Last time I visited Chai Wu, Jasiminne and I tried the Christmas menu over good tea. I remember enjoying their take on festive fare and highlights included saucy shimeji mushrooms, cod in this fab sauce, and a gooey choccy fondant. Ho ho ho, indeed.
My first impressions of Chai Wu was purely based on the Christmas Menu, which I thought was decadent and decent for the price (£88 for a good number of courses made with lux ingredients).
Months later, I found myself back at the same table we shared to try the restaurant’s latest fare.
I do like the look of the tiny restaurant and think it’s a deflection from the sportswear section just outside. The bar counter boasts of a beautiful display of shellfish, vegetables and bottles of bubbly.
The steamed dim sum platter consists of six mouthfuls of indulgent produce. There’s seabass with gold leaf, Alaskan king crab and spinach, lobster dumpling topped with caviar, har gau with truffle, scallop and foi, and a vegetarian dumpling. The quality of ingredients is undeniably good and it’s definitely honed for Harrods’ target market.
From the grill, we ordered a portion of the Alaskan King crab legs. I love crab, and I am obsessed with perfectly cooked crab. Chai Wu surprised me with this one, which was the night’s highlight. The mouth-feel was good and the chew was just right. I liked the subtle smoke from the charcoal grill but I appreciate the fact that it didn’t overpower the sweetness of the crab itself. Served with a simple garlic butter sauce, this was a winner.
The Harrods Special sushi roll was something I enjoyed previously at Pan Chai. Having said I’d order it again, I did. The fresh snow crab still did the trick for me but I still have the same qualms about the amount of rice they use!
We ordered one of Chai Wu’s signature dishes, the Dover sole with black bean sauce. I definitely didn’t expect the deconstructed presentation, which I found amusing at first until I realised I would’ve preferred the fish swimming in the sauce. I found the rolled up fish nicely cooked but would’ve had more flavour if it had been soaked in the nice black bean sauce.
I love pea shoots so I was happy to see this in the vegetables section. Sautéed in truffle oil and garlic, this was a moreish dish.
There was a slight misunderstanding with our noodle dish. We ordered the crispy seafood noodles with scallops, tiger prawns and langoustine but at first go, they gave us the thick egg noodle variety. The second time the dish arrived, it still came with the thick noodles. As a gesture of apology, the staff just gave us the noodles for free instead. To be fair, I thought it was quite hearty and nice enough.
Our crispy seafood noodles came in the end and it was pretty good, too. I’d’ve preferred a bit more seasoning in the sauce but I thought the seafood tasted good.
Verdict for Chai Wu
I wanted to love Chai Wu – I do, I do, I do, but having grown up eating a ridiculous amount of Chinese food (and knowing more about the cuisine beyond pork fried rice), I don’t. I mean, not enormously. I liked the Christmas Menu a lot, but the normal menu was kinda hit/miss for me.
Price point is geared towards the higher mark as expected. Our meal was complimentary but if we were to have paid for it, sans the free noodles and an addition of two glasses of wine (£15 each), the actual bill would’ve totalled for twice as much as a four-course meal at Alain Ducasse. Perhaps the use of lux products justifies that but experience-wise, it’s different. I still think the best Chinese restaurants in London are the most authentic and you don’t have to pay an absolute fortune for it.
The menu was okay and there are gems that I would seriously go back for such as the Alaskan king crab legs and the pea shoots with truffle. All other things I’ve tried were just okay. I suppose their selling point is the ‘luxury experience’ and the fact that all of the produce they’ve used were fresh. Which is good!
If you do want to impress though, by all means, take a date here. It’s secluded enough from the busyness of the department store and nice enough to have a bit of quiet.