Gourmet meal, London

Our goal was to find an adventurous cuisine experience in London on Christmas Eve 2004. Some visitors to London say, “Impossible!”

When our host recommended a Chinese restaurant on South Audley Street, the disappointment showed on our faces as we thought of a typical Chinese dinner and leftovers in little cartons with handles. To our delight and surprise, the KAI Mayfair (65 South Audley St., London W1K 2QU, U.K.; phone 020 7493 8988, fax 020 7493 1456 or visit www.kaimayfair.co.uk) far exceeded our expectations. The dishes were exquisite and the wines perfect.

We were greeted by a hostess who showed us to a beautiful table laid with china from Hong Kong, ceramic pieces from Thailand and Brazilian decorated silverware.

The menu was a treasure to look at and was filled with delightful descriptions of recipes from every corner of China, including light seasonings of Peking food and the hot, spicy and stronger flavors of the Szechwan kitchen.

The wine list was extensive and chosen to enhance the oriental dishes. Our challenge was to coordinate meal selections in order to taste as many dishes as possible in one evening. We shared every dish.

We started with an excellent lightly fried calamari that we determined could only be tasted again by a return visit to KAI Mayfair.

“Celestial Thunder,” the ultimate aphrodisiac, tempted us. The soup was made from the organs of a male deer. We are still talking about that soup.

We moaned with pleasure eating a dish of fresh vegetables seasoned perfectly and cooked to a unique crispness; we yearned for a piece of bread to enjoy the last bubble of sauce.

The steamed sea bass with ginger and spring onions and the sizzling beef sirloin were exquisite. Our waiter described their version of beef chop suey and we could not resist; the entrée was delicious.

We agreed that the apple fritter ice cream exceeded the taste of Michigan homemade apple pies we have enjoyed for over 50 years. KAI Mayfair treated us to a dessert that embraced the senses of sight, sound and taste. Shaped chocolate pieces were buried in a golden-flaked terrain filled with dry ice that created a volcano of vapor and a sound of water.

Wishing to sample even more special tastes, we ended our gourmet Chinese cuisine Christmas Eve with tea and remembrances of a truly fine meal — and not one take-home carton.

The menu prices for food and wine here varied but would meet modest and unlimited expense accounts; one Premier bottle of wine cost $450. For this meal for the two of us — appetizers, entrées, two pre-dinner drinks, four glasses of wine and two desserts — our credit card statement shows our KAI Mayfair bill as $188.48 (the equivalent of £96 when the U.S. dollar was at its worst).

The KAI Mayfair website provides specific information about location, reservations, critics’ reviews, etc.