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Jin Kichi Review

Julie Falconer ventured to Hampstead to experience Jin Kichi’s celebrated Japanese cuisine

Published on August 22nd 2011.


Jin Kichi Review

WHENEVER people talk about Hampstead, they always make the same comments. “Oooh, so posh,” say some. “That neighborhood is so expensive,” say others. And they’re not wrong. But despite having a reputation for being home to the well-heeled, Hampstead has a surprising lack of good restaurants.

It’s not the most fancy restaurant, the décor is pretty basic, and you’ll have to call your server over if you need anything during the meal. But the food is classic, excellent, and always consistently high quality.

From Café Rouge to Giraffe, Hampstead High Street is full of the same old chain restaurants. Hell, there’s even a Wagamama and a Côte opening soon. The dining scene is becoming the culinary equivalent to the mobile phone shop phenomenon that took all of the creative, independent stores off the high streets and replaced them with mobile representatives that are even less helpful in person than they are in the call centers.

In all of this chain restaurant chaos, though, there are still a few hidden gems in Hampstead. Probably the most celebrated of these is Jin Kichi, an unassuming Japanese restaurant on Heath Street that looks so drab from the outside that nobody on the street would give it a second thought if they passed by. 

But locals know better. Jin Kichi is famous for its small portions of grilled goodness. It also rolls up some mean sushi and serves high quality sashimi. When I went there for dinner recently, I made sure to sample an assortment of the restaurant’s best offerings.

Even though I arrived at 7:30pm on a Sunday night, the place was packed. It always is. Often when I arrive at 10pm on a Tuesday, I can’t get a seat there without a reservation. But I had one this time, and the hostess quickly shoehorned my guest and I into a tiny table between a wall and the sushi bar.

Img_9691Toro sashimi

The service was prompt and perfunctory; there is nothing effusive about this place. But I wasn’t there for the service. I was there for the food. My guest and I quickly ordered a grapefruit shochu cocktail (£6) and a carupico cocktail, which was made from yogurt (£6). Both were good, if a bit watery. They were followed by a bowl of edamame, which were firm and fresh, but a little cold for my liking. 

But then came the first main event: the sushi. Out came the premium toro sashimi, five pieces of flavorful fatty tuna that melted in my mouth and slithered down my throat (£17.50). They weren’t cheap, but the quality was well worth the price.

Then came the rolls. The spicy tuna roll (£7) and the sake avocado roll (£6), which was just a fancy name for a salmon roll, were both bursting with flavour. They disappeared quickly and we lost count of how many pieces each of us had taken. It was all we could do to remember our manners when it came to deciding who would get the last piece.

Img_9696Grilled onions

After the sushi came the grills. I have always been a big fan of Jin Kichi’s grilled plates, even if it sometimes takes an absolute eternity for them to arrive at the table. I was lucky on this particular visit, and my grilled onions (£1.30 each) and grilled quail eggs (£1.90 per skewer) came in record time.

I was disappointed that the restaurant was out of mushrooms, as those are really the best grills on the menu, but the onions were sweet and delicious, and the quail eggs glazed to perfection. I couldn’t complain, but I did a little anyway. Why do London restaurants always run out of things on the menu, and why do servers never tell you that they’re out until you have your heart set on ordering them?

Img_9697 Miso black cod

After the grills, came the miso black cod. I’m a sucker for all things miso black cod, and Jin Kichi does a decent job of it. The fish was tender and juicy, and the glaze was sweet and salty. It was gone within seconds.

Throughout the meal I washed my sushi, grills and cod down with hot sake (£8). The restaurant’s selection of cold sake was on the pricey side, so we went with the house hot sake, which was light and fresh.

Img_9698Green tea ice-cream

Speaking of which, the final component of my meal was a light dessert. A scoop of green tea ice-cream (£2.15) was the perfect way to top off a great meal. It wasn’t anything special or fancy. There were no pop rocks or other hidden surprises inside. No, this was just green tea ice-cream as it was meant to be.

And that’s what Jin Kichi does best. It’s not the most fancy restaurant, the décor is pretty basic, and you’ll have to call your server over if you need anything during the meal. But the food is classic, excellent, and always consistently high quality. That’s why you go to Jin Kichi. And thank goodness you can, because there aren’t many other good restaurant options in Hampstead.

 

Jin Kichi
73 Heath Street
London, NW3 6UG

 


Rating:        14/20
Breakdown:   9/10 food
                    3/5 service
                    2/5 ambience

To read more of Julie’s writing, visit her London travel blog and Europe travel website.

Follow @ALadyInLondon on Twitter.

 

 

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.

 

 


 

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