The original branch of Yi-Ban was an authentic and very reasonably-priced traditional Chinese restaurant, and we were expecting more of the same at their new Chelsea branch. Instead, what we got was the flashiest new restaurant so far this year.
A severely practical open grill area, with battered steel cookers, and chefs in backwards caps, provides a nice down-to-earth counterpoint to the luxurious dark woods and gauze screens of the dining area. Traditional materials are carefully mixed with modern design and the attention-to-detail extends to some entertainingly wacky shapes for the custom-made crockery. Best of all, the beautiful seats were genuinely comfortable, instead of leaving you half-crippled the way designer restaurant furniture tends to.
But would the food match up to the look£ Grilled foie gras on string flour noodles was impeccable, the goose liver melting away, while the crunchy, flavoursome noodles provided welcome bite. Char-Siu pork skewers were a good, simple, strong-flavoured dish, while black cod was as weird and wonderful as this classic dish should be. The service was efficient, cheerful and informative.
None of this comes very cheap. Portions are small and you?ll need to order some pricey sides to fill the gaps. There is also a fair amount of pointless bling on the menu: gold flakes in the ? exceedingly good ? Wanton Soup, for example, and the presence of Kobe beef on the menu. Delicious, but outrageously expensive.
But this isn?t a place you go for sturdy food and value-for-money. This is a restaurant that?s all about flash and flair, and if you want to impress somebody, there?s nowhere better. Great food, great design, and great fun.
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