I’d heard plenty of Chinese whispers (excuse the pun) about Kai Mayfair even before I’d set foot in the place. The trouble with whispers is you tend to get a different version according to the whisperer. I sided with those you had the first-hand experience. I’m pleased I did.
You’ll find Kai perfectly situated on one of Mayfair‘s most exclusive streets, leading to Grosvenor Square at one end and Park St (for Park Lane) on the other.
The modern interior is softened by sweeping organic architectural flourishes and the lighting is intimate and low key. Set on two floors the ambience is relaxed and comfortable. This is due in part to the excellent staff. They are attentive, informative and fun to be around, with the knack of knowing when to leave you alone to enjoy the food and when to move the service along.
The menu is divided into the old faithful – classic Chinese dishes, cooked to perfection and modern Chinese creations, which are the greater talking point. Yes, some of the pricing is extravagant but the menu clearly gives plenty of options for one to spend within their own limit.
Chef Alex Chow’s thoroughly modern creations both hit the sweet spot and delight the eye. Oriental Lamb shank served in a cocktail glass is a perfect combination, looks great and amuses. Essentially, it was lamb off the bone in a rich marinade topped with a chicken and garlic creme.
We got hit by the spice on our other starter Scallop & Tiger Prawn with glass noodles but again the chilli and garlic were tempered with the shallots, coriander and honey which brought a wonderful balance of sweet and savoury to the buds.
I recommend the Saki which was carefully chosen to complement the main dishes. A tip, if you drink it straight you miss the point.
For the main course, Alex recommended the Wagyu Beef. He has this down to a fine art. Tender, lean, succulent pieces. No heaviness here. Apparently, this is cooked to the point where the flavoursome fat melts away leaving the meat tender. A delicate marinade is added but complements rather than overpowers the meat. A fine balance. I have to say at £75 the pricing may be a little contentious but affordability apart, it was perfect.
We also went for the classic Whole Sea Bass which was expertly carved at our table. Each piece melted beautifully on the tongue. Delicious. A wonderfully simple sauce of soy and shallot infused oil lightly bathed the steamed fish with ginger and spring onions. Alex commented that this was the standard for preparing Chinese fish. I can’t remember when I last tasted classic Chinese dishes executed in this way… or to that ‘standard’.
Desserts, I think have been the Achilles heel of many a good Chinese restaurant, but Alex excels here too. Try the Pineapple carpaccio; Pineapple shavings, chilli, lychee, lemongrass & lime sorbet retain just enough sweetness leaving your palate refreshed. Accompany this with a dessert wine and you get a real high. The second choice kept things light and manageable – Almond curd with fresh fruit Almond pannacotta, fresh strawberries, melon, dragon fruit and lychee in a light syrup. Great fresh flavours, ideally accompanied by a richer dessert wine.
You have to try the selection of chocolates and sweets for dessert, each a really different taste sensation from chilli chocolate to sweet fruits. Round this off with a coffee.
Balance is a recurring theme of Alex’s cooking. Rich intense flavours and textures offset each other from starter to dessert. The magic is in the Ying-yang.
You’re left with the impression that you’d not blink at recommending this place to friends and you’d feel quite smug about it too.