To be clear, JiJi serves Japanese food AND Middle Eastern food - not a fusion of the two. It has a stylish, upmarket vibe in keeping with the area, which is a quiet side street just off Islington's bustling Upper Street. There is an attractive, shaded terrace area at the front; I make a mental note to add it to my list of summer lunch spots.
We started with a Lychee and Blossom Martini, a bit sweet for my palate (then I'm a Negroni fan) but pretty and floral, plus a spicy Picanteria, generously laced with fresh chillies for those who can take the heat. As someone who is always early for a booking, I appreciate a stylish bar for a leisurely, people-watching aperitif.
From the sushi section we tried Crispy Sea Bass, Truffle, Jalapeno & Fish Roe, Salmon & Tuna Tartare, Truffle & Ponzu, and Tuna & Avocado Tartare with Creamy Truffle Sauce.
I should mention that I've yet to make my mind up about the combination of truffle and sushi. Whilst I admit a light grating of fresh truffle can improve pretty much anything, the flavour of truffle is intense, earthy, funky and potent - almost the exact opposite of what I am looking for if I am craving a plate of sushi.
If anywhere is going to convince me, it's JiJi. The flavours are cleverly and carefully balanced - particularly in the excellent tuna & avocado tartare - allowing the obvious quality and freshness of the other ingredients to shine through. Whoever is making the sushi here really knows their craft; the rice is absolutely perfect, from seasoning to texture, providing an ideal canvas for the delicate fish.
We also tried a crisp, sweet and spicy tumble of Chicken Karaage with Gochujang Honey Sauce from the Japanese side of the small plates section of the menu, and this Aubergine Carpaccio with crispy onions, nuts & feta from the Middle Eastern side. Scattered with toasted nuts for crunch and fresh pomegranate seeds for little pops of freshness, it is a light and tasty dish.
JiJi's large plates include this Scottish Salmon, marinated in miso for 48 hours, and Slow Cooked Pulled Lamb & Beef Shawarma with yoghurt tahini, tomato jam and zhug; I recommend eating the shawarma with their freshly-cooked flatbread, which is baked on their Robata grill. The salmon was, for me, the dish of the afternoon: softly flaking, with contrasting caramelised edges - just delicious.
Desserts are extravagant and celebratory at JiJi; if you have a sweet tooth, you are in the right place. The Malabi is a rose & coconut cream panna cotta with hibiscus caramel, scattered with flaked almonds, soothingly textured and joyously pink. The Rocky Road is an explosion of chocolate & hazelnut praline crémeux, almond crumble, blueberries, tuile, caramelised popcorn, toasted marshmallows - and popping candy. It's a dessert to make the little kid inside you squeal with delight,
JiJi is not a budget stop - did I mention that it is in Islington? - but for the next few weeks they have a special lunchtime deal for 2023, offering a bento box of your choice (Roasted Cauliflower, Lamb & Beef Shawarma or Chicken Katsu) plus a glass of wine or soft drink for £20.23 (see what they did there?) - great value for food at this level and a tasty way to try the restaurant out for size.
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Deputy Editor, Chatting Food London: Amanda David
Amanda David is a freelance food writer specialising in London’s restaurants, bars, exhibitions and events. She is the Events Editor for London Cheapo and a regular contributor to Palate Magazine.
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