Like its Harrods Food Hall neighbour, Mango Tree, Pan Chai is also the brainchild of successful Thai restaurateur Eddie Lim. Whilst Mango Tree serves up Thai-inspired food, Pan Chai turns its attention further East bringing Japanese inspired cuisine to the most famous food hall in London.
Pan Chai can be spotted by the green, gold, black and sweeping oar-shaped fins which surround the bar, evoking - ever so slightly - a Japanese dragon boat. Serious looking sushi chefs stand in the middle preparing stunning slivers of fresh fish (with other dishes coming from the kitchen out the back) and the lovely waiting staff are on hand to offer their knowledge and recommendations enthusiastically. Marble stools offer the perfect resting place to refuel before more fancy shopping, or to simply indulge in some top class sushi and even better people watching.
The crowd who pull up the marble stools are the polished Knightsbridge brigade, rather than the bedraggled tourists who stream through ooh-ing and aah-ing on their way to purchase the obligatory green Harrods bag before continuing on their tourist endurance test. Sushi across London varies in freshness, quality and authenticity (as anyone who has experienced luminous prawn cocktail wrapped in some cold, hard rice can attest), but, unsurprisingly, for a department store that grandly bills itself as 'the most luxurious department store in the world', the sushi served up at this bar is sufficiently high quality, and throws in a bit spectacle on the side for good measure - dry ice, anyone?
Pan Chai resides where a former Harrod’s Food Hall sushi bar once sat, and they clearly know they are on to a winner with sushi continuing to make up the majority of the menu. Sushi rolls, nigiri and sashimi all make an appearance, accompanied by some stunning sounding salads, hot dishes and tempura.
If you are indeed a fan of Japanese food, you'll be spoilt for choice. This is proper, high-end sushi, with an impressive array of beautiful ingredients, from the usual suspects of tuna (although here you get the superior yellow fin or tuna belly) and salmon, to more exotic offerings such as sea urchin, salmon roe and foie gras - this is Harrods, after all. Sushi platters arrive served in chunky Japanese crockery, palm leaves and with some ever-so-slightly-showy dry ice which is sure to attract the attention of passing tourists. Sashimi is prepared with clear skill and attention; the mackerel is sleek yet fatty, and the yellow fin deep, dark and meltingly tender. The nigiri is also expertly prepared, served with plump rice and seasoned with wasabi, lemon and a punchy, deep soy sauce.
One of their most popular hot dishes is the Chilean sea bass served with a plum miso (£28). It's as delicate, tender and beautiful as that other, famous Japanese stunner of a dish - black cod. Here, the white flesh of the sea bass melts into flakes, and is given a smile-inducing depth of flavour from the sweet glaze of the plum miso. Like its Mango Tree neighbour you can order as much or as little as your belly (and wallet) allows, whether that’s a quick bite of sushi or a more filling selection of hot dishes.
Also like its Mango Tree brethren, the drink offering here is short and sweet, and champagne has a prime spot on the menu. The one lonely cocktail offering is a Kir Royale, and although they are a little tight on space, a couple of cocktail choices wouldn't go amiss. The small wine offering is available by the glass (starting at a rather hefty £9.50 for 175ml) or by the bottle ranging from £36-£60. For those wanting a true Japanese experience there is also sake available, with a ‘tasting platter‘ of the authentic spirit available at £18.
The Last Word
Don’t expect to stick around for a long and leisurely meal, the combination of stools, rapid service and bustling surroundings will mean you will be vacating your seat and back to picking up some designer goods in no time. But for a pit stop of very high quality food served in an interesting surrounding, Pan Chai is a great choice.