Should you not have heard much about Korean food to date, you will do soon enough, because Jinjuu has arrived on the scene and is taking the city by storm.
Jinjuu, is the new bar & restaurant brought to us by Judy Joo. American born Joo’s background is an interesting one – a former trader at Morgan Stanley in NYC, she quit to turn her hand to the kitchen. Working under Gordon Ramsay for a while, and then hosting her own TV show ‘Korean Food Made Simple’, she’s now taken the next step and opened her very own restaurant – & fortunately for us, it’s right here in London’s Soho.
It’s no secret that Korean food has been historically overlooked in the UK, overshadowed by other Asian cuisines (Chinese & Japanese predominantly), but now, thanks to Judy & her Jinjuu, Korean food is becoming fashionable & trendy. Ultimately, Jinjuu is a far more polished establishment than existing Korean joints in town – and this is just one of the reasons why it’s causing such a stir.
Another reason can be summed up in 3 scrumptious words: *Korean Fried Chicken*. Predicted to be a big trend in 2015, I tried Korean fried chicken at Jinjuu in slider format. Now, words cannot describe how insanely good these sliders were. The outside coating was super crunchy & so beautifully spiced, whilst the interior meat was juicy & soft. This was actual ‘finger-licking-good’ chicken, & easily my *star* dish of the evening.
There were 3 more standout dishes of the night:
1) A lovely bowl of bibimbap, which we shared between us (too large for one – unless you’re only eating bibimbap i suppose). A scorching hot stone bowl containing rice, vegetables, fried egg & gochujang sauce arrives sizzling (and stays that way for some time). We chose a topping of crispy marinated tofu for ours (in light of my vegetarian dinner date) & i’m so glad we did, because it was the best tofu I’ve eaten. The outside was wonderfully crisp & flavourful, contrasting nicely with the soft and somewhat bland flavour of the tofu inside.
Importantly, the sign of a good bibimbap is when the rice sticks to the stone bowl & develops a crisp crust – Jinjuu’s passed the test with flying colours. It’s a must order dish here.
2) Miso sautéed portobello mushroom tacos with kale, black beans, cheese, avocado & sour cream. We thoroughly enjoyed these tacos – the fillings together made a great flavour combination and i’d highly recommend them.
3) Snickers Hotteok: a flat Korean doughnut stuffed with salted caramel & roasted peanuts, served with peanut parfait, chocolate ganache & praline & Nutella powder.
Unlike the doughnuts we’re more accustomed to in London, this one is dense and more dough-ey. It could certainly have done with being filled more generously with that yummy salted caramel & roasted peanut mix, but nevertheless, it was a winning combination when devoured in a spoonful with the peanut parfait & smooth chocolate ganache. A real treat.
Other desserts sounded appealing also…
However, two dishes didn’t impress:
1) Bulgogi beef tacos – there wasn’t anything stand out about these tacos for me, failing to pack the flavour punch i was expecting. The vegetarian taco was a lot more enjoyable.
2) Steamed vegetable dumplings with fragrant Asian aromatic seasonings & soy dipping sauce. Although the texture of the dumplings was nice, the flavours & filling didn’t excite my tastebuds like other dumplings have done in the past.
Important to note, there are 2 menus at Jinjuu; the ‘Anju’ menu upstairs & the ‘Dining’ menu downstairs.
Upstairs (the ground floor) houses a DJ and an illuminated, eye-catching bar, offering an array of Soju cocktails. Its Anju menu is focussed on Joo’s interpretation of Korean street food & snacks; the literal meaning of ‘anju’ in Korea being ‘dishes that you eat when you drink’.
Downstairs (the basement) boasts a bright open kitchen at the far end. The Dining menu here is an extended main menu built around small plates, large plates & sharing platters. N.B. It’s good to know that you can also order items from the Anju menu if you’re sat downstairs (although not vice versa), something which isn’t necessarily made apparent by the menus.
P.S. Be careful when you visit the toilets downstairs – I casually strolled into the door with the red chilli on it, which turned out to be the men’s ;)
Since i wasn’t able to get a booking downstairs (I tried with a week’s notice), we were sat upstairs on bar level, literally underneath a speaker (it was hard not to be, since they were dotted around all over the place). Frankly, it was just too much. The music was uncomfortably loud, to the point that the bass vibrated under our feet and it wasn’t a pleasant dining environment to be honest. Next time, I want to sit downstairs (hopefully hear myself speak), and will order some of the sharing platters of meat (see Dining menu).
Dips Bites: Jinjuu’s signature Korean fried chicken should come with a warning, because it’s dangerously addictive. My taste buds have been crying out for more ever since my visit. Although a couple of the dishes weren’t to my liking, i will most definitely return (with ear plugs) to sample a wider range, because i’m a big fan of the fresh concept & punchy flavours that Jinjuu offers. Korean cuisine is now being labelled as ‘the next big thing’ and after a visit to Jinjuu, you’ll probably see why.
15 Kingly Street, W1B 5PS