JiJi: from sushi to shawarma
Unlikely fusion, combining the cuisines of Tel Aviv and Tokyo, looks set to be a slam-dunk success
Friday, 23rd July 2021 — By Tom Moggach
Cash has been splashed out on JiJi’s interior
AT first glance, it seems strange to combine the cuisines of Tel Aviv and Tokyo. Both cities are renowned for creative cooking but remain separated by a distance of more than 5,000 miles.
Yet a new restaurant in Islington proves that their fusion can be a slam-dunk success.
“There’s a lot of synergy between the Middle East and Japan,” explains Janina Wolkow, the founder of JiJi – an exciting new destination just off Upper Street.
A shared love of raw fish is one key example; sesame seeds are another. Served as a paste, this is called “tahini” in the Middle East or “goma” in Japan – but is essentially just the same thing.
The maverick menu at JiJi travels from sushi to shawarma, with many exciting stop-offs in between.
Smoked aubergines are served sashimi-style, with an Israeli chopped salad; fluffy flat breads, dusted with za’atar, are baked on a Japanese robata grill.
Some of the dishes can be traced to the founder’s other venture, Sumosan, a fine dining Japanese concept with outposts around the world.
We came to JiJi for supper, weaving from Upper Street into Esther Anne Place. This is part of the snazzy Islington Square development, built on the site of the old Post Office sorting office.
JiJi occupies a location briefly home to Borough Kitchen, an upmarket kitchenware shop which moved nearby.
There’s a vast terrace, fringed with pot plants, with around 45 seats; another 60 or so indoors.
Cash has been splashed on the fit out, with lashings of brass, marble and gorgeous deep blue tiles.
There’s a bar and an open-plan kitchen, encircled by prized seats at the counter.
On the left-hand wall, there are three huge square paintings of an imposing female figure with gold glasses, a pearl necklace or a golden fan, in a style that suggests Pop Art meets Art Deco.
The food here is excellent and easy on the eye: each dish composed with careful attention to balance, colour and texture.
A carpaccio of Yellowtail tuna is a rainbow of ingredients, the raw fish interlaced with pink grapefruit, orange and slivers of Honeydew melon.
The house sushi rolls are lifted by the crunch of white sesame seeds, and heat of coarse-grated wasabi and a dab of an umami-rich truffle and ponzu vinaigrette.
We shared a refreshing seaweed salad with peanut dressing. The aubergine sashimi is a clever construction, the smoky aubergine flavours offset by halves of blueberry, crumbled feta and thin slivers of radish.
Even the lamb shawarma has a cunning twist. The slow-cooked meat is jumbled with strands of pickled cabbage, the acidity and crunch bringing the dish together.
It’s early days for JiJi but the omens look good. The outdoor space will suit those wary of the recent relaxation of Covid rules; the inside has a decadent and luxurious feel. There’s even a small shop for those keen to take the experience home.
6G Esther Anne Place, N1
0207 486 3929