Naturally after a few days of English tea, fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, I began to crave Korean food as I arrived into London.
Lucky for me, this city offers a melting pot of cultures and most notable, the explosion of Korean cuisine the past few years.
Judy Joo proved she outgrew Hugh Hefner’s London Club and opened her own establishment in Soho February this year. While reviews described the restaurant a Korean fusion mixture of food, it often drives me away as both my family and I love authentic cuisine. Yet I gained a strange feeling that Chef Judy wouldn’t stray far from her roots, and I discovered I was right.
Leaving Jinjuu left me wanting to eat more on my completely full stomach because all the flavors and dishes remain some of the most memorable through my life.
Jinjuu comes complete with a hint of hipster vibes mixed with Asian culture. Who would have thought nuts and bolts would be useful chopstick holders? Beautiful strips of light covered with wire-like textures dangle from the ceiling creating the perfect date-night lighting.
Bottles of soju and expensive Asian liquor embellished with green backdrop lighting cover an entire wall of a stairway leading from the upstairs bar into the downstairs kitchen and additional seating. The live orchids added an authentic touch (but I wonder how they keep them alive there!). The collection reminds of you an apartment bookshelf decorated with all your favorite bottles and small items you’ve gathered along your lifelong journeys. It’s almost as if you’re sitting in the chef’s Brooklyn apartment. Real and authentic.
Expect small chairs and tables because Asians aren’t that big/tall. It’s not uncomfortable, but it’s no classic American giant booth.
I went back and forth several times because all the cocktails sounded delicious. I landed on the K-Town, a citrus, fizzy drink and couldn’t be happier with the decision.
You can never go wrong with a good ol’ Hite beer though! It paired nicely with the burger.
Seasonal bimbimbap includes a mixture of sautéed ingredients infused with Asian spices. Most notable about Jinjuu’s dish: the fried Quail egg cooked to perfect. Gochujang sauce, as always, comes on the side.
Go during lunch (yes, we drank cocktails and beer mid-afternoon) and enjoy the absolutely delicious Korean Fried Chicken burger. It comes fresh with just enough sauce glazed on the top that it doesn’t overpower. The crisp, cold lettuce adds the perfect touch. While I hate pickles, Jinjuu’s vegetable comes marinated in yuzu. It was something I’ll remember forever (but seriously, I hate pickles).
The trio of mandoo look as pretty as they taste. Each pinch to compose the dumpling can be spotted. The outside comes just crispy enough that you still get a good portion of meat (or vegetable). It’s questionable if it needed additional sauce, but people love to dip.
Jinjuu’s sliders are presented on a small cutting board adding to the hipster-ambience, but it’s Instagram-able because it’s cute and special. I could have eaten a dozen of these because there’s more meat than bun, which often times doesn’t happen in America. The sauces, fried meat and fresh vegetables compose possibly the best dish this restaurant has to offer.
A great side, especially for the sliders, is the Kimchi french fries. Typical American potatoes, but it’s the toppings that make this extra special. A creamy mayo, spicy aoli, jalapeno peppers and finely chopped onions and tomatoes will have you licking your fingers (and the bowl).
The final fusion entree came out: the tacos. We passed on the mushroom for the meat, and we almost regret not trying it! Inside the corn tortilla, marinated bulgogi with asian slaw brought all the spices and flavors used when making the meat. The pork belly tacos had kimchi (great for the kick) and a refreshing strips of apple.
As if all the food didn’t fill me up enough, I ordered dessert. You choose three different flavors when you order the homemade ice cream, so I tried all three (the earl grey isn’t shown as it fell on the bottom). The fusion of chocolate and matcha cleansed my palette. It’s clear less sugar is used and more cocoa and match in its place for full flavor. Make sure to sprinkle the chocolate cereal-like flakes.
The Snickers Hotteok’s presentation came prepped as if it was about to debut on the Food Network’s chopped. Combine the doughnut (grab the middle for caramel), the parfait and chocolate mousse for a full-on blast for your tastebuds.
Jinjuu fulfilled my Korean cravings and I’m adding it on my must-go-back list. Make sure to pop into the bathroom to see your favorite Korean pop stars plastered on almost every surface of the small space.
Bravo Judy Joo.
Jinjuu is located on 15 Kingly Street in London. Book your reservation through OpenTable.