There’s something about eating at Japanese sushi bars that’s quite like no other. It’s comparable to having the best seats in a theatre, with your sushi chef taking centre stage. Each slice of fish, each gentle stroke of the knife, each brush of soy commands such respect and attention. And the ingredients laid out in front are more than than mere props, but stars of the show as well. It’s raw (no pun intended) artistry in its right.
I love sushi so much it’s making me rather poetic.
I was invited to try some sushi at Pan Chai in Harrods and I knew I’d be in for a treat. God knows I’d have sushi all day, everyday, 7 days a week. And if you follow me on Instagram Stories (Hi, I’m @thegirlnextshore – and nobody else har har) then you’d know my Sundays are mostly spent food-hunting in London’s most iconic department store. Two of my faves in one go? Why not!
Pan Chai is nestled at the Harrods Food Hall across her sorta-sister restaurant, Mango Tree. You can’t miss it, with its marbled bar and beautiful green wave-like awning. Plus the display of beautiful produce, such as Alaskan king crab legs, lobsters, fresh scallops, massive slabs of fish ready to be plated into sashimi and sushi platters glisten for all to see.
I was offered a glass of ice cold rose champagne whilst perusing the rather big menu. Pan Chai covers Japanese favourites like sushi rolls, ramen, tempura, robata-grilled dishes. I was absolutely tempted to have a little bit of everything but in the end, I just asked the chefs to create something fabtastic.
First to arrive was a Pan Chai signature roll, the Harrods Special (£24.50). It’s a fresh snow crab, avocado and spicy mayo roll, topped with seared scallops, orange and black tobiko, chives and drizzled with unagi sauce.
The filling was generous and the rice, though thick at some parts, had a nice consistency. The tender chunks of crab had a good depth of flavour and the creamy avo combo was spot on. The scallops were seared to my liking and neither the tobiko nor the unagi sauce overpowered the integrity of the roll. This was a very good start and a dish I’d order again.
I have a confession: I’ve come off tempura. Most I’ve had in the UK were either overcooked or overly greasy or just not as good as the ones I’ve had in Asia.
For some strange reason, though, I was drawn to get Pan Chai’s rock shrimp tempura (£24.50). I’m glad I did. The bite size shrimp were moreish and the batter, though possibly thicker than how I’d want, was actually quite nice. The dish reminded me of how I felt about Mango Tree’s lobster popcorn.
I was still munching away until this came:
It’s Pan Chai’s Omakase Platter (£48), with a jumbo prawn tempura (£12.80 each), a fresh king scallops (£15.80 each) and some special rolls with gold leaf and foie. HOLY BELLY SCHMOOZLES. Just looking at this again makes me want to unbutton my jeans and doze off back to the food coma I endured after.
Let’s talk about the Omakase Platter first. It’s essentially comprised of nine cuts of sashimi, tamago, four salmon and avo rolls, and six pieces of nigiri.The fish slices for sashimi and nigiri are cut in relatively large portions. I’d say flavoursome, as they stand with good taste even without soy. But is it the freshest I’ve had? perhaps not. The rolls were okay, but as with the Harrods Special, they were a bit thick on rice.
These special rolls are quite special, though. Salmon and tuna slices encase a decent amount of rice, topped with seared foie gras, tobiko and gold leaf. I could care less about the gold leaf, but that umami flavour from the foie was delightful. Plus, the unagi sauce tied it all so well.
Unforch, the scallops were possibly 10 seconds overcooked. It takes much care to make sure this size of shellfish gets cooked evenly. In fairness, the flavour of the teriyaki sauce was really nice.
The jumbo king tempura was a sight to behold as well, but I liked the rock shrimp version better.
Later on, when I could barely move from all the food, I asked Rupert what his favourite thing on the menu was. He smiled, and then minutes later, this arrived.
OH, OTORO. This was such a nice surprise.I get that otoro may have quite a strong depth of fish flavour, but I didn’t mind that. It was absolute quality at its best.
I didn’t expect much of it at first, but the freshness took me aback. Each slice was a freaking gastronorgasmic melt-in-your-mouth experience.
Verdict for Pan Chai
Pan Chai has had its fair share of blogger love and I see why. I was instantly drawn to the warmth of the staff (particularly Cammy the Manager, Rupert the Senior Sous Chef, and Mr Won the Head Chef). I think, out of all Eddie Lim’s establishments, Pan Chai has the best service. And the concession, little as it is, is rather cool.
If I’m being honest, I’ve had better and more refined Japanese elsewhere. But what I like is that Pan Chai isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. I think what it’s trying to portray, as a restaurant, is exactly what it’s become: an aspirational Japanese sushi spot in the heart of high-end London. From the sexy look of its jade panels to the theatrics of their food presentation, it’s one of the most IG-worthy spots in town.
Go for a quick sushi fix. Get the Harrods Special.
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