there are some types of food that i know i will love before i eat them, and one of those types of food is pan-asian bbq. like actually, i've never met a bbq that i didn't like, so when the opportunity arose to check out london's chi kitchen on the ground floor of debenhams, it took not barely a look over the menu to decide whether i'd like it or not; i saw the heading "robata bbq" and i was in. simple as that. i know what i like.
having not really seen much of brennan since she's been back from her aussie travels, it was the perfect excuse to get two busy gals together on an otherwise terribly boring monday night. starving, but knowing the meals would be super speedy, we met just before 7 outside of debs and once we located the restaurant (it's at the back to the left of the make up hall), it was on.
we were shown to our booth by a very enthusiastic waiter named michael, who then proceeded to suggest just about every item on the menu to us. i guess michael and i are both easy to please when it comes to a little pan-asian cuisine. we did take a handful of michael's suggestions, i'll have you know, opting for a hearty range of starters to kick off proceedings. the tempura prawns served with spicy truffle mayo and orange ponzu (£7.95), the salt and pepper squid dusted in sea salt and cracked pepper (£6.50), and a portion of chicken wings marinated in a korean bbq sauce (£6.50) were what we settled on, and we sat back and downed our tasty beverages while we waited for their imminent arrival.
the prawns arrived first, and looked divine. they were plated up with the orange ponzu and the truffle mayo - which was a lot spicier than expected, with a smattering of pomegranate seeds, and a dusting of paprika. the colourful food popped off the black slate it had been plated on, and we proceeded to ooh and aah as michael presented it to us. it was a similar story for the chicken wings, which came out piled atop one another, with a heavy garnish of rocket and chives to give the otherwise-wholly brown dish some colour.
the baby squid was my least favourite of the three, being a bit too spicy and not very salt-and-peppery (that wasn't the issue, because i love chilli food, but when you're expecting salt and pepper, it can be a bit shocking!), and the sweet chilli dipping sauce was a little unoriginal. we basically dipped everything in the truffle mayo, which was the standout condiment of this course. thank you to mikey for that particular recommendation.
when it came to mains, i was torn; i had been dreaming about green curry for days, but also: sambal prawns, as recommended by mike. so far he'd been spot on the money, and so yeah - i let the guy tell me what to do. to be fair, katie also suggested i go the prawns, and once mike confirmed that those suckers were served shelled, i was totally up for being peer pressured into dinner. she knew instantly what she was having, so that was something.
her grilled sea bass with chilli and lime (£15.95) was plated up so perfectly that neither of us wanted to crack it open, while my sambal prawns and jasmine rice (£15.95) were completely drowned in big, bad, red onions chunks that i did my very best to save what i could and eat what was left of my dish. why didn't i ask? because it didn't state it on the menu, and that's what menus are for; to help you decide what you want to eat, and tell you what's in your dish. the sambal spice was perfectly chilli and the prawns themselves were totally juicy, so i did really enjoy the dish - it's just a shame i had to basically deconstruct it before i could really eat it.
the absolute highlight of this course though, came in the unlikely guise of teriyaki asparagus (£3.95). one long plate piled with those wonderful green side-plate heroes, in a delicious lashing of that sweet and salty sauce that brings nothing but joy to my life. again, this was a michael special, and boy oh boy, hasn't he gone straight to the top of my christmas card list!
six dishes, four drinks, and one plate of prawn crackers later, and we were stuffed. to. the. brim! we had to swat michael away when he kept lovingly pestering us with dessert and coffee menus, but literally, we had eaten so much we'd arrived at that uncomfortable point. you know the one. god bless mikey, the wee love, whose face dropped when we assured him we had no room for afters, but who was more than gracious and let us go into the night anyway.
we were in-and-out in about an hour, but that's the beauty of asian cuisine i suppose. the starters were all so tasty and great value for money, so when i head back there next, i'll definitely focus my attention on the small plates menu first and foremost; there were a ton more i wanted to try that night, so definitely a reason to return!
with all the great asian restaurants already in london, i worry when i see new ones opening, wondering what they can offer that the others don't already. chi kitchen has a department store's beauty hall right next to it, which is pretty much the greatest usp you can have in london.
have you been to chi kitchen, or are you planning to go? i'd love to hear your fave dishes!