There are many things that you can find in Debenham’s in the Bullring: beauty products, some sensible work trousers, plenty of I-didn’t-know-what-to-buy-you gifts at Christmas… What you might not realise, however, is that you can also find a really fantastic restaurant. Forget Debenham’s practical, basic cafes that serve soup and jacket potatoes, and turn your thoughts to Chi Kitchen, a pan-asian restaurant on the third floor, complete with champagne bar and a cocktail happy hour. I’d previously visited Chi Kitchen as part of a large group for their pre-theatre offering, and had a great experience, so when I was invited back I was excited to see what a choice of the entire menu would bring.
Secluded from the rest of the store, Chi Kitchen is light and airy, with (sadly, not the nicest) views of Birmingham from the floor-to-ceiling windows. As the restaurant closes along with the store at 8pm, you’ll find it at its busiest at lunch times and straight after work. The service throughout our visit was great, with the only slight issue being quite a delay on the drinks. Prawn crackers and sweet chilli sauce were brought over to us on arrival, as we browsed the menu created by MasterChef 2014 winner Ping Coombes.
When it came to ordering, Assistant Manager Farhan was keen for us to try a variety of dishes from the menu – and we weren’t complaining! We started off with four of the ‘small plates’ that would work well as either starters or as part of a selection to share. Up first was the salt and pepper baby squid, deep fried and served with sweet chilli sauce. This dish was spot on, with the sweet chilli being the perfect accompaniment to the salty-ness of the squid. I’d definitely order this again, as it was light and crispy and the simple seasoning really worked.
The other small plates included popcorn shrimp, sesame prawn spring rolls and tempura soft-shell crab, so all-in-all a brilliant sea-food feast. The shrimp was served with wasabi mayonnaise, though this certainly wasn’t as spicy as you’d expect, and sweet pomegranate seeds which worked perfectly with the fluffy shrimp. The sesame prawn rolls were Jack’s favourite of the four, as the fantastically fresh prawns were allowed to speak for themselves. The tempura crab, again, was fantastic; served with spicy truffle mayonnaise and orange ponzu, the crab was a lovely texture inside the crispy, light batter.
We then moved on to no less than six other dishes, including sea-food from the robata BBQ, larger dishes and a side of tender stem brocoli. The grilled tuna steaks from the robata BBQ were great, though certainly for those who like their tuna well done, rather than seared. One of our favourite dishes of the evening was the sea bass with chilli and lime, as the flavours were fantastic and the fish had a gorgeous melting texture – perhaps the best sea bass we’ve ever had!
Another great dish was the Udang Harimau, large prawns with a cramy coconut sauce. I’d never tried anything quite like it – the prawns were juicy and full of flavour, and went beautifully with the sweet, indulgent coconut sauce. I’m not sure if the richness may have gotten a little much if not shared between two, so if you easily find things sickly then perhaps don’t order this one all to yourself. We also tried (MORE) prawns in a Malaysian sambal chilli. This dish was probably our least favourite, as there wasn’t alot going on other than heat, and for £14.95 it perhaps could have done with something else to add interest (though it is usually served with rice).
We were also treated to a curry, served with pastry pancakes to dip in. The curry was packed with seafood and vegetables, and the sauce was mild and creamy, making it a very indulgent dish with the pastry (in other words, right up my street). As well as all this sea-food, we had a side of tender stem brocolli, which was slightly underdone and seemed a little expensive for what it was – making for the only disappointment of the evening. We were then brought over a slice of layered cake each, which was gorgeously fluffy and fruity and the presentation was simple yet effective.
To wash down this crazy amount of food, we ordered a couple of cocktails from the menu. First we decided to see how Chi Kitchen can handle a classic, and we were pleased to see that our mojitos were everything you could want from this refreshing drink. We then ordered an original recipe, the Chi Kitchen Fizz, which was a concoction of champagne, amaretto and orange (I think, don’t quote me on that!), which was sweet but not too sickly and went down very well.
Overall, we couldn’t have enjoyed our visit to Chi Kitchen more. With so many dishes to try it could have easily been hit and miss, but it really was one of those meals that you spend the majority of the time simply talking about how good everything tasted! Of course, on a regular visit you wouldn’t need to order half as much food to have a satisfying meal, and there are also plenty more sharing options such as sushi and dim sum. Thank you to Farhan and everyone at Chi Kitchen for having us, we had a brilliant time and can’t wait to return.