From the cocktail menu, a spam-infused tequila – or ‘spamarita’ – leaves you in no doubt that Jinjuu is proudly Korean, fond of culinary mash-ups and happy not to take itself too seriously, thanks to affable chef Judy Joo at the helm. The new Lan Kwai Fong spot, the restaurant’s second incarnation after one in London’s Soho, occupies doubtless pricy prime real estate at the base of the California tower.
Looking outside, it provides a view over the club 7-11 regulars below and an enormous neon ad for an ‘adult shop’, possibly the most illuminated spot in an already too-bright city. Inside however is smart design, from the enormous dragon on one wall, graffiti style, to the scores of coloured prayer knots hanging from the ceiling.
It’s already pretty buzzing, a good sign only a couple weeks after opening (this review was from December 2015), but having experienced a number of plates at dinner, I can see why. Let’s not pretend this is haute cuisine. It’s not. There are some smart and inventive touches in the kitchen, but ultimately you come here for modern Korean food that is perfect for a night of drinking and debauchery. The beauty is, as they’re open til 3am on Friday and Saturday, this can mean either at the start of your evening or the beginning of your morning.
A pomegranate and soju cocktail went down beautifully looking over the pretty substantial menu. Frankly, it all reads really well thanks to simple but enticing descriptions, such as the tartar of ‘Sustainable tuna, fresh cucumber, shallots, chives & Korean mustard vinaigrette. Topped with perilla leaves, lotus root crisps.’ That tells you all you need to know, while the plate delivers all these flavours in full. Importantly, the provenance and integrity of all their produce is also laid out on the menu, promising fully sustainable fish, the sourcing of their meats and the fact that all the pickles and kimchis are made in house. This is a smart touch, unlike some restaurants which beat you round the head with their ethical sourcing and farm-to-table or paddock-to-plate guff. Jinjuu’s approach is one that others should seek to emulate.
Coming to a modern Korean restaurant and not ordering the fried chicken is, probably, a criminal offence. You can tell it’s good just by looking at it. You know that it’s going to deliver that hot crunch you’re after, while the genius bottles of Gochujang Red & Jinjuu Black Soy sauces (which you can and should take home) are the perfect accompaniment. It’s by far the best I’ve had in Hong Kong. ($115)
From the ‘mandoo’ or dumplings selection, two beef and pork and two vegetable keep both sides of the marriage happy. Excellent versions, generous but light, while that dipping sauce is great. ($80)
From the mains, a generous bibimbap with bulgogi beef, carefully constructed with layered ingredients before the server takes over, turning and folding it into the glorious mess you know and love: ($178)
The vegetarian is more than happy with the miso-grilled vegetables as part of a Ssam platter with the typical range of accompaniments that make you thankful you don’t do the dishes in a Korean restaurant.
No surprises that interesting-looking desserts had to be overlooked, given the generous volume and impressive over-ordering for two people. There’s no service charge but the attentive and friendly staff definitely deserve the nod.