Monday, 30 April 2012

Jin Kichi Japanese Yakitori Hampstead Heath - a smoky cosy place


Address: 73 Heath Street
London NW3 6UG
Tel: 020 7794 6158
Nearest Tube station: Hampstead

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: N/A
Taste: ***
Service: ****
Ambience: ***
Whenever I think of Hampstead Heath, I think of paths filled up chipped stones up the green knolls. It's our weekend getaway when the sun is out for I just love lying down on the slopes with the cool breeze on my face. I just wish LO is old enough for me to roll her down that slope. Wicked me.

Though Hampstead Heath isn't exactly known for its restaurants, the crepes served at Le Creperie de Hampstead remains the best I've come across in London. Louis Patisserie serves interesting cakes but I believe that's about all.

Wife came across Esther Walker's interview, which who mentioned about the Jin Kichi at Hampstead Heath I found myself booking a table at the Japanese yakitori restaurant the very next day. It was a wet weekend but we persevered. Ah, the things that we do for food.

I managed to book a table for two on Jin Kinchi's website, which was rather surprising considering that it looked rather rudimentary. A staff called me back thirty minutes later to confirm my booking. You can count on the Japanese to be efficient.

I like what I saw the moment we stepped in. Jin Kichi's layout reminds me of Tokyo Diner's - if they can squeeze in a seat, they will. Privacy isn't the main concern here but it does lend to the authenticity for space is a premium in Japan itself and the people have a gift of using tight space.

We were seated under the staircase. I couldn't help stealing glances at the chef who was hard at work over the grills. Yakitori is traditionally grilled over charcoal and they lent a smoky finish to the skewered meats. The charcoal grill at Jin Kichi is laid on bricks that had been blacked with soot. Given a choice, I would love to seat on the counter itself. Just so that I can catch a whiff of the sizzling meat before it get sucked up by the ventilator.


For those who wonder how the Japanese people teach their young use chopsticks need not look further than the Japan Centre at Lower Regent Street. There's this learner chopsticks that are attached at one end making sure that the pair of chopsticks do not cross. If only I have one of those when I was a kid. The staff at Jin Kichi promptly fashioned one for LO by tying up a pair of disposable chopsticks using a scrape of paper and a rubber band. How they do that, I do not know but it is truly fascinating.

We ordered a couple of items that we normally do at Bincho, which has opened up a branch at Exmouth Market. The usual - gizzards, tongues, chicken wings and the likes. While Jin Kichi's yakitori fare was done decently, it didn't really stand out for me. With Bincho offering 50% off on Tastecard, I don't really see myself heading to Zone 2 for yakitori.

It didn't help a bit when LO started throwing a fit the moment we stepped out of Jin Kichi afterwards. As if to test Daddy's agility, she threw her ball down Heath Street. For those who are familiar with the area, that's hardly a wise thing to do. It rolled down two streets and was stopped only when a man stopped it at the back of his heel. He did look pretty bemused when a panting chap collected the flowery ball from him later on.

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