Sushi is my all-time favourite food. You know where to find me at 10:30pm every weekday – in the queue for 1/2 price itsu! So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to review Pan Chai, a sushi restaurant in Harrods. With the restaurant being in Harrods, of course, I had pretty high expectations and it did not disappoint.
Warning: yummy photos ahead may cause extreme hunger and longing for sushi ⬇
What better way to start a Japanese meal other than braving some sake. From what I’ve heard, I thought that sake would be thoroughly unpleasant and burn my throat. However I tried the Premier Plum Sake, a favourite amongst female diners, and was surprised by this sweet, though clearly still very alcoholic, concoction. Being half asian, my alcohol tolerance is fairly low, so one was quite enough for me. If you’ve never tried rice wine before, afraid of its reputation, then I’d urge you to overcome those fears because it’s actually really quite nice. Much nicer than regular wine even!
I spent ages poring over the menu trying to decide what to order before eventually just asking the waitress what the most popular dishes at Pan Chai are and what she’d recommend. There are pages and pages of different food options and it’s not all just sushi! There’s rice, noodles, sushi, tempura and more. Instead of choosing our sushi piece by piece, we decided to opt for one of the sushi platters so we could taste a wide variety of different fish.
Each platter comes with either a miso soup or edamame starter and we chose the soup. Personally, I have found miso soup very underwhelming whenever I have had it previously as it has basically just been some seaweed floating in water. That wasn’t the case here though and we were presented with a thoroughly flavourful soup with seaweed and tofu so I finally know what real miso taste like. My mum gave it her approval (something I’ve been trying to get for years 😂) – so you know it’s good.
Now this bad boy above is obviously the star of the show: the Shogun Planner for two. It consists of the best selected sashimi: fatty tuna, yellowtail, salmon, tuna; nigiris: wagyu tartar, fatty tuna, yellowtail, grilled eel, Russian caviar, snow crab; salmon rolls as well as crab and seaweed salad, served on a wooden boat! It arrives steaming reams and reams of white smoke, which is really quite impressive, and heads turned all around. When asked, the waitress told us that the boat is full of dry ice to keep the sushi cold (and not, in fact, on fire).
There were certainly some unique fish on this platter that I never would have thought of selecting myself but they all pleasantly surprised me. I didn’t think anything could shake my love of the classic salmon roll but it turns out I was wrong. The wagyu tartar was completely new to me as I’d never even heard of it and I must say it doesn’t even look hugely appetising. However, I discovered it to be full of flavour and have a wonderfully moist, soft texture, so this is definitely one to try if you’re up for something a little different.
Whenever I see a sushi platter that includes eel, I avoid it. I could kick myself now because I think the eel ngriri on this sushi platter was genuinely my favourite of all the different sushi. There’s nothing slimy about it at all and it tastes just like another kind of fish. If there’s anything I learnt at Pan Chai, it’s don’t be put off by what you’ve heard before, strange names, or even looks – there are so many foods out there that may just surprise your taste buds if you give them the chance.
Not content with just the sushi platter, we got a side order of the Harrods Special sushi, which was a fresh snow crab, avocado and spicy mayonnaise roll, topped with chopped seared scallops, orange and black caviar and spring onions. A simple sushi roll that most will have heard of and probably tried before but topped with caviar it is a whole new flavour experience. I’ve never understood the fuss about caviar, it always seemed overpriced and underwhelming, but sushi topped with Russian caviar is divine! If you ever want to treat yourself and you’re not sure what to go for, this is definitely something I’d recommend.
We struggled to finish the sushi boat but I was determined to make the most of my visit here and wanted to get a feel for the rest of their menu. Our waitress highly recommend the mixed tempura: crispy battered rock shrimp, soft shell crab, and lobster with orange ponzu sauce. I’m always a bit iffy about tempura and I rarely choose to order it myself when eating out. However as the waitress said it was one of the most popular dishes, I thought I’d give it a try, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Tempura can often be really greasy but here it is soft and crunchy at the same time, coated with crisp, buttery batter. What surprised me was that the lobster still had the shell on it but it wasn’t chewy or even hard to swallow at all. If you’re a fan of prawn tempura then you’ll love lobster and scallop tempura.
The restaurant is laid out like a circular bar so this isn’t the sort of place you can bring a large group of people. There aren’t a huge number of seats at these restaurants in Harrods Food Court, presumably because they’re designed as quick stop offs for lunch rather than proper restaurants. This does not detract from the quality of the food, however, which is absolutely incredible. The service is impeccable too as the waitress was very attentive to us during our visit and was happy to recommend the best dishes, which weren’t just the most expensive things on the menu.
All in all, I had a five-star experience at Pan Chai. Based in Knightsbridge, one of the most popular shopping destinations in London, this is a great place to grab lunch if you’re in the mood for something really special. The quality of the fish is undeniable and you can tell that it is really fresh. As I’m sure you can see from my photos, a great deal of attention to detail goes into making each and every dish and the presentation is stunning. This was definitely the best and most unique sushi experience I’ve ever had and I don’t think there’s a single thing I can fault with my visit!
Many thanks to Pan Chai for inviting me in to try their sushi!
*This is a completely honest, unbiased review.
Pan Chai, Harrods
11:30am – 9pm
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