Far East Food Double – Yakinori & Chi Kitchen
Since the opening of Grand Central last year, there’s been a few new eateries gracing Birmingham.
From Tapas Revolution, Giraffe, Pho, Square Pie Company and Frizzenti, there’s plenty to enjoy. My most favourite place so far (we’ve been there three times in the past 6 weeks) is Yakinori. Created by those behind the sadly disappeared Woktastic, Yakinori has opened up branches in Selly Oak and Grand Central. It has certainly filled the hole Woktastic left.
The restaurant could be described as ‘bijou’; with a reasonable amount of stool seating and takeaway available, it feels more suited to a quick bite or commuter eating rather than a languid stay.
The focus is mainly on Japanese cuisine with a little twist and the menu (available here) is full of classics such as Katsu Curry, Donburi, Ramen and Teppanyaki. Wifey and I always pick some Gyoza to start, this time we swapped from Chicken to Duck with plum sauce:
The Gyoza were fluffy and light, well stuffed and hot with a beautiful sauce and I had to fend off Wifey’s chopsticks just long enough for this picture before she started picking them off.
For mains, I had perhaps the star of their menu, Chicken Katsu curry, whilst Wifey went for the Chicken and Tiger Prawn Don. Wifey was that hungry she didn’t even wait for her rice and tucked into her miso as soon as it touched the table.
Her Don was big enough for two! With steamed rice, stir-fried with egg, onion, mushrooms, sweetcorn, peppers, green peas, garlic, golden tofu and spring onion on top of the chicken and tiger prawns, it was certainly packed with flavour. Luckily they do provide takeaway boxes if you need to take some home!
My Katsu curry, on the other hand, didn’t stand a chance for takeaway. I absolutely adore this dish and Yakinori have turned it into a bit of art. Chicken coated in golden crispy panko breadcrumb, accompanied by Japanese curry, broccoli and sticky rice.
The panko coating was cooked just right, sealing moist chicken inside the crispy crumbs. The curry sauce is mild but with a slow burn after a few mouthfuls. The sticky rice was just right, the only thing was I could have done with was a little more broccoli, otherwise it was pretty much perfect.
If you’re in Grand Central or travelling through New Street Station and fancy a bite, I highly recommend this place. Also, the Selly Oak branch is a smash hit with students at the nearby university as the prices are not bank breaking and the food is good quality.
Just the other side of the Bullring Link, Debenhams had a bit of a foodie revamp too…
Perhaps in response to all those new eatries a few minutes walk away, Debenhams have caught the far Eastern bug and opened Chi Kitchen, “a contemporary Pan-Asian restaurant created as an exclusive departmental brand for Debenhams”. Currently only the Bullring and London Oxford Street stores have these in place but I’d expect these to pop up at other locations soon.
MasterChef winner Ping Coombes has had an influence on the menu (available here) as consultant chef. So after my little radio show (ON BRUM RADIO, COUGH COUGH) had its first airing, Wifey thought she’d treat me with a little taste.
Rather than picking a main, we choose three small plates to share between us.
The duck spring rolls (with hoisin dip) were served well and cooked great too. The duck inside was tender with a fresh flavour and quite a suprise when eating in a department store.
The salt and pepper baby squid served with sweet chilli was a competent dish, however, it was underseasoned for me considering it had been billed as salt and pepper squid. Also a little more batter wouldn’t have gone amiss. The sweet chilli sauce was powerful and a bit too much for Wifey.
The Chi Kitchen special fried rice was a mix of chicken, duck and prawn stir fried with peas and jasmine rice. It had a good amount of meat with well cooked rice. It was fine didn’t ‘wow’ us and missed something, probably oyster sauce, to bring the flavours out more. The included crackers were a nice touch.
The star of the selection was the Popcorn shrimp, a combo of deep fried tempura shrimp served with wasabi mayonnaise pomegranate and mixed leaves. This was our favourite: a rich luxurious wasabi mayonnaise was perfect for Wifey, it definitely had a wasabi flavour and complemented the prawns great. The chilled pomegranate added a really nice sweet balance. I could have done with a touch more spice but I was happy with what we had.
To finish we had a pot of flowering tea as they did not offer Oolong (!). The jasmine flavoured tea was a nice refreshing way to finish anyhow and was beautifully presented.
We’ll probably revisit for a proper meal next time but with Chinatown across the road, there’s probably more competition than the Oxford Road store will face.
Also, you can find BOTH of them on Deliveroo too!
When: 12/02/2016 (Yakinori), 20/02/2016 (Chi Kitchen)