Junsei review: this outstanding yakitori restaurant is a pure delight for the tastebuds
London’s newest skewer sensation is offering nose-to-tail dining in Marylebone
On the edge of London’s Marylebone is an unexpected gem in the form of Junsei, the debut restaurant of Chef Aman Lakhiani. This Japanese yakitori restaurant is the latest in a series of launches embracing the trend, but despite its unassuming location it is a standout experience from the start.
Located on a dark, unremarkable street in Seymour Place, stepping into the warm glow of the intimate restaurant provides an immediate transformation. With a traditional, golden-hued yakitori bar dominating the far end of the space, the main attraction is immediately clear. Junsei translates to ‘pure’ or ‘genuine’, and the unfussy focus on food preparation is noticeable in everything from the décor to the menu itself.
Yakitori refers to the Japanese art of skewering meat – usually chicken – with a kushi skewer, and grilling over a binchotan charcoal fire. Sat at the bar itself, guests have a bird’s eye view of Chef Aman and his team as they prepare an array of fresh dishes. We watch the process with interest over a welcome cocktail – the Akashi whiskey-based Bincho Sour is outstandingly fresh and smoky, and promising of what’s to come.
With a range of options available – from kushiyaki and vegetables dishes, to grilled seafood and dnabe – we are spoilt for choice, and opt for the Omakase selection – allowing Chef Aman to take us on a tour of 12 chef-selected dishes from across the menu.
We start with a seasonal plate of grilled Brussels sprout in a delicious sauce that sets the tone for the evening: a lifelong sprout naysayer, I am finally converted. From there, a few simple but delicious plates of shishu maki (breast with ume), Tebasaki (wing) and momo (thigh) are accompied by a palate-cleansing bowl of okra. Delicately grilled quail eggs follow, and it is as this dish bursts in the mouth that the genius of Chef Aman’s concept begins to dawn.
Junsei’s menu has a place for every part of the chicken, prepared and skewed in more than 20 different variations as part of a zero-waste concept that ignites the senses. From here, we reflect upon the different flavours and texture that comes through in the hatsu(heart), reba (liver), tsukune (meatball) and more dished besides, all perfectly paired with wine – though refreshing sake and a range of whiskies are also available. With our evening coming to a close (though unable to resist another of the spectacular cocktails), we are introduced to the desserts – the grilled fruit with kuromitsu ice cream is simply irresistible, a subtle, seasonal and cooling end to the meal.
While Junsei is certainly not designed for those taking part in Veganuary, those of us who enjoy the odd carnivorous moment are certain to adore this refreshingly authentic restaurant. Junsei is infused with Chef Aman’s skill and passion for yakitori style – and guaranteed to delight and excite the tastebuds with the purity and quality of its sensational menu.