What do you get when you combine three restaurant bloggers and London’s newest Michelin star Chinese restaurant? The answer is a lot of food and a very high bill when I met up with Londonelicious and American in London at Kai for dinner. I assume you are already regular readers of Londonelicous and American in London (if not you should be) so rather than subjecting you to three reviews of the same dinner we have each combined our reviews and photos so that you can see three different perspectives of the same meal.
There are some things we agree on, the decor for one. American in London calls it “high end circa 80’s lounge style” and I thought it was corporate with bling. The waitresses wear stylish Shanghai Tang looking purple and green outfits but Londonelicious thinks service lacked the formality required from Michelin star dining: “they were almost TOO Normal”. Particularly when our waitress reprimands our table of three women for ordering the pork belly by telling us it is a male dish.
Still, the friendly sommelier steers us towards a bottle of 2007 Alamos Torrontés Salta at a reasonable £28 when Londonelicious asks for a recommendation around the £50 mark. We are impressed that the bottle is well below the budget we suggest and even more impressed when we taste it. Londonelicious describes it as having a lychee flavour and is so won over that she goes home and tracks it down on Wine Direct for (ironically) £29.57 for a case of six. Her verdict: “finger on Buy button now!”
As a complimentary appetiser we are served a small cup of lettuce cradling a chicken san choi bau mixture. It is crunchy, fresh and light but we have already ordered the “nest jewels” (£13) as a starter which is essentially chicken san choi bau so we are repeating the same dish twice. There is general agreement that the highlight of the starters is the wasabi prawns (£21). Londonelicious describes them as “light and slightly crispy tempura batter on the outside, a good prawnish snap on the inside and a creamy wasabi mayo all over”.
In contrast, the aromatic duck (£31 for a half portion) is great theatre but Londonelicious thinks “Eh, I think if you are going to order crispy duck in an expensive restaurant, well you shouldn’t”. American in London agrees: “For a one Michelin star restaurant Kai shouldn’t be playing the dishes so straight.” That became the theme of the evening, the scallops and asparagus in XO sauce (£24), the prawn stuffed aubergines (£20) and kai lan chinese broccoli (£12) are good but in her view, “no better than a mid price restaurant like Pearl Liang”. As for the pork belly, it is very good with crispy skinned fat sitting on top of tender chunks of pink pork but Londonelicious thinks “it is a very paltry portion for £19. Shame on them.”
Kai prides itself on its dessert menu, not often a feature of Chinese restaurants. American in London compares the almond jelly (£8) to that served in Taiwan in street markets ice cold for the equivalent of £1 a scoop. “Kai’s quivering room temperature version is too anti-climatic to get excited about”. However, the Peranakan mango cake certainly is something to get excited about. Forget deep fried banana, this is the best dessert I have ever tasted in a Chinese restaurant. The cake is served with fresh mango cubes, gula melaka, coconut milkshake and icecream. It has an almost toffee like flavour to it and Londonelicious pronounces it “one of the best things I have eaten all year”.
At the end of the meal we are served complimentary tea and coffee. It’s a nice touch given the amount of money we have spent. You can drop some serious cash at Kai, there is a soup on the menu for £108, needless to say we avoided that one. So is it worth it? American in London says “while the majority of the dishes were delicious, very few dishes were worth the high price tag” and Londonelicious thinks there were highs (such as the wasabi prawns) and lows (like the crispy duck and paltry pork belly). As for me, I think the food at Kai is excellent and it is worth going back for the mango cake alone but the restaurant did lack atmosphere and the wow factor.
Details: 65 South Audley Street, Mayfair W1K 2QU (Ph 0207 493 8988) Tube: Bond Street
Damage: Budget Breaking (£95 per person)