TV chef Judy Joo’s Jinjuu is of those places I’ve “uhm”-ed and “ahh”-ed about. I’ve read less-than-enthusiastic reviews from my food critic heroes Jay Rayner and Fay Maschler (which was apparently deleted due at Jinjuu’s request) so it was never really on my priority list. However, I’ve heard and read enough mixed reviews to get curious.
True enough my two visits has been a tale of two cities.
G and I went for a bit of a shop and in the muggy heat of Summer, we decided to grab the nearest and quickest table possible before we melted. The restaurant of choice was Jinjuu.
We requested for a table indoors, because we didn’t want to be sat outside. There were many free tables but apparently they were “reserved”. At 5pm? Okay. The tables ended up being empty after we had finished.
First to arrive was Jinjuu’s signature Korean Fried Chicken (KFC, har). You get a plate of KFC thighs/wings (or mixed) with homemade gochujang and soy. It’s a good buy for £9; I loved the crispy batter and the chicken was moist and juicy. Pair it with beer and you’re all good.
The bulgogi beef tacos (£9) were nice enough and filling! The beef was actually soft and had good flavour. The Asian slaw gave it some sort of vibrance, but I could care less about the thin slices of avocado on top.
You know I have a thing for jap chae (£8.5) so after seeing a neighbouring table devour a full plate in 3 minutes, I panic ordered it too. The serving was quite generous and there was a lot of veg in there, but unfortunately I found it a bit too dry and lacking in flavour.
G ordered a side of kimchi fried rice (£5.5) which had pancetta, mixed veg and topped with a fried egg and seaweed. I thought it had good flavour but not enough punch and was a tad too oily.
We also shared some Asian slaw (£3.5) which is essentially slaw with gochugaru chili flakes. It wasn’t particularly spicy, but it was a good thing to have with the fried chicken.
Overall, my first visit was decent enough, but mostly carried by that good KFC (drinks weren’t so bad either). There were enough interesting things on the menu for me to want to go back.
So I did.
Remember A? Well she’s back in London and I wanted to take her somewhere new. I figured Carnaby Street was a good place to start the night so we ended up in Jinjuu.
We didn’t have a reservation and the place was packed but front of house was nice enough to give us a table for an hour (we ended up staying two hours).
Any tête-à-tête with A involves cocktails, and it was fair to say our aperitifs were on point. A studied in LCF so we ordered the London Fashion Week monthly specials. I got the Gin-Gem (£11), made with Langley gin, pomegranate liqueur, fresh yuca & grapefruit, plum bitters and mediterranean tonic (£11). This was boozy, dry, but absolutely refreshing. A ordered the Captain Ching (£11). Made with Santa Teresa Gran Reserva, yuja juice, cinnamon, blackcurrant cordial and fresh berries, this was absolutely fruity and fresh.
We had some Sae-woo pops (£8 for 5) with our cocktails. These round prawn cakes were good bar food. We liked the crispy coating and the filling was very tasty, and addictive with the creamy gochujang mayo.
On our server’s recommendation, we also had the kimbap (£7.5) which is synonymous to a vegetarian sushi roll. To be honest, this was quite forgettable as it was bland. We should’ve gone for the short rib and kimchi mandoo instead.
We ordered the bibimbap (£9.5) with bulgogi (+ £5). Served sizzling in a stone bowl and gochujang on the side, there was a good amount of rice in it. I reckon if there had been a tad bit less rice, the spicy sauce would have shone through. The beef was delicious and it was actually more tasty in the rice bowl than in tacos. This was definitely better than the jap chae.
I wanted A to try the signature KFC. We ordered the mixed platter but unforch, the wings didn’t deliver this time. The chicken was still juicy although seemingly slightly overcooked. The coating wasn’t actually coating the chicken and though still crispy, it was a bit oilier than last time. Shame.
A and I had another round of cocktails. She went for the koffeine (£10), a good mix of cold brew coffee, Buffalo Trace bourbon, chocolate, banana & orange bitters. I went for the soju-based lychee lover (£10.5) which had lychee liqueur, aromatic bitters & prosecco (£10.5). Both equally good and equally strong, we were in cahoots after downing these.
Overall, I think Jinjuu has a pretty decent and interesting menu but food’s a bit of a hit or miss. (I still think the signature KFC is a winner.) The place has a pretty cool vibe and the clientele is a mix of hipster younguns to suits and made-in-trendy types. Service is quite warm and the waiters are sweet.
Go for pre-drinks with your buddies. Or just go for some chicken, prawn pops and cocktails.