wagyu beef puffs with sesame seeds.
This dish tasted like a classic dim sum from home. The flaky and crispy Chinese pastry enveloped that hot freshly cooked meat, with steaming letting out when we cut it open. In terms of flavours, the pastry was pretty on point. As for the beef, we felt we couldn’t exactly taste that premium quality you’d expect of a Wagyu. The beef was well seasoned with Chinese flavours and very tender in texture. It was in overall incredibly lovely to savour – the only thing is you don’t need a Wagyu to create those flavours. Since Wagyu is highlighted on the menu, it just makes you have a higher expectation. We just thought it’s unnecessary. There’s a lot of Chinese flavours and seasoning going on so it’s just hard to make out the real beefy quality of the Wagyu.
Dim Sum Platter
In this Dim Sum Platter, you get a taster of all five dim sums they have on the menu by serving one of each. This includes the prawn dumpling, prawn and chive dumpling, chicken and prawn siu mai , mixed seafood dumpling, and the Wagyu beef siu mai.
Normally, I love my dumplings and am not as crazy for siu mai. However, in this case, I adored the siu mai more than the dumplings. The favourite one is the chicken and prawn siu mai – it was a very nice hit of flavours and the shrimp roe on top really elevated the whole thing. As for the Wagyu beef siu mai, again as mentioned above, we felt the featuring of Wagyu is unnecessary. Nevertheless, the al dente texture and all the seasonings highly reminded us of another classic dim sum – steamed beef balls. We don’t normally make siu mai with beef so we thought it’s innovative and still have that traditional taste from a classic dim sum.
The dumplings were decent. As for why I feel they’re comparatively underwhelming, one is because of the texture of the fillings. For instance in the classic prawn dumpling, we normally have this firm al dente texture inside but this one was just lacked that sturdiness. On the bright side, the skin was done beautifully. It was soft and translucent, with the right amount of thickness and al dente texture.
This dish is a beef steak that’s topped with Korean Bulgogi sauce and served with chive mash. As usual, we ordered our steak medium rare. The steak was nice and tender, though it seemed more medium than medium rare. The quality was good and had a subtle earthy flavour to it.
The whole dish was pretty saucy as the Bulgogi sauce was all spread all over the steak. The Bulgogi sauce carries quite a sweet flavour but at the same time with a nice kick of spice to tease the palate. I felt the flavours of the Bulgogi sauce has a good Japanese influence because of the level of sweetness it possesses. It did confuse us a bit as it really felt like an in-between.
The most memorable part of this dish though is the chive mash. The chive mash was just really interesting and was an absolute delight to taste. Flavour-wise it goes really well with the sweet and spicy Bulgogi sauce. In terms of texture, I felt it’s not as filling as the typical mash. I really liked this fusion concept of blending the East and the West together but without creating something too over the top. This chive mash was just the perfect side component that rounds up the flavours of the whole dish. It’s humble but leaves a remarkable impression.
On the menu, they have a noodle section and a separate one just for Laksas. They offer the Malaysian version, Singaporean version, as well as Tom Yum Laksa to choose from. The Singaporean one is names as the Chi Kitchen Laksa, which our waitress recommended. But unfortunately, it wasn’t available on the evening we visited so we followed the alternative suggestion from the waitress and went for the Malaysian one.
In this laksa, there’s the spicy broth, vermicelli noodles, and various toppings such as tofu, prawns, and fish balls. The soup was very creamy and rich. Flavour-wise, it’s surely tasty but the flavours didn’t exactly pop out either. Nevertheless, there’s was a good kick of spice and heat from the sambal, which actually took us by surprise. The sambal rounded up all the flavours and help give character to the dish. But even with that it still lacked a wowing factor and needed something extra to give an elevation.
Last but not least, we had the instagram-famous Chocolate Sphere as dessert to wrap up our meal at the Chi Kitchen. This is one of those theatrical dessert where the sphere is supposed to split open and melt at the touch of hot salted caramel sauce.
Was it effective? Unfortunately it wasn’t as dramatic as anticipated – you can watch the whole process on my Instagram here. Anyway, the chocolate sphere melted under the warm touch of the caramel sauce and revealed the vanilla ice cream and fruits inside. The word to put it together is anti-climatic. Apart from gimmick, it just seemed to be a mediocre dish. I did enjoy the velvet texture of the melted chocolate that’s mixed with the caramel sauce. It’s not overly sweetened, which is great, but everything else was just underwhelming.
All in all, our experience at the Chi Kitchen has been an interesting one. The summer freshers were certainly refreshing but we’re both not particularly impressed with the food. It was decent but we expected more from them. Nonetheless, there were still certainly moments of nostalgia and we got a nice tease of taste of home.
If you want a nice South East Asian drink after some shopping at Debenhams, pop into Chi Kitchen for the summer freshers before it ends on 31st August!
Tel: 020 3841 6888
Nearest Underground station: Bond Street