There’s been a quiet revolution going on in the Carnaby Street area in the last few years with a host of hip restaurant openings. One such restaurant bringing exotic flavours to the area is Jinjuu, the brainchild of celebrity chef, Judy Joo, who has appeared in numerous TV cookery shows on Korean cooking. Although the words ‘celebrity chef’ are rapidly developing negative connotations, there is much enjoyment to be had from a visit to this popular Korean outpost if you go with an open-mind.
Upstairs is a buzzing bar, whilst the main restaurant area is downstairs with an industrial look with gentle nods to its oriental roots and an active and vibrant open kitchen. The best option is to try their signature menu, which incorporates a fine balance on their most successful dishes.
Like any masterful performance, it does start off slowly before building into a crescendo. No matter how many exotic vegetables you put into a kimbap, it simply isn’t an exciting dish no matter who the chef is. The 2nd offering, prawn cakes are your typical canapé party dish, although it was made more fiery by the use of gochujang mayo.
The Korean fried chicken slider was when the menu really woke up. The chicken was moist, the batter was crunchy, the bun was sticky and soft and the use of their signature sauces added extra vibrancy.
The trio of Jinjuu mandoo was outstanding: the dumpling skin was silky soft, the meat or vegetarian ingredients tasted market-fresh and the soy dipping sauce had that touch of vinegar which accentuated the taste of the dish.
Unexpectedly I found the next dish, the jap chae one of the highlights of the meal. It might be a simple vegetarian stir-fry but the translucent sweet potato noodles were irresistible. I would happily turn vegetarian if I was served dishes like that daily.
The main attraction was their main courses and both the beef tasting plate and sea bream were faultless. The success isn’t just about using top quality ingredients, but the added extra touches like Jinjuu soy glaze and kimchi béarnaise on their braised short ribs, which were extremely tender and jalapeno glaze with Asian aromatics for their sea bream. The yuja pickled cucumbers had the acidity to help aid digestion in case you were struggling by the end of the main courses.
Judy Joo’s stint at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant as a pastry chef clearly shows here with her strong focus on quality desserts. The Snickers Hotteok might be the guiltiest dessert on the planet with a doughnut stuffed with salted caramel, roasted peanuts, peanut parfait, chocolate ganache, praline and Nutella powder, yet it does taste delectably indulgent. Their apple pie mandoo comes complete with a specially designed Jinjoo wrapper. You could easily imagine an apple pie cart on their terrace selling these on cold winter nights.
A visit to Jinjuu reminds us how food doesn’t have to be boring, it doesn’t always have to be a routine and how lucky we are to be Londoners.