Deputy editor Miranda McMinn visits Korean inspired restaurant JinJuu in the heart of the Carnaby District
I visited Jin Juu on a Friday night. Kingly Street – that funny, now pedestrianised, strip between Regent Street and Carnaby Street, with beautiful Liberty at one end and dirty old Soho at the other – was heaving and if we hadn’t booked it would have been impossible to get in.
Inside this new Korean-inspired eaterie the atmosphere was buzzing. We ate at high counters, though there are tables at the back and downstairs. It seemed to fit in with the ambience though as we felt part of the unfolding scene. The music was pumping and the décor, courtesy of interior designers Tibbatts Abel, was cool and industrial with a Korean edge – cross-cultural details included the Korean boyband posters that were papered onto the walls in the Ladies’; meanwhile, according to my husband, it was a bit more daring across the corridor, with skimpily clad girlband pics to cheer up even the most jaded Friday night Gent.
The restaurant owner, Judy Joo, has a background including Gordon Ramsay restaurants and cooking shows on US television, as well as – rather thrillingly – having been been the Executive Chef at the London Playboy Club. Amber Le Bon and Jack Guinness had recently been in and the venue looks set to attract a similarly cool yet upscale crowd.
The menu comes in two forms, “small dishes and snacks”, a kind of Korean tapas to wash down with drinks, or “dining” which was comprised of large more traditional plates. We went for a selection of snacks: first up was the Bulgogi Burger, a couple of mini cheese n bacon burgers with a Korean twist in the form of kimchi. May I suggest in the strongest possible terms that if you go to JinJuu you sample these – don’t think you’re being boorish or boring by going for the burger, they are exquisite. Traditional dumplings, both steamed and fried, were helping the wine go down a treat, and traditional bibimbap bowl with pork belly, served in a Korean granite stone bowl, grew on me while the noodles were divine. It was a veritable odyssey of sharing (and that’s saying something for me, as I am an only child and don’t normally approve of other people taking my food).
It was all going a treat already when along came the puddings. These proved to be the star of the show. I had been jealous when my husband snaffled the Snickers Hotteock option – “flat Korean doughnut stuffed with salted caramel and roasted peanuts, peanut parfait, chocolate ganache, praline and Nutella powder”. Slightly peeved but in the interest of research I came back with an order the Yuja Parfait, “passion fruit curd, green tea sugar. Citron fruit drizzle cake, sesame snaps, yuja frozen yoghurt”. And guess what?! My menu envy was uncalled for because mine was the best! Ha ha take that, husband (yes, I was a bit tipsy by this time). Fair to say the Snickers was pretty good too, but who knew passion fruit curd was a thing?
JinJuu is an excellent destination for anyone who needs the lift of upbeat music, an exciting vibe, comforting yet sophisticated food and free flowing drink – including the national drink, Soju, about which I should only say, be warned. Fittingly for the nation that brought us Gangnam style, Jinjuu is noisy, lively and cool – but not too cool. High end casual at its best.