Kai

Kai almond jelly

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.  

Pork belly
 
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.” 
 
Almond Jelly
 
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.  
 
Essentials
Details: 65 South Audley Street, Mayfair W1K 2QU (Ph 0207 493 8988) Tube: Bond Street
Damage: Budget Breaking (£95 per person)
7/10
 
Links
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my post on the last time I went out for dinner with Londonelicious and American in London at Galvin Bistrot De Luxe.  If you are on the search for Chinese cuisine try Bar Shu (although beware of the spice).  

Kai Mayfair on Urbanspoon

6 comments

  1. Wow I’ve been trying to pluck up the courage to visit here for years, and I’m glad you took the bullet for me. It’s an astronomically priced restaurant, and really doesn’t sound like it’s worth it.

  2. Wow, over 500% mark up on the wine. Most places simply triple retail.

  3. Like Anonymous, I’m struck by the fact that the ‘friendly sommelier’ sold you a wine at six times retail price. This is an outrageous ripoff and for me sufficient reason not to touch this restaurant with a bargepole!

  4. My head hurts! I’ve just left a comment at An American in London’s blog, saying it doesn’t sound like all the dishes were that great. Not that Chinese food shouldn’t be expensive, but that it should be amazing for the price you pay.

  5. Chris – We had a great night but that was more because of the company really. The food was very good but not what I would expect at these prices.

    Anon – I did not find that mark up so surprising for that standard of restaurant – sad to say I think it is very much par for the course. I agree it is outrageous though

    Man-Woman – We were so happy to get a recommendation for wine that was below our budget that we didn’t really focus on anything else. At the retail price that wine is a bargain though so I really would recommend.

    Helen – Would be interesting to see what you think of it although you probably are not so keen on going after our reviews. Some of the dishes were really excellent but there was not the consistency you expect from Michelin star.

  6. That’s steep for a Chinese restaurant… No, wait, that’s steep for the quality of food that you received! £19 for roast pork belly?! You could make a few kilos at home for that price!

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