After my first visit to Jugemu, I was really excited. And then the perennial blogger question came to mind. Should I write about it? It’s R.Kelly all over again: “My mind’s telling me no…”
But my blog is… my blog is telling me yes.
After much hmm-ing and haaaa-ing about the situ, I figured I’d go for it and tell all about this little gem of a place that most foodies have kept secret for a while now. Because sharing is caring, and I do care you lovely lot get the best and know the best.
It all started with takoyaki, my childhood take-me-to-a-happy-place snack. Amy (@Yumm3i) posted a photo of these glorious-looking octopus balls on Instagram and I knew I needed to find the place.
Jugemu is Yuya Kikuchi’s little izakaya down Rupert Street in Soho. Yuya used to head the restaurant in the infamous Mitsukoshi department store (down Regent Street, next to where Japan Centre used to be) before it closed. Mitsukoshi used to be a mini-Harrods in the West End so it’s such a shame it closed a few years back. I was rather sad to see it go, especially during its final days when all the shelves were super empty.
Yuya then opened Kirazu, a Japanese “tapas and takeaway” shop inspired by, er, beans (which the name translates to) and healthy living. Kirazu then closed and then he then opened Jugemu. The concept is similar, but the place felt rather more authentic.
The place is intimate and most nights Yuya heads the kitchen on his own. Most punters are Japanese and Asian – perhaps a true testament that Jugemu brings authenticity to izakaya-style dining?
There’s an a la carte menu which is pretty straightforward, a daily menu which changes depending on what’s available, and an omakase menu. Price points here are low and admittedly, that kinda reflected on portion size. I do, however, don’t think it says anything about the quality of food.
As I said, it started with takoyaki (£4.5).
I can’t tell you how happy I was when I bit into these balls. There was a good amount of octopus yet the subtlety of flavours were spot on. It wasn’t the type that blows your mind flavour-wise, but it’s the type of food that takes you to a better place.
The kara-age (£4.5) was lightly battered which I liked, as the chicken flavour came through better. The portion was rather teensy, but it was enough for a taster.
The sashimi selection was fantastic. I had slabs of hamachi, seabass, sea bream, salmon and another white fish I’ve completely forgotten (oops). Each single piece of fish was just… *SIGH*. The sweetness, the freshness, the great call to sea… it was good sashimi and I wish there was more on the plate.
The quality of produce here was ridiculously outstanding and I had to kick myself for not discovering Jugemu sooner.
Not quite satisfied, I ordered some tuna nigiri (£5.5). I usually forego nigiri because I have this thinking that rice occupies extra space needed for more protein when it comes to sushi. But I have to admit, Jugemu’s tuna nigiri won me over as it reminded me of those beautifully crafted beef nigiri at Dinings in Marylebone – perfect size, taste and seasoning.
STUNNING PIECE OF SUSHI!
Perhaps an oddity from my order was the Japanese fish cake (£4.5). Essentially, it’s kamaboko, that chewy stuff you often get as garnish in ramen or side snacks in Japanese noodle houses. Whilst I do like the flavour, I preferred this as part of something and not on its own.
I also had a temaki with eel and avocado (£7) which was hands down, one of the simplest joys you could ever have in London. The plainness of the roll delivered stunning flavours with the sweet smoky eel marrying the creaminess of the avocado and the saltiness of the nori. And the texture? Woah. Absolute delight.
Verdict for Jugemu
Admittedly, I was still quite peckish after my orders so I asked for some soba. Thing is, with Yuya being the only man on the knife and pots that night, he said it would take around 40 minutes to make, so I had to roll back. Perhaps next time I’ll order all things at once.
But overall, Jugemu is a great spot for Japanese food. Service was quite friendly (and they take bookings) and the menu is quite exciting. I’m surprised not a lot of people have reviewed about it. At the same time, perhaps because it’s such a gem of a place there’s a selfish part of me as well that wants it to not go mainstream. But I do wish Jugemu well, and if you ever are in London craving for authentic Japanese, I say go give this izakaya a visit.
3 Winnett St, Soho, London W1D
Ave spend pp: £35
This post is part of the monthly Travel Link-Up series and it’s all about HIDDEN GEMS! Join us by adding your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st – 7th March 2017) to the link up widget found on Follow Your Sunshine, Adventures of a London Kiwi, SilverSpoon London, or our lovely guest host Tiff at A Girl and Her Passport!