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Junsei

132 Seymour Place, London W1H 1NS
By Michael M Sandwick
Published on September 29, 2021
www.junsei.co.uk

Junsei Yakitori Junsei Yakitori PHOTO: JUSTIN DE SOUZA

If you think yakitori is nothing more than Japanese chicken on a stick, think again! Chef Aman Lakhiani is grilling up delights that bring this culinary art to a whole new level.

I don’t usually like sitting at the counter, but in this case, I highly recommend it. It’s the centrepiece of the restaurant and you’ll be served by Lakhiani himself. He is absolutely delightful.

Junsei Counter PHOTO: LAURIE FLETCHER

If you prefer to sit tête-à-tête, the dining room is lovely. All blonde wood, it’s a beautiful representation of the Japanese minimalist aesthetic. Service is excellent wherever you sit.

The wine list is basic and could do with a lift. The food deserves it. A 2018 Malbec, La Mascota (£8) was a decent if not memorable glass. The sake list is more interesting and worth exploration.

We had the omakase, or chef’s selection, for £50. It’s excellent value and gives a good introduction to what Chef Lakhiani has to offer. 13 courses!!!! They are small but seemed to keep coming in endless succession and we were well satiated by the end of the meal.

The meal began with the most delicate, crunchy, lightly fermented pickles. A bowl of shredded daikon with a splash of dashi is meant as a palate cleanser between skewers. I just wanted to eat it all in one go!

Then Lakhiani starts his magic. As with most Japanese dishes, everything is meticulously butchered and prepared beforehand. Then the chef seasons and grills each skewer to perfection. The meats are cooked over Binchōtan or white charcoal made of oak. It is completely odourless so it doesn’t give the smoky flavour of conventional charcoal but the pure taste of grilled meat. Every part of the chicken is used. For our selection we had chicken wings, parson’s nose and chicken oysters all seasoned with salt and served with lemon. Each was flawless simplicity. Another skewer was wrapped in shiso leaf and topped with fermented plum. Cherry tomatoes had a dab of black garlic and miso adding pure umami flavour. Chicken liver is brushed with tare, a sauce of soy, mirin, sake and sugar which is aged for decades. The liver just dissolved in my mouth in a burst of sweet, salty umami flavour.

From the kitchen we were treated to a soft-shell crab tartine and a rice ball wrapped in nori seaweed and filled with tuna. Both were excellent and offered some variety to the menu. Beautifully charred okra and padron peppers completed our 5-a-day with panache!

The showstopper was a skewer of grilled minced chicken, served with tare sauce and a raw egg yolk. It all gets mashed together and the result is pure heaven. I’ll have at least 3 next time!

For dessert, kuzumochi, a plum jelly in a bowl of soy cream erred on the side of subtlety. Aesthetically perfect, it lacked the flavour punch to send me singing out the door. Perhaps my western palate still needs a bit of educating!

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