Every quarter we have a girl’s dinner to explore a different neighborhood (Soho doesn’t count, last time we went to Pekham). When we started reading about Jinjuu we changed plans and decided to try it instead. I worked with Chef Judy a long time ago when we were both boring finance people at Morgan Stanley. Since then, she has moved on from crunching numbers and into the food world as a well-regarded chef while I am still staring at spreadsheets….
We originally booked dinner for January 22nd and they emailed us back saying they had a private event that evening and asked what other dates we could come – we booked the 21st without realizing that the private event was actually the official launch/opening and that we were going to try Jinjuu in the soft opening phase, which is always fun.
I worked for a casino/hotel company for 10 years and remember well that soft openings can be rough because of food and service issues. We were very surprised how smooth the restaurant was running and how tasty the food already was….impressive!
The restaurant is divided into two levels. The street level has the bar and tables where they serve Anju – which in Korea refers to all of the dishes that you eat when you drink. Very fun and modern space and next time, we definitely want to try the nibbles there (Korean tacos, bulgogi burger, etc). The long table below is the communal table in the bar area.
We had dinner downstairs, which is the main dining area and where the open kitchen is located. The space is fun and has great details like the boy band and spam wallpaper in the bathroom (the boy bands are hilarious and somewhat scary I have to admit).
Chef Judy was at the kitchen and on full quality control mode, inspecting everything before it was sent to the tables.
Our waiter alerted us that dishes are served when ready and in no particular order. We got the fried chicken right after the edamame instead of the dumplings which is the order one would expect – but we were told that so no surprise.
What we ate:
Steamed soybeans (edamame) topped with chili panko mix: good way to start. A classic with a twist.
Ya-chae Mandoo: steamed vegetable dumplings stuffed with vegetables, tofu and enveloped in sweet potato noodles: The portion was three dumplings (one day I will understand why portions are usually three – lucky number versus 4 which at least means bad luck in China?) but I love how they mention, on the menu, that the cost is £2 for an extra dumpling knowing that people always want a different number versus what the menu offers. The wrapper had a good bite and held up well when we dipped in the fragrant soy dipping sauce, tasty.
Bibimbap Bowl: would be absurd to go to a Korean restaurant and not order Bibimbap. One of the good tests is if the rice sticks to the stone bowl and develops a nice crust, and it did. We ordered it with sautéed prawns as we had various protein choices added to different dishes. It was straightforward and good, the fried egg and the shrimp were very tasty and the gochujang sauce was needed to add kick and meld all the flavours together.
Traditional stir-fried sweet potato noodles mixed with vegetables & egg: We ordered this with Bulgogi and it was very good and flavourful noodles but we could have used a bit more bulgogi since it was shredded in small strips and we could barely detect it.
Jin Chick: Korean Fried Chicken with the choice of thighs or wings and served with pickled white radish on the side. We chose thighs and omg this was amazing! Best dish of the night. I had read the Fay Maschler review for the Evening Standard where she said this was dry. Is she insane? Ours was very moist and delicious and the Korean “breading” was crispy and tasty. We couldn’t stop eating it and all agreed it was the perfect fried chicken. I guess Fay also complains in her review about lack of fish sauce and lime in some of the dishes, “Fay, this is Korean, not Thai…….”. The chicken is served with Gochujang Red (fiery) and the sweeter Black Soy, I kept eating a bite of one way and the next the other way.
Bo Ssam Pork Belly: twice cooked Large Black pork belly, dwengjang & gochujang glaze. with apple cabbage kimchi: all meats are cooked on our open grill and served with Ssam jang, cabbage kimchi, pickled spicy radish, white rice, seasonal leaves and toasted seaweed. I love the concept and idea of wrapping my meat in the leaves and assembling with the sauce, rice and optional nori. The taste was good but the pork belly was on the fatty side. This seems to happen often whenever I order pork belly anywhere and sometimes I get an all meat chunk and sometimes more fat……And I hate when I can’t see and eat that fatty bit, the texture just doesn’t appeal at all. In this case it was probably 25% fat to meat, not bad but I like a lower fat %.
Roasted Broccoli: tossed in gochugaru & garlic was not my favorite and a bit greasy. Could have been a bit crunchier and served in smaller florets.
Kimchi Plate: funny to call it a kimchi plate as we got two little kimchi bowls (size of a soy sauce dish). One had bigger kimchi that was way too hot for our taste and the other was nicely shredded and yummy. And a lot of the dishes come with those two kimchi as sides so you can skip this.
Snickers hotteok – flat Korean doughnut stuffed with salted caramel & roasted peanuts, peanut parfait, chocolate ganache, praline and Nutella powder: how could we ever resist this (some of us were doing no carb January and that went straight out the window). The doughnut texture is not your traditional fluffy and is somewhat chewy and hard to cut but getting to the salted caramel & roasted peanuts in the center is worth the effort. Wow, amazing filling and delicious with the cold peanut parfait (like a semifreddo) and the velvety rich and perfect chocolate ganache. I almost would change this and just have the parfait, the ganache and a big dollop of the salted caramel & roasted peanuts we could eat everything with. Or they should sell the concoction in a jar and make lots of money!
Walnut & Miso crème brulee: served with a pine nut shortbread and maple candied walnut. The crème Brule was insanely good. Miso and walnut are a pairing you would never dream of putting together but after you try, you will dream of eating this again and again. The shortbread is a nice decorative touch but unnecessary as it got in my way of reaching the true prize.
Yujacha fro-yo with green tea candied rice: we expected soft serve but was harder frozen yoghurt. Our least favorite dessert. Nice and cool presentation on a cone but difficult to share. The fro-yo is citrusy and served with some green tea rice clusters on the side. Didn’t love the little clusters and would next time want to try the brownie dessert instead? And of course, with a side of salted caramel & roasted peanuts.
In sum: great vibe, fun bar and tasty traditional Korean food with sprinkles of mod-fusion-Korean dishes like tacos and burgers. And this is all even before officially opened which was impressive. Looking forward to coming back and eating upstairs or having a yummy salad with crunchy tofu I saw on the table next to ours. And of course, more fried chicken!
Jinjuu London http://jinjuu.com/
15 Kingly Street London W1B 5PS