A trendy, moodily lit Korean bar and restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong
Korean food has been gaining traction in Hong Kong all year and Jinjuu is but the latest example. Helmed by celebrity chef Judy Joo, the Korean-American has some serious culinary chops. Her extensive CV includes training at New York’s French Culinary Institute, stints at a number of Gordon Ramsay restaurants, working at pioneering British eatery The Fat Duck and opening Jinjuu’s well-received first incarnation in London.
The LKF offshoot is an airy restaurant decorated in an attractive collision of Korean pop motifs, with bare concrete walls complemented by warm dark woods and mock antique drawers that form the base of the bar counter. Though Jinjuu’s open windows expose it to LKF, it feels like a haven removed from the hustle and bustle of the streets below. Housed just above street level, in the increasingly full California Tower, Jinjuu brings the ‘anju’ culture of drinking plus food to Hong Kong. Though it seems like a simple concept, the importance of some good ballast to go with your booze is an essential element of Korean culture. This is no late night kebab sort of stuff, the food is to be taken seriously.
The menu is split into small and large plates with an almost overwhelming number of options. We decide to start with the small plates and begin with the boneless Korean fried chicken ($115). Crisp golden batter gives way to moist thigh meat with a perfect batter to chicken ratio. Though the seasoning is lacking, the chicken is accompanied by a bottle of gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) and thick soy sauce, which helps pep the flavour.
Prepped with food, we search for some alcohol. Cocktails play a large part in Jinjuu’s concept, so we select the Spiced Kimchi Mary ($140). A bloody mary with soju, it delivers a well-balanced savoury kick and whets our appetite for more grub.
The kimchi fried rice ($75) and bulgogi wagyu beef sliders ($130) arrive and prove a disappointment. The rice is somehow devoid of any of the sour tang and crunch associated with kimchi, and the pancetta chunks taste like inedible Spam. The bulgogi sliders are sad affairs – lacking the quality expected from wagyu and tasting like something we’d expect from a fast food joint. The cheddar is questionable and resembles processed cheese. Our dessert, one Snickers hotteok ($88), arrives and just about saves the day. The hotteok doughnut is lukewarm and a little too thick, but the salted caramel that oozes out matches with the chocolate ganache. True to form, the combination of nut and chocolate accurately imitate a Snickers bar.
The fare at Jinjuu isn’t the most innovative or highest quality, but the anju concept is likely to find a welcoming home in Lan Kwai Fong. Come here for drinks and a bite to experience a watered down dash of the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’, and for respite from a land that’s anything but calm.
Dinner for two $490.
UG/F, 32 D'Aguilar St, Central
|Opening hours:||Monday-Thursday: 12pm-1am Friday-Saturday: 12pm-2am Sunday: 12pm-11:30pm|