Another Sunday, another brunch-day.
Although this past weekend, it was one that involved a modern Asian twist and bottomless cocktails at Jinjuu – the über-trendy Korean restaurant helmed by Judy Joo (ex-executive chef at the Playboy club)…
Situated in Soho’s Kingly Court, the restaurant revolves around a shared dining experience with a focus on “anju” – small Korean plates that pair well with drinks.
Throw in the never-ending proposition of Jinjuu’s famous libations, casual #weekendvibes and my best friend – Megan – to the mix… and it was all too easy to lose track of time (and the world!) from the moment we stepped inside!
We were seated in the ground floor dining area – a moodily-lit and minimalist space imbued with a great sense of conviviality. The laid-back ambience was quite striking in its difference to the more vivacious tone here during most evenings, when Jinjuu finds itself a popular post-work or late-night pit-stop for eats, drinks and upbeat house tunes…
But the easy Sunday flow suited us rather nicely, as we kicked off the indulgence with bubbles and Five Berry Bellinis – a tart take on the classic champagne cocktail made with Korean Omijacha, a unique type of berry yielding sweet, sour and slightly bitter flavours all at once!
And then this happened.
We weren’t really quite sure where to make a start, faced with this sumptuous spread of sharing platters! Coated lightly with a chili panko mix, even the humble edamame bean was elevated to more exciting heights…
Judging by how fast she ate her way through it, Megs really loved the Korean fried chicken wings, coated lightly in a crisp batter that complemented the succulent meatiness of the chicken. The signature sauces served alongside, particularly the Gochujang Red, added a nice and spicy dimension.
It was a similar situation with her fried chicken sliders. She even detected that alluring hint of umami…
My Korean fried tofu burger was spot on too – a golden wedge of crisp yet soft, melt-in-your-mouth tofu slung between buttery brioche buns with generous lashings of sauces and Japanese mayo!
In comparison, I was a tad underwhelmed by the muted flavours of the kimbap – a Korean-esque sushi textured with a crunchy straw potato – and the ya-chae mandoo – steamed vegetable dumplings, which could have done with a lot more of the filling.
It wasn’t that either dish was poor, it’s just that they weren’t perhaps quite as exciting as everything else before us, especially the kimchi arancini.
A flavour-packed meet of the East and West, this was one of our favourites from the lot – its crunchy, gloriously deep-fried panko-crumbed coating giving way to a delightfully sticky, well-seasoned kimchi rice mixed with aged parmesan, seaweed and cheddar.
As an interlude, we tucked into a Jap Chae – traditional stir-fried sweet potato noodles mixed with seasonal vegetables. It was surprisingly light and not just a little moreish…
Followed by more cocktails and a choice from Jinjuu’s selection of five Ssam Platters.
A grilled Sea Bream for Megs, infused with fragrant ginger. Tender and well-cooked, she found that it has just the right touch of richness without being overwhelmingly sweet.
And miso-grilled vegetables for me – an earthy mix of seasonal vegetables and tempura shimeji mushrooms, accompanied by a creamy yuja aioli dip.
As for our next round of drinks, we made an excellent choice with the Lychee Lover – infused with a clean-tasting soju (Korea’s most popular spirit) that sharply cut through the lusciousness of the lychee liqueur.
And with this fabulous-looking cocktail served in a cognac glass over ice. I’m afraid the name eludes me, but I can promise you that it was very much like sipping a liquid apple pie…
And finally, it was time for dessert.
It’s probably a good thing that calories don’t count on a Sunday as Damiano, the disarmingly charming manager at Jinjuu, sent out a sharing platter of the restaurant’s most decadent creations for us to try…
… starting with Snickers Hotteok, an over-the-top concoction involving a flat Korean doughnut stuffed with salted caramel & roasted peanuts, peanut parfait, chocolate ganache, praline & Nutella powder! If I’m being honest though, I found that the doughnut itself was a bit coarse in texture, lacking that soft, melt-in-your-mouth centre…
But everything else was right up my alley, including the Makgeolli and White Chocolate Panna Cotta.
I usually never go for the panna cotta on a menu but this one pleasantly surprised me with its sharp mix of sweet and sour flavours (mango compote, passion fruit and yuja jelly, lychee sorbet), punctuated with a nutty little sesame-raspberry cookie on top!
As a self-confessed chocoholic, I also found much to please in the Korean mocha – an incredibly rich, baked chocolate and boricha (roasted barley) ganache with cocoa nibs & hazelnuts and milk ice cream.
It was actually much too rich for Megs but we both found common ground with the yuzu crème brûlée. Served with a blackberry sorbet and fresh blackberries, it hit a lovely tart yet zesty note to balance the creaminess!
I may have had to roll myself home afterwards, but it was definitely worth it! Good friend, good food, good mood… All in all, quite a perfect Sunday afternoon.