Japanese in Dalston you say? And it’s not sushi, teppanyaki or ramen? Jidori comes onto the Kingsland High Street dining scene with an unexpected menu. Never having heard of ‘yakitori’ before, I was intrigued by a chicken place that didn’t involve deep frying (or waffles). Even more interesting was how the chicken was used – Katsu curry Scotch eggs and skewered chicken hearts to name a couple of the options. A great opportunity to sample a side of Japan your tastebuds may have not explored before, Jidori is best visited with friends to share in the small plates, strong cocktails and sake.
Cool, calm and collected. Whitewashed with inconspicuous signage and pastel highlights, Jidori channels Far East elegance in the most understated way. Dark stools at the tables and around the bar are the only heavy colouring featured here. A few cute cacti and mini ferns are sprinkled along shelves. The kitchen itself is part of the dining space so you can cast your eyes over to the Japanese-imported Kama-Asa Shoten charcoal grill, if you’d like to see what yakitori cooking is all about…
Casual with a no bookings policy, this neat little diner could very well gain cult status with its niche eating and uber cool location. It went from relatively quiet to quite full on the Thursday night we visited, so be sure to get on this little gem before the masses invade and the queues get ridiculous.
I’m told the flavours are authentic, which I can’t comment on, but authentic or not, this is some very good eating. I visited with a group of four – one veggie, one vegan and two who are carnivorous to the point of indecency (one of these is me). Everyone was well catered for which is the beauty of Japanese dining. Yakitori is considered finger food/beer snacks, so the more people and the more plates ordered the merrier.
Taking their name from full flavoured, free-range Japanese yakitori chickens, the restaurant focuses on these familiar birds while turning them into something quite unique. I consider myself somewhat adventurous when it comes to eating out, so the Parsons nose (£3) and Chicken Hearts and bacon skewers (£4) didn’t phase me. The absolute winner of the Japanese chicken dinner starters though, had to be the Asian/British hybrid Katsu curry scotch egg. Slice it open to reveal your usual guilty pleasure with the added extra of a saucy curry on the side. A bit of a cheat you might say, but it was good.
Surprisingly, one of the most enjoyable dishes on our table, even to the meat eaters, was the Aubergine and miso butter skewers. It’s hard to determine what made these so very good but the inclusion of butter and spring onion garnishes on the soft, well cooked aubergine was spectacular. Meat was not missed.Other great yakitori options were the Thigh and spring onion skewers and the grilled wings, with shiso and grilled lemon. For a carby side we chose the Yaki onigiri – rice fashioned into crispy, grilled triangles. Somewhat tough for my tastes but perhaps this is in keeping with authenticity?
It’s unlikely you’ll be leaving Jidori in a food coma but this is not the purpose of eating in this way. If you’re looking for a massive dinner rather than Asian-style tapas to soak up your drink (like this is meant to be), you may want to double up on carbs and get the Chilled udon and the sushi rice as well.
Dessert is not to be missed. The Ginger ice cream with miso caramel, sweet potato crisps and black sesame praline is a dessert with a spectacular combination that proves veggies can work as afters. This takes the edge off any dessert guilt you may suffer from (think of the nutrition!) but is also undeniably yummy, and very clever.
89 Kingsland High Street
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