★★★★ | Jidori, London
£72 for 10 dishes, with one dish better than the next, with cocktails? Where does one find a restaurant like this? Japanese restaurant Jidori, that’s where.
Now with two branches, one in Covent Garden and one in Dalston, Jidori is a yakitori restaurant (skewered chicken) whose name is taken from a special breed of free-range chickens renowned for their flavour and freshness – and after having eaten there, I can attest that Jidori’s chicken is just simply flavourful and delicious. But Jidori is also more than just chicken, they have lots and lots of other incredible dishes, starting out with their House Pickles dish. How can pickles be so good and different? Well, Jidori’s comes beautifully presented and also includes mushrooms, cauliflower, white radish and carrots – a very good selection and a steal at only £5.
On our visit, I and my dining companion had bits and pieces from the varied menu, including the Karaage from the small plates menu. These were four nicely-sized chicken wings (more meat and less bone) which were deep-fried in sake and ginger, cooked with katsu bread crumbs, and were just absolutely sumptuous, with a mustard and mayo dip that only added to the flavour. These were absolutely delicious (£7). Another star dish that was so unlike anything I’ve ever had before (no chicken here!) was the Tuna Tostada. It consisted of tuna, avocado and jalapeño on top of a crispy fried rice shell, and where the tuna was not very tuna-tasting, but overall it was an amazing blend of food and flavour in a small package – highly recommended (£9). Dish number 4 was the Gyoza (prawn or vegetables) dumplings (£6), onions sprinkled on top, with a black vinegar dipping sauce. These were your standard run of the mill dumplings and the least overwhelming of the 8 dishes we tasted, a bit pricey at £9 but they were still very good.
From the Kushiyaki menu (poultry and non-poultry items, skewered and grilled) we had the Nasu – Miso glazed aubergines on a stick, with sesames and onions sprinkled on top, were gentle and good and a nice dish to have in between the chicken dishes (£4.5). Dish number 6 was the Tsukune (Yakitori) – minced chicken with egg yolk as a dipping sauce. The chicken here (two pieces – both on sticks) tasted like meat as it was in the shape of a sausage – very good and very different, and very hardy (£5.5). Also from the Yakitori menu, we had the Momo – 6 small chicken thighs – 3 on each stick – which were flame-grilled and had a distinctive flavour and were just absolutely juicy, moist and the miso and coriander added quite intensely to the flavour – these are highly recommended at a bargain price of £5.20. Dish 8 was a side of the Rice, egg yolk, sesame & nori.
Desserts were not to be missed! For something a bit different go for the Ginger ice cream with miso caramel and, to give it a twist, sweet potato crisps and sesame seeds on top – very yummy – and I was a bit jealous as my dining companion had ordered it :(. We didn’t try the Milk pudding, strawberries, shiso and cucumber granita but I had the Yuzi & lemon sorbet with unpasteurized sake – very refreshing on what was a very very hot day.
Also refreshing were the drinks. The Ginger Ninja was what was desperately needed on that hot day – it was a blend of gin, fresh ginger juice, yuzu and Asahi beer. Yellowish in colour, the mixture of the ginger juice and beer was just perfect (£7.5). My dining companion had the Umeshu Spritz. He likes wine so he enjoyed it which included Japanese plum wine, Aperol, gin, ume bitters and soda. For me, it had a strong wine taste but for him, it was just perfect (£6.50).
Also perfect is the restaurant itself and the waitstaff. As we didn’t know what to order as most of these dishes we had never heard of before, the waiter gave us his suggestions and we went with them, and we were glad we did! The restaurant is cosy in a Japanese sort of way with several rooms and floors (in Covent Garden) with plenty of space for singles, couples and larger parties, with a Karaoke room that is available to hire for groups of 8-12 where Jidori offers a tasting menu which covers a lot of the Jidori classic dishes, plus use of the room, powered by Lucky Voice (for 2.5 hours) all for £40 per person. On weekends they offer 2 sittings per evening of 6.30pm – 9pmAND 9.30pm – midnight. On weeknights, they offer one sitting per evening.
The Dalston branch has a bit of a different menu but no doubt the quality of the food, and the prices, are just as good as Covent Garden. Jidori is excellent value for the money, and where the food is different yet delicious.