Jinjuu describes itself as a ‘premier modern Korean food restaurant’ with an upstairs bar where DJ’s ‘hit the decks…spinning a mix of smooth house,’ and downstairs offers ‘unmatched theatre’. Hate it already? Any restaurant that has a self-publicised ‘concept’ is already fighting a losing battle. But then the promise of Korean junk food with a hit of Mexican surely can’t be bad. Spicy, sloppy finger food is a combination that is hard to resist. But here lies the problem. Fusion food- it never really works. Unless you’re a drunk student foraging through your cupboards at 4am trying to concoct a meal, fusing different cuisines rarely tastes as good as it sounds.
On the face of it, the menu here is appealing. It’s a more padded out version of Flesh & Buns, with a few Mexican inspired treats thrown into the mix. But this menu doesn’t really fit the vibe of the restaurant. It just isn’t as fun as Flesh & Buns. For one, the toilets aren’t plastered in anime porn. And it doesn’t have that raucous boozy buzz that makes you want to wash down greasy finger food with pints of Asahi. Jinjuu instead seems to be angling for a less wealthy Hakkasan crowd, who’d rather sip dainty cocktails. They even have a clipboard-holding doorman, just to complete the look.
Away from the overcrowded bar, the basement is a bit dull and the open kitchen is little more than an open hatch. The menu follows in the footsteps of the concept described on the website, and has to be the most annoying in London. Anecdotes comment on the dishes trying their best to coax you in- ‘bespoke’ prawn crackers are supposedly ‘awesome with a beer’, but worst of all is Carnitas Fries which promise that ‘everytime you stick your fork in…something good comes out’. It’s like having an annoying waiter trying to upsell everything. Which is fine if the food is brilliant, but for soggy, greasy fries which managed to taste neither Korean or Mexican, it’s a little off the mark.
The Pork belly tacos needed more apple and could have done with a big squeeze of lime and hit of spice. Korean fried chicken came with the choice of thighs or wings- and had a great crispy batter, but again were let down by the limp spicing from the two sauces, and I wanted more than a couples of bites for £8.5 as well. Sae Woo Pops (prawn cakes) were the pick of the dishes thanks to the creamy gochujang mayo that had a good salty sour flavour. If only all of the dishes could have come with this sauce.
The beef sliders could have done with more Korean spicing, and I didn’t really get how these had any influence from Korea or Mexico, bar the kimchee topping. After eating them, I realised that kimchee manages to spoil every dish. I used to pretend I liked it, mainly because I didn’t know what it was. But now I realise that it really just tastes and looks like regurgitated stomach lining, which has no place on any dish of mine. From the bigger plates the USDA Prime Ribeye (£25) was tender and tasty enough, but there wasn’t any point in the bushel of flaccid lettuce leaves served as a side. A dessert of doughnuts stuffed with a Snickers like concoction was far better than any of the other dishes, mainly because it wasn’t trying to be Korean or Mexican, and instead just focused on being tasty.
Jinjuu is trying very hard to be on-trend, but for a menu and concept that promised so much, it lacked any spunk. At it’s best Korean and Mexican food blows your balls of. This didn’t even give them an itch. Instead it was nothing other than a fusion of annoying anecdotes and overpriced junk food. You’re better of adding kimchee to a burrito next time you cook at home. It’ll save you the eighty quid.
15 Kingly St, London W1B 5PS