Eat Here: Jinjuu, SohoBy Alicia Grimshaw
We can’t get enough of Korean food. No seriously, we really can’t. Thanks to the rise of kimchi, fermenting and pickling, Korean cuisine has seen its prominence rise in the capital over the years. We’re never one to turn down a bucket full of Korean fried chicken – so it was off to Jinjuu, a modern Korean restaurant, opened last year in Soho, with celebrity chef, Judy Joo, at the helm.
Jinjuu: The Vibe
Jinjuu is a stones throw from Kingly Court. Dart around the hordes of people queuing up for black bean daals and garlic naan (we love you Dishoom, but you can keep your two hour waiting time), and waltz into the uber cool, Jinjuu. You see, the main thing with Jinjuu is that it caters for all. The white shirt brigade take up the bar seating area, ideal for a few post-work cocktails and finger food. There’s the downstairs area suitable for larger parties, with private booths and the upstairs area, with it’s thriving atmosphere and mood lighting is a perfect date spot, where you can sneak off to the darkened tables in the corner after a few of their spiced Bloody Mary’s.
And, if you’re thinking about hitting the bright lights of Soho on a Friday night, the menu has been designed to include a selection of “Anju” (that’s food that you eat while you drink). But we’ll get to that later. On select nights, the resident DJ’s hit the decks from 9.30pm onwards, playing a mix of smooth house and soulful R&B, transforming Jinjuu into a filthy beat spinning, KFC chicken serving club come restaurant. It’s niche, but we like it.
Jinjuu: The Food
There’s two menus on offer, the signature and the a la carte. If you’re after more variety, take the a la carte and get stuck in. Anju, as previously discussed is ideal drinking snacks, but order a few dishes and that’s your starters sorted. Before we get onto the starters, we must tell you that the starter selection is large and you could easily get carried away. We recommend one of Jinjuu’s signature dishes, the sae-woo pops. Think, crispy fried round prawn cakes served on sticks. A sort of savoury Korean lollipop hybrid. Not overly fishy, with a light casing – they’re pretty damn moreish. Served alongside creamy gochujang mayo, a subtle heat which adds a chilli kick. The tacos are pretty forgettable, so swerve them – we say, the K-Town mini sliders over the tacos any day of the week. The bulgogi burgers are a pimped up Korean version of your classic cheese burger, only these beauties have added Korean spice, cooked pink, topped with pickles and served in a brioche bun. We like mini versions of anything, and these are just the right size – cooked nicely, so that the house ground beef is the star of the show. Meaty, delicious and juicy. These mini sliders tick all the boxes.
Let’s chat dumplings. Veggie queens, the ya-chae mandoo (vegetable dumplings) should be ordered immediately. Light and fluffy, these pillows of delight are stuffed with vegetables, tofu and sweet potato noodles. But, incase you haven’t already had your fill of red meat – the short rib and kimchi mandoo shouldn’t be overlooked, if anything these should be given more recognition. These fried dumplings are more of a wonton, and are packed with slow-cooked beef, mushrooms and kimchi. A killer combination that really comes alive when dipped in the spicy sauce on the side. The heat elevates the flavour to new heights, we’re tell you that for free.
Leaving Jinjuu without ordering their notorious Korean fried chicken, is like leaving a hotel room without bagging all the free toiletries. Sacrilege. There’s the option of ordering thighs, wings or getting a mixed bag. Get both. We can report the the KFC is very good news.The problem we’ve found in the past, is that fried chicken can suffer from an oily batter and dry meat – spoiling everything. But this isn’t the case at Jinjuu. The batter isn’t claggy, it’s delicate and crispy. And you’ll be happy to hear the chicken is moist, still retaining the meaty juices. The chicken is served alongside their signature sauces; Gochujang Red, and Jinjuu Black Soy.
What we like about Jinjuu is the sharing style of dishes. They’ve blended traditional Korean flavours, and added Mexican and American twists, that thankfully don’t mask the overall Asian inspired dishes. The large plates are made for a few people. You have the choice of whole Korean fried chicken, USDA prime ribeye, sea bream, and for those who don’t like to share their food – there’s also salads, bibimbap and Jap cha.
Four words: Bo saam pork belly. Served on what seems to be a large bread board, is twice cooked large black Berkshire pork belly, marinated grilled pork tenderloin and crispy pork scratching for good measure . The pork is, just, epic. Epic in the fact that the pork belly has this delightful layer of fat which adds so much more flavour to the meat. The meat is succulent, and thanks to it being twice cooked, the pork is extremely tender. The pork comes with spring onion salad, traditional homemade radish and cabbage kimchi, Ssam jang, white rice, seasonal leaves and roasted seaweed. It’s a sort of do it yourself job – stuff all the ingredients into the lettuce and get munching. Ditch the knifes and forks, and use your fingers. Cutlery is overrated anyway.
Desserts at Jinjuu are also a treat. With the sweet menu a playful Korean spin on classic puds. By far, one of the best puddings on the menu is the snickers Hotteok, also known as flat Korean doughnuts stuffed with salted caramel, chocolate ganache and roasted peanuts. They’re nutty. Nutty and tasty. The doughnuts are warmed, allowing the filling to melt, with the end result a mouthful of chocolatey, peanut goodness. The Korean mocha is best described as a kind of mousse/chocolate cake. It’s pretty rich, thankfully, the creamy milk ice cream balances out the dessert.
Jinjuu: The Drinks
There’s cocktails a plenty at Jinjuu. The drinks menu has been devised with a modern twist, but still staying true to its Korean roots. The Grape Escape made with Belvedere vodka and house sake is punchy, and goes down far too easily. The fresh lime juice adds sour citrus notes. If that doesn’t float your boat – Our Dear Leader is a heady combination of Santa Teresa 1796 rum, Mandarin Napoleon, Vermouth and pomegranate. Did you read that description? Need we say more. Rum. Vermouth. It’s a liquid miracle.
Jinjuu is a place where you can come in for a quick drink, or stay for a three course banquet. It’s the perfect balance of Soho chic, affordable food and vibe-y surroundings. We’ll tell you this, the next time you’re on the hunt for a restaurant which is suitable for a date, or an after work get together or a dinner with the gals – make sure you don’t over look Jinjuu. Stop licking your computer screen, and get booking.