Junsei - meaning pure, genuine or unmixed - is a stylish Japanese yakitori restaurant tucked down a side street in London's Marylebone. Like other recent openings, Junsei has a no-waste, nose to tail ethos and proves again that you can champion this approach in high-end surroundings.
Yakitori means 'grilled bird' and Junsei makes sure every part of the chicken is used, in over twenty different serving variations. If you choose the Omakase and leave it to the chef to choose your skewers - and I strongly suggest that you do - you will be asked if you are happy with eating offal and more unusual cuts. I recommend that you give them a try; we found they were among the most surprisingly delicious.
The skewers are grilled over traditional binchotan charcoal, a compressed oak, high-carbon charcoal which burns white hot and immediately locks the juices into the meat, central to true yakitori. If you get the chance, there are a handful of prized seats at the counter where you can watch the chefs at work. This really is peak theatre, as you get all the tantalising sounds, sights and smells before the skewers hit your plate.
Our Omakase included the following skewers:
Bonjiri: chicken tail
Sot-l'y-laisse: chicken oyster
Momo: chicken thigh
Tebasaki: chicken wing
Hatsu moto: aorta
Okra: with Katsuobushi and Shoyu dressing
Potato: with Wagyu aioli
Tsukune: chicken meatball made in-house, served with their own recipe tare and egg yolk
The intense depth of flavour of the chicken was astonishing: tender, juicy meat and the crispiest skin, lifted with a squeeze of lemon - on the underside of the chicken, as the chef reminded us, to keep the skin crispy.
The vegetable skewers have also been carefully considered. Here, the okra avoids any sliminess due to the speed of the cooking and it being cooked whole, and is enlivened beautifully by the umami of the katsuobushi flakes.
We also let the sommelier choose our sake for the evening. Sake is a versatile pairing for a whole range of foods; it doesn't fight with other flavours but enhances them.
The meal is unexpectedly filling; not just because of the high protein content but the intense flavours which satisfy your palate. Still, there was one last dish to try. Dessert was grilled fruit served with Kuromitsu ice cream and puffed rice. Kuromitsu, or 'black honey' is a Japanese sugar syrup similar to molasses, which gives a lovely depth of flavour.
Junsei is firmly on my list for anything from a full omakase - I would eat this again in a heartbeat - or a couple of skewers over a beer, cocktail, wine or sake. The quality is impeccable, the attention to detail impressive, the atmosphere indulgent. Highly recommended.
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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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