Sunday, 20 March 2016

Review: Chi Kitchen

If I said to you, “think of an eatery at Debenhams department store” – you’d probably think of a traditional style cake & coffee café.  And yes, you’d be right.  But if you’re looking for somewhere different to chill out in between shopping sprees, then head to the 3rd floor of Debenhams’ Birmingham store where you’ll find Chi Kitchen.
Photo: Word In Veg Ways

Chi Kitchen is fairly new to Birmingham’s restaurant roster although it has been going strong in Debenhams’ store on Oxford Street in London for a lot longer.  Described as ‘pan Asian’ its menu has drawn influence from Malaysia, China, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam and Korea, it offers a variety of dishes in a fine dining yet casual setting.
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

As you walk into Chi Kitchen, you’ll see a corridor of ambient lighting with light wooden fittings that run parallel to azure blue seated booths which then open up into a floor-to-ceiling windowed natural daylight area with different sized tables within.  And for those wanting an up-close-and-personal experience, can jump up onto the bar stools and watch the chefs at work.
Chef at Work
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
As the relaxing Bert Bacharach tunes crooned away in the background, My Carnivorous Husband (MCH) and I opted for a booth (I like the fact I can spread out in those kind of spaces).  But the tables in the open area were also of merit, with views of the surrounding buildings on Smallbrook Queensway all the way down to Pagoda Island (as I call it) boosted by natural daylight.
Seating Area
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Perusing the menus over a glass of champagne, Farhan (the Assistant Manager), suggested we have a few starters and appetisers in order to get a broad overview of the menu offerings.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Taking into consideration two factors – 1) that I’m vegetarian and 2) I have a terribly inconvenient chilli allergy, Farhan was very keen to ensure I found dishes (especially a main course) that would pacify these factors.  He kindly consulted the chef and came back with a few options and suggested I could have certain dishes with a few changes that would fit the bill.

So we had:
Spring Rolls & Grilled Mushrooms
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Vegetarian Spring Rolls – nicely presented, compact rolls with plenty of filling, pretty standard as spring rolls go, but a good crowd-pleasing appetiser.

Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms – this possibly was one of our favourite starters.  The thickly sliced mushrooms were tasty, ‘meaty’ in texture and when dipped in the teriyaki sauce glaze that they were presented in, it made them even nicer.  I could’ve eaten a whole plate of those to myself in all honesty!
Sweet Potato Fries
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
 Sweet Potato Fries – normally served with spicy truffle mayonnaise, sadly I couldn’t have this due to the ‘spicy’ element within the mayonnaise so I was given some dipping oil instead.  I normally devour sweet potato fries however, these weren’t as enjoyable as I had hoped.  They were very, very thin and were battered, with more batter present than actual sweet potato.  I would’ve preferred them non-battered personally and perhaps if the menu had a ‘with or without batter’ choice, that would give the dish more flexibility.

Grilled Asparagus
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Grilled Asparagus with Teriyaki Sauce – both MCH and I adore asparagus and this suited us right to the ground.  The teriyaki sauce gave it extra flavour and it was a nice to try the spears dressed in that as opposed to traditional asparagus sauces.
Seaweed Salad
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Seaweed Salad of wakame seaweed, sesame seeds (minus the chilli).  Farhan organised for our portion to be chilli-less and as with all seaweed dishes, I love the way it makes for a light starter yet you feel like you have had plenty as it is so chewy yet it has a little touch of crunch to boot.  It was beautifully presented, I guess an acquired taste, but I do love seaweed so that was perfect for me.  The vitamin/mineral content of seaweed is so good for vegetarians and note to self, I should eat more of it when I can. 
Baby Squid
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Salt & Pepper Baby Squid – deep fried, dusted in sea salt and cracked pepper served with sweet chilli.  MCH had this portion all to himself (obvious reasons).  As with the sweet potatoes, he felt he would’ve enjoyed it more had the squid been thicker and the batter lighter, but otherwise a nice enough starter.
Vegetarian Pad Thai
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Our mains arrived (or Large Plates as the menu denotes).  I decided to go for the:  Pad Thai with Tofu – Chinese chives, crushed peanuts, bean curd, bean sprouts, homemade tamarind sauce with Thai rice noodles.  A good sized portion, a nice fusion of flavours and textures and very much true to form of standard Pad Thai.
Asian Fish & Chips
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Intrigued by the title, MCH opted for Asian Fish & Chips – battered sea bass with potato and sweet potato chips with chilli mayonnaise.  The Asian twist to this British classic was the batter on the fish which was lightly done which MCH commented was just right and the fish was perfectly flakey when cut into.    Both style of chip had been steamed then fried which is a little different and MCH said they certainly tasted more fresh and fluffy.

As well as offering savoury courses, Chi Kitchen also offers breakfast.  The breakfast menu has a number Asian inspired items giving British favourites a twist.  For instance, meat eaters can sample a full English Breakfast but substituted with Vietnamese sausage or you can try an Exotic Asian Fruit Salad made up of watermelon, lychee, star fruit, mango, pineapple or even Japanese Pancakes with Matcha Tea Powder.

Farhan and the team really took the time to understand my dietary requirements, for which, as mentioned above, I am gratefully appreciative of.  This service, although is denoted very discreetly on the menu, I feel should be highlighted a little more as it is definitely positive – especially the fact that dishes can be made vegetarian style upon request.  Having this clearly on the menu will make it all the more attractive for vegetarians who may otherwise take the menu on face value and may dismiss it and ultimately miss out.

Overall, it is a contemporary, stylish venue with its USP being based within a department store, albeit one downside that it is only open during the store’s trading hours, meaning a typical closure time of 8pm, so it would only be an eatery you could visit during the day or very early evening time so you’d have to plan your visit around that.

Chi Kitchen is a nice addition to Birmingham’s foodie scene and a great pit stop when you’re all shopped out and in need of lunch.  Or fancy swapping your usual latte for a cup of jasmine tea or to hell with it – go for a glass of champagne!

Disclosure:    This post has been written following a kind invitation from Chi Kitchen to sample their menu.    This review was conducted honestly without bias and I was not required to produce a positive review.  For further details of my PR policy, please see the Press, PR & Food Writing page of this website. 





















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