Mushroom salad (Kai)
Originally uploaded by Manne.
As is becoming tradition in the household, my birthday was celebrated with a meal at a restaurant of my choice. This year the choice was Kai, the Michelin starred restaurant in Mayfair.
Since we as usual arrived a bit early we had a stroll around the area and marvelled a bit over the amount of money nestled inside the walls of the amazing buildings. Odd, considering that so many of them seem to stand empty...
Discovered the lovely and serene Mount Street Gardens where we enjoyed the silence and beautiful flowers until two dog owners' loved ones had a go at each other and it all turned into mayhem in Mayfair.
When Kai finally opened we stepped through the door and were greeted by a lovely aroma of fresh apples, emanating from the wall of Red Delicious on our right. Beautiful, and what a great way to get people in a good mood. It may not be spring proper outside, but it sure felt like summer when we walked in.
My first impression of the restaurant itself was a bit confused. Very modern, nothing really said that this would reveal itself as a flagship of Chinese cooking. Loungey, bordering on non descript club music, was playing in the speakers. Not at a loud level at all, and quite good actually, but unexpected.
Then the one thing that I really don't like happened. Waiter insisted on "helping" me place my napkin in my lap. Why? I wasn't wearing mittens, and while I do like to think I look younger than my age (38, today, indeed) I by all means must look old enough to figure out where to place the white square of cloth?
Anyway. That faux pas aside, it was soon to be made clear why they have a Michelin star, and throughout service the staff was excellent. Friendly, helpful, able to answer all questions and attentive yet not intrusive.
We looked through the menu (which has the usual introduction about the restaurant and the raison d'etre, but also unusually lists the owner's personal email address) which sneakily starts with the desserts... Ignoring that for a while, although it was hard as all the desserts sounded delicious and W looked like she'd like to dig into those immediately, we quite quickly made up our minds.
Won't write down the mind numbing detail about the dishes, just a special mention of their soups. They have hot and sour soup on the menu, so I of course ordered that as it is one of my favourites and I have never had it served in what I would call a great restaurant. More like always served in a styrofoam cup from our local take-away (which is really good, mind you).
Result. Best hot and sour soup I've ever had, and if such a dish can be said to be Michelin, this is it. Spicy, full of seafood, exquisite broth with a real tanginess to it yet enough chilli to leave my lips stinging.
W went with the soup poetically named "Sea of 8 treasures", served with speckles of gold sprinkled across the surface. As delicious as it was full of bling.
While discussing Stephen Hawking and time travel, where we all come from (in reverse order mum and dad, Africa, the trees, the sea, space and then we really don't know) and transhumanism (if your "you" is transferred to a digital brain, simulating enough of "you" for you not to notice the difference, is that still you?) we were treated to a range of great dishes.
Everything was cooked to perfection, some of it quite inventive and presentation exquisite. Main take away from this place for me is their attention to contrast of textures.
Within every dish you would find something soft and gelatinous alongside a crunchy ingredient. Be it a light batter fried crisp to coat the largest prawns I have seen or honey glazed cashew nuts dipped in sesame seed served with three types of fungi. Fantastic. Made each dish well balanced and exciting to eat.
The one thing I would fault them for is the one petit four placed upside down on the serving plate...
Special mention for the wine. We chose a glass each of an Italian red called Ca'Marcanda Promis (2006) by Gaja from Toscana which was so good I asked the waiter to write it down on a note for me (which he kindly and quite eagerly did) so I can go find it again.
Great meal, great birthday, great times.