Feeling hungry? That is, famished enough to chew off a small part of your hand, a finger, say (I mean, who actually needs all ten, right?). Then you’re ready for Kaki. This spacious Sichuan joint on the Caledonian Road is the kind of place where starters are the size of mains, sides are the size of mains and mains would be better suited to someone shouting fee-fi-fo-fum from the top of a nearby beanstalk.
Happily, the flavours at Kaki are as bountiful as the portions. The best dishes, as is often the case with those from this region of China, were also the most fiery. Chilli-fried chicken was essentially a platter of crisp-edged popcorn chook – the batter-trapped meat piping hot and juicy – served with whole peanuts over a bed of numbing peppercorns and dried chilli. A kept-warm-over-a-tealight ‘dry pot’ of frogs’ legs had four kinds of chilli, but also smoke and salt. For something less ferocious, try the sticky, tender, ‘sizzling’ lamb instead.
But not everything hit the mark: garlic-loaded scallops had been overcooked, pork dumplings were greasy and the rice was far too dry. Service, too, was maddeningly inconsistent. Our waiter was savvy, and the man in charge both cheery and cheeky. But there was a long delay for food, which then came in a deluge, like the menu had burst its banks over our table. Except for starters, which bizarrely arrived last.
As for the room, it’s got good bones (high ceilings, lofty columns, big glass windows), though the masculine interiors are best at night, when you might not spot that the smart-looking wood floors are laminate, the exposed bricks the new-build kind. And there was no escaping the hotel muzak grooves.
Still, who cares? This is still a terrific place to go with a whole heap of wallet-watching friends who don’t mind dialling up the heat. Just consider fasting before – and after – you go.