Glass sits down for dinner at Judy Joo’s contemporary Korean restaurant, Jinjuu

Glass sits down for dinner at Judy Joo’s contemporary Korean restaurant, Jinjuu – a pearl in London’s dining scene

FINE dining might not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Korean food – and that’s not a bad thing. Judy Joo does things a little differently, however, weaving together authenticity and elegance to form a delicious tapestry. Jinjuu, which means “pearl” in Korean, opened first in Soho and then Hong Kong. The newest location, in Mayfair, leans more heavily on the sophisticated side.

Cocktails at JinjuuCocktails at Jinjuu

Judy JooJudy Joo founder of Jinjuu

We were sat on a large round table at the front on one of the restaurant’s opening nights; it’s dark enough inside to create an atmosphere, but not so dark we might miss our food. The cocktail list is long and whimsical, with tongue-in-cheek names and intriguing twists on classics, such as the Kimchi Bloody Mary. I went for the quite singular Double Truffle; in it, the sweet citrus of yuga danced with savoury white truffle undertones. Definitely order that. As for the food, you can’t go wrong with Korean fried chicken and Joo does it so well.

Ssam at JinjuuSsam at Jinjuu

It’s not quite as spicy as some variations, but the marinade is so packed with flavour and the chicken of such a superior quality that it’s almost a shame to have to share it. Mandoo, like dumplings, come with various traditional fillings. We chose short rib and kimchi but, if we were to return, we’d certainly try the other variations. In a similar vein, if we’d have had more room, we’d have ordered something from the raw bar – scallops perhaps.

Fried chicken at JinjuuFried chicken at Jinjuu

As for the main course, we went for something from the ssam menu. These are meat and lettuce wraps that you assemble yourself, mixing fillings and sauces to suit you. We went for the short rib, which was impossibly soft and, again, overflowing with the rich flavours of Korean spices. My only complaint would be that I’d have liked even more. We also ordered japchae – a Korean staple. It’s made with sweet potato starch noodles that, when cooked, become translucent and sticky. It’s mixed with vegetables and, sometimes, beef.

Bulgogi beef at JinjuuBulgogi beef at Jinjuu

Jinjuu stays pretty close to the traditional version with its take, though you can opt to top it with prawns or chicken. It was suitably comforting, and impressively large. There’s also bibimbap on the menu, done the proper way in a hot clay pot that lets the rice crisp up as it sticks to the edges.

Snickers HotteokSnickers hotteok at Jinjuu

For dessert we went for the snickers hotteok. I’d had hotteok from a street stall in South Korea and loved it. It’s essentially a thick, piping hot pancake that burst and billows with stream as you bite into its peanut-filled middle. Jinjuu’s version is an upgrade on this with chocolate cream and nougat ice cream adding an indulgent edge. This, it seems, is what Jinjuu does so well. It’s real, nostalgic and yet entirely new – so you can enjoy it whether or not you’re familiar with Korean cuisine.

by Becky Zanker

Jinjuu 39 Albemarle Street Mayfair, London W1S 4JQ

Opening hours – Mon to Sat: 12pm-12am, Sun: Closed

Email: mayfair.reservations@jinjuu.com
Tel: 020 3889 0780