Chi is Cambridge’s latest independent restaurant to open in Food Social, the burgeoning dining quarter in The Grafton, near PureGym and the Vue cinema. Chi offers Asian inspired street food cuisine like bao, banh mi, bubble tea, dumplings, bubble waffles, noodle/rice dishes and more.
This new addition to Cambridge’s food scene is expertly developed and designed but it’s definitely not a soulless corporate chain. It’s clear this place has heart and is driven by passion for good food.
Paulo and I were invited by co-owner Aidan to try the menu and it was nice to hear about his extensive (and impressive) experience in hospitality as well as his connection to our city. Aidan not only grew up in Cambridge, he also grew up in the restaurant business. His father, who’s from Hong Kong, owned a successful restaurant over 20 years ago just down the road from The Grafton.
Chi sits in a lovely, bright space at the back of Food Social. There are lots of tables and the chairs are comfortable. There is even counter seating with stools, complete with outlets for laptops. It’s also child friendly with highchairs and a kids’ menu featuring fun activities, including making paper lanterns. They even had some creations on display at the order counter. Very cute!
Chi’s menu is well thought out yet simple. It’s divided into Snacks (spring rolls, prawn toast and prawn crackers), Sides (ribs, gyoza, chicken wings and more), Bao Buns, Banh Mi and Big Bowls (rice or noodles) featuring chicken, beef short rib, pork and vegetarian/vegan options. Desserts include sweet crispy bao or bubble waffles loaded with a choice of ice cream and fillings. There is bubble tea, juices, soft drinks, tea, coffee, beer, cider, Prosecco and wine.
So with all this delicious choice, what did we order? The plump and meaty chicken wings tossed in Chi’s own sriracha, honey & soy glaze were big on flavour and spicy heat. These are some of the very best chicken wings in Cambridge.
We were both very impressed with the bao. The soft and fluffy steamed buns were of exceptional quality and I was pleased to hear that they are sourced from a bakery in Bedfordshire that make them to Chi’s own specifications. The buns themselves are big and the fillings are plentiful and high quality, making them good value for money.
The Pork Bao was filled with house slaw, cucumber, spring onion, hoisin and slow roasted pork belly so tender it just melted in my mouth.
Paulo’s choice of Beef Bao consisted of succulent slow roasted short rib, Korean BBQ sauce, spicy mayo, spring onion, pickles and fresh jalapeño.
We also tried the crispy chicken filling for the Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich), which included a spicy mayo & soy sauce spread, cucumber, pickled carrots, daikon and coriander. The bread was very good but I expected a bit more crispiness from the baguette. However, this is only a slight criticism. It was still an excellent sandwich and even though they skip the pâté, I was pleased that Chi didn’t shy away from the requisite spiciness.
The Bubble & Bao dessert menu features a selection of quality ice cream (they use Purbeck from Dorset) and a variety of scrumptious fillings in the choice of bubble waffle or deep fried bao. We chose to share the Salted Caramel in a sweet, crispy bao filled with salted caramel ice cream, toffee & chocolate sauce, crushed peanuts and popcorn. Insanely delicious! Other enticing options include Pineapple & Coconut, Oreo and Smarties. What a great way to end a meal.
A simple definition of the word “chi” is energy. It can be a path to reaching full potential. The Grafton’s extensive refurbishment is bringing Food Social to life. It’s a much-needed space for independent food traders to thrive and Chi is a perfect fit.
I was invited for a complimentary dinner for two. I did not receive compensation for my review. All views are my own.
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