It already feels like ages ago, but last Thursday Grand Central finally opened in Birmingham, with lots of press and media buzzing about the new shopping centre filming and reporting about everything, but Chi Kitchen, which opened on the same day, may have passed under your radars.
Chi Kitchen is a new restaurant on the third floor of Debenhams in Birmingham (a new chain exclusive to Debenhams), serving a whole selection of pan-asian cuisine, inspired by many Chinese, Thai, Malaysian and Japanese dishes. It also offers both a breakfast and all day-menu, so there’s plenty to choose from.
After us and a friend had wandered around Grand Central for a while deliberating as to what we should eat, we suddenly remembered this place and headed there. Compared with the crowds and the queues in Grand Central, the relative quietness at Chi Kitchen was a welcome sight. After being very quickly shown to our table, passing the beautiful bar/kitchen area, we decided it’d be best if we chose a main each and split a starter.
For start we decided to split a small plate of salt and pepper baby squid; deep fried squid, dusted in salt and pepper, chilies and peanuts served with a sweet chilli dip. Our first impression of the dish was the huge portion size; being someone who loves squid and used to served small portions of squid I was quite happy to see such a large amount! The batter on the outside was lovely and crunchy, reminding me more of calamari than other asian squid dishes, but it was still delicious. What was interesting was that the dish was topped with deep fried peanuts, which provided a crunchy contrast to the beautiful squid.
For main course, she chose a Thai green chicken curry. The waitress repeatedly clarified that the green curry was going to be really quite spicy. Even thought the waitress was right to warn us as it had a definite kick, the heat didn’t build so it stayed at what she considered a nice spice level without becoming unpleasant. There were very large pieces of chicken in the curry which, as we’ve said before, is always a good thing in our books, as well as chunks of aubergine cooked in the spicy sauce.
Our friend decided to order the Nyonya chicken curry. This malaysian curry came with chicken pieces, new potatoes and snake beans. The first few bites of this curry made it seem quite mild, but unlike the thai green curry, the heat in this dish built up quite significantly – still lovely, but a bit of a shock.
Neither curry came with rice, so they decided to order and share a portion of steamed jasmine rice, in order to mop up some of the lovely curry sauces.
For my main I chose ho-fun noodles, (after we’d first tried them and loved them at Cafe Soya in Chinatown, we’ve been desperate for more every since) which came fried with chicken, egg and bean sprouts, all mixed in soy sauce. The Ho-fun noodles were thinner than the ones we had tried before, but were nonetheless delicious. This dish also had possibly the most generous amount of chicken out of all three dishes we ordered.
As noodle dishes were cooked at a different station to the curry dishes, there was a significant amount of time between the arrival of the curries and of my noodles. They tried to wait for my dish to arrive, but faced with the dilemma of waiting politely for a friend and facing a cold curry or eating immediately, I urged them to start on their mains.
The interior of Chi Kitchen was lovely, and as it is tucked away inside Debenhams, you get to avoid some of the seemingly endless queues which feature at every popular restaurant in the Bullring and in Grand Central. It’s also great to see Debenhams branching out on the range of food offered in its stores and its interesting to see how this chain plans to try and bring affordable pan-asian cuisine to the masses.