23rd June 2021
Junsei, a Yakitori restaurant, led by Chef Aman Lakhiani is to open on in Marylebone on 1st July.
Yakitor (meaning ‘grilled bird’ in Japanese), pairs fine-tuned butchery skills and an intimate understanding of grilling techniques to deliver unparalleled umami flavour that honours every part of the animal.
Junsei (‘pure’ in Japanese) refers to the cooking process: all skewers are grilled over Binchotan – a white charcoal using Japanese oak – considered the most pure charcoal in the world. Binchotan burns at a high heat, so the meat cooks from the inside out, ensuring the juices of the meat are locked in. The result is a pure flavour that isn’t overpoweringly smoky, but emphasises the distinctive taste of the part of the chicken used.
The menu is centred around the Yakitori skewers, with over 20 variations available such as Shiso breast with ume; heart; crispy skin; tsukune and neck. Eack yakitori skewer takes hours of precise slicing preparation, and is then coated simply in a house tare (a combination of soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar that is aged over decades) or shio (salt), before grilling over the Binchotan and gently caramelising. The skewers are very lightly seasoned, allowing the flavour of the skewer itself to shine. These are accompanied by a range of vegetarian options, including Shiitake mushrooms; Soy marinated quail eggs that reveal a fudgy yolk upon biting; Fried tofu with ginger and spring onion and other dishes that make the most of seasonal British produce.
Whilst the skewers are the focus, the menu also includes considered sharing plates: Cuttlefish somen with a cucumber mirin soy sauce; premium A4 wagyu, seared at the table using the Binchotan charcoal, and Rice donabe (clay pot rice dishes) with Red mullet or seasonal vegetables. Desserts take further inspiration from the charcoal, including a Smoked birch Creme Brulee and Strawberry mochi. An Omakase menu – a Japanese phrase meaning “I’ll leave it up to you”, so giving full control to the chef – featuring 8 skewers (some exclusive to the menu) and sides are available for 48, in full view of the yakitori process, and can be paired with fine wines and sake, or with a soft tea pairing.
An extensive Sake and Shochu menu, including Tamagawa “Red Label” Heirloom Yamahai Genshu, the only sake made by an English sake master, is accompanied by a Japanese-inspired cocktail menu, including Ronin Shochu, Ginger Liqueur, Soda; the Gin^2, hot lemon gin foam with cold orange and lemon gin granita and a Whiskey Highball with Sekforde orange, whiskey and a English plum syrup. All sauces, dressings and even cocktail syrups are made from scratch, in house, using British ingredients with both sustainability and local support in mind.
Interiors are pared-back to let the food take centre stage. Light oak flooring, grey leather chairs, a statement banquette and brass finishings and minimal Japanese artwork adorn the main part of the room, with room for 38. The statement chef’s table (with 5 chairs – perfect for groups, pairs or as a solo diner) gives an intimate view into the open grill, with a backdrop of backlit, almost golden, slate sheets, which gives off a marbled, golden light. Bowls and plates are imported from Japan by Japanese ceramic experts Doki.
Executive Chef Aman Lakhiani comments: “We are very excited to be bringing our version of the art of yakitori to London. I have always been fascinated by cooking over fire and the central tenets of yakitori; bringing amazing flavours out of the simplest of ingredients. My training to date has all led to this moment, and it’s a dream come true to be launching our first concept in London.”