Located slap-bang in the middle of Deansgate, KAI is a brand new Turkish concept from the people behind the brilliant Zouk down on Chester Road.
Described as a ‘Mezze Bar and Grill‘, that’s 3 words which are enough to get my mouth watering any day of the week, so I was suitably excited to see what they’d done with the place.
The blurb describes KAI as “authentically Turkish with a contemporary twist, presenting meats fresh from the grill, salads and freshly made pitta breads all served mezze style” and a quick look at their menu confirms all of this – with a big emphasis on both mezze dishes and the grill.
Upon entering KAI, you’ll most likely be just as impressed with the classy interior as I, with a perfectly Instagrammable flower ceiling that I expect to see on my feed a lot from now on. The venue features a long bar at the front, with tables extending straight down to the coveted grill at the back.
The smells were already getting me going so we quickly found a seat and made some decisions.
Contrary to what you’d find in many Turkish restaurants, the menu is simple and presented with a clear idea of exactly what you should expect. There’s the mezze (hot or cold), salads, pide and flame-kissed delights. I suppose it would be rude not to try as much as possible…
As a firm fan of food which is easily eaten with both hands while talking a lot of shit with – when I first discovered mezze around the age of 21 I was an instant convert. I find a huge platter of delicious mezze delights to be the perfect way to find out whether a restaurant is up to snuff too – and in this case, we were in for something special with KAI.
A huge platter of Cold Mezze (£13) arrived complete with the classic hummus, babaganoush, tzatziki and a wonderful ezme salad – which I’d never even heard of before, never mind tasted.
If I’m being honest I’ve always been a bit of a stickler for hummus, especially homemade hummus. I usually find it to be utterly inferior to the brilliant Sabre stuff you can get in a supermarket, more often than not because it’s either over or under seasoned.
Well, I breathed a sigh of relief upon my first dip of the thick hummus – the only real way to describe it is perfect. The consistency was spot on, expertly balanced seasoning and crowed with a couple of cheeky olives.
The tzatziki and babaganoush were equally as impressive and the ezme salad was a tangy delight, with a distinct freshness from the ample pepper and tomato that worked surprisingly well when combined with the earthy hummus. Oh and the freshly baked bread (in a wood-fired oven) was sublime – just look at those bubbles!
Moving swiftly on the Hot Mezze we tucked into some Halloumi (with sweet chilli jam), Calamari, Creamy Garlic Mushrooms and the Garlic Prawns. Bad breath aside – this was a proper treat, with the garlic mushrooms being so damn moreish that I ordered another pot of them and calamari rings which were cooked to perfection.
In addition to the mezze, we also decided to try a Pide (or Turkish Pizza to us savages). These huge long delights are baked on a flatbread and come loaded with all manner of cheese, meat, vegetables and sauce.
Our Lamb (£8) offering was mega, and to be honest it was definitely overkill on our part – just remember that these beauties are pretty big and easily enough for 2 hungry people.
Sitting anywhere near the open kitchen at the back, there’s no way you could miss both the wood-fired oven and the huge coal fire that takes front and stage. Not only will the smells grab your attention but the frequent burst of flames will certainly make you look up from your conversation.
I think it’s fair to say that KAI are looking to specialise in their meat, be it steaks, kebabs or fish and I think it’s also right to suggest that this is where they really do manage to get head and shoulders above most establishments in the city.
The use (and maintenance) of a proper coal fire is certainly not the easiest thing to keep up but the difference in cooking and taste is considerable – producing simply some of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten.We opted for the huge Tomahawk (£80) which was more than enough for 4 hungry boys, as well as a couple of Lollipop steaks (£25).
As we chatted we were interrupted by a lovely Turkish fella from the kitchen who plonked down a couple of hot stones and a few pots of sauce. A second later he returned with a Tomahawk steak the size of Bigfoot’s slightly bigger left foot and proceeded to expertly chop it up in a manner not unlike a samurai.
Cutting, slicing and seasoning as he went, we tucked into the sublime and tender strips of meat, which incidentally was probably the juiciest and tasted I’ve ever had. Everyone else on the table felt the same, we were like a gang of rabid dogs – not talking, just savouring the flavours and the steak without any distractions.
It should be noted that of the 3 sauces that were presented to us with the steaks, none of them were touched. By any of us. Therefore, I’m unable to confirm or deny their validity – they simply weren’t needed with the meat – it was flavoursome enough already.
By this point the meat sweats were creeping in and we were spent. We, unfortunately, didn’t get the chance to try one of KAI’s Turkish kebabs or Desserts and I was sadly too full to give their Monkfish Skewer (£18) a try – next time for sure though.
KAI Deansgate, 82-84 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2ER
0161 832 3431