The latest opening from restauranter Janina Wolkow was always going to struggle to steal itself away from featuring sushi on the menu. Wolkow made her name with her global Japanese chain Sumosan and is a self-confessed “sashimi addict”. But her latest venture, Jiji, billed itself as Japanese meets Middle Eastern. Well, this we had to taste.
Set back from busy Upper Street in the newly-opened Islington Square development, it felt like Sloane Square or Mayfair (it did prove valuable for celeb-spotting). Sitting on an outside table there was attention to detail: blankets on the chairs, artisan chopstick rests, and beautiful crockery covered in discrete Jiji branding. Wolkow says she wants to create a “home away from home” - only if your home is very expensively decorated.
The Jiji menu is broken down into amusingly-named ‘Life’s Too Short To Eat Bad Sushi’ and ‘The Main Act’. We started with the zesty Picanteria cocktail - not sure we’ve ever had coriander in a drink before - but a perfect palate cleanser for a trolley-load of sushi headed our way.
We started with a platter of nigiri and Jiji fish tartar rolls. Our favourite by a clear mile was the scallop with unagi sauce. Fresh and flavoursome. The sea bass with jalapeno was the least interesting. While the fish tartar with truffle, which came highly recommended by our waiter - all of the staff were meticulously knowledgeable, friendly and attentive - justified itself being the most expensive dish on the sushi menu.
Moving into what felt more obviously like the Middle Eastern part of the menu, we ordered the JiJi flatbread (delicious and could have eaten three more) and smoked aubergine sashimi on a bed of Israeli salad, feta, and with the smart addition of blueberries. A total hero dish. Next was the head of cauliflower and hazelnuts - very Ottolenghi. Then the heritage beets with whipped feta and ricotta. Vegetarians are not going to be disappointed with this brilliant line up.
Finally, the largest of the dishes: the slow-cooked lamb shawarma and 48-hour miso marinated salmon. Would order both again. After two hours of dining, we still weren’t totally convinced that the Japanese Middle Eastern concept was seamless - at points it felt like two separate meals - but the phenomenal quality of the ingredients were so good it felt hard to care.