Dai Chi – the Japanese restaurant in Soho serving skewers of delight

BUILT by the same team who founded Angelina, the Japanese/Italian fusion restaurant in Dalston, Dai Chi is the kushikatsu (kushi = skewer, katsu = deep-fried) sister restaurant building a similar curiosity in Soho.

Weaving the unusual into their restaurant concepts is clearly something that the founders Joshua Owens-Baigler and Amar Takhar take in their stride.  And though Dai Chi promises a more traditional celebration of Japanese cuisine, the dining experience it offers veers on the unpredictable.

A selection of Dai Chi dishes

Dai Chi interior

Arriving on a Saturday evening, the scale of the restaurant’s success was demonstrated by the fact it took me a good minute to be able to spot my guest, and then further exemplified when I was reminded of how long we had the table for as I took my seat.

Yet, despite the popularity, there was an overwhelming sense of calm to the restaurant. With curtains cocooning the interior, and cushioned chairs that curved around the body, it had an almost homely/living room feel to the place. And the backlit glass walls that framed the restaurant felt like a warm glowing lamp, soothing you into your surroundings.

The service too, felt catered to each table. Our waiter took time to explain how the Dai Chi’s kushikatsu menu would be served omakase-style (which translates to ‘I leave it up to you [chef]’)  and the sommelier was generous with her explanations of the glorious nectar that she served us during the 8 courses.

Opening with Hokkaido milk bread and karaage, battered prawns on a bed of spicy mayo, and trout tartar with shiso and spiced ikura – finished with a delicious curl of deep fried fish skin, the tone was set for the evening. They might be small dishes, but they certainly pack the punch.

Dai Chi wine and sake

Soft shell crab roll

What followed were aubergine deep fried skewers, sweet potato croquettes, and pork with a pineapple and ginger slaw, which makes me hungry just by typing it out. The combination of heavy and light, and sweet and salty, built our curiosity for the next serving. When we were then served slices of butterfish, a fish I had never come across on a menu, I was impressed. Dai Chi offers a window into the unusual, not only through its concept and homely atmosphere, but also in the well thought out ingredients it intertwines into them.

Finishing the journey with a deconstructed cheesecake, made with white chocolate and miso crumb, was the perfect hug goodbye.

Dai Chi cocktail

Playing on our modern appetite for out-of-the-ordinary experiences, Dai Chi has nailed how to remain part of the restaurant conversation as London’s list expands. It may not be your required quantity, but the quality is there, and its approach to eating encourages a far healthier mindset to how we dine.

by Lily Rimmer

Dai Chi, 16A D’Arblay St, London W1F 8EA

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