When I heard that Indonesian-born Chef Patron Aman Lakhiani opened Junsei, a Japanese restaurant last year in London, I knew it was going to be something special. He trained at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Sushi Academy and spent time at Michelin- starred Japanese restaurant, Dos Palillos in Barcelona and so I was looking forward to something different.
Junsei puts the spotlight on yakitori (meaning ‘grilled bird’), using every part of the animal, as well as offering kushiyaki vegetable skewers, elevated donabe (rice) bowls and seasonal Japanese hot plates.
Junsei is a small restaurant with around 36 covers, including high stools from where we watched as the sous chef cooked over Binchōtan charcoal. Lighting was low and it was almost meditative watching him in continuous motion turning the small skewers of something succulent until charred and ready to serve.
Food & Drink
We opted for the tasting menu – Omakase – which means “I’ll leave it to you”, and refers to the Japanese tradition of letting the chef take control of the entire meal.
Most of the dishes were prepared using Binchōtan charcoal as this method allows the meat to cook from the inside out resulting in a succulent texture and a pure finish which emphasises the distinctive flavours of each part of the chicken. It also means that skewered vegetables are beautifully charred.
We decided to pair this with the Akitabare Spring Snow Sake a dry yet slightly sweet sake that cuts through the richness and fat of the meats. It worked very well with the flow of plates that arrived.
We started with an Amuse Bouche of charred cherry tomato with chilli miso – two glorious mouthfuls followed by six chicken skewers. These were Momo, chicken thigh with 50 year-aged tare sauce, Tebasaki, a chicken wing, chicken oyster, Shiso Maki, a chicken breast with shiso leaf and house-made ‘ume’ plum paste and Sasami, a chicken tender with wasabi
There were also two vegetable skewers: baby potato with wagyu aioli and okra with shoyu dressing and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). The latter was amusing as the flakes seemed to dance on the okra until they settled down.
The highlight was the chicken meatball which is served with an egg yolk in a tari sauce. The idea is to mix the yolk and tari and dip the chicken ball into it. Delicious and fun.
Amid all that, a Hamachi (yellowtail) tartare with ponzu and a spicy shiso condiment arrived just to mix it up a bit followed by two rice bowls, braised oxtail and seabream.
We washed all of that down with a glass of Umushu, a Japanese plum liqueur. It’s pretty sweet on its own but tasted great with a soda.
And even though we couldn’t eat another bite, when the dessert arrived, well we found the space for Kurumitsu (Japanese brown sugar) ice cream with grilled grapes and puffed rice.
VERDICT: Choosing the Junsei restaurant’s Omakase menu offers the mystery and plenty of surprise and delight with each gourmet arrival. this is a culinary experience that everyone should try.
The omakase menu, the Chef’s seasonal selection is £60pp, and the drinks pairing is £50pp.
Check out Junsei’s menu here.