Korean fried chicken has been a staple of cool London for a couple of years now but now Taiwanese night market chicken has arrived in the capital with the opening of Mr Ji in Soho. The Old Compton Street restaurant is the first bricks-and-mortar site for a concept which has already had a successful trial as a pop-up in Camden Town.
Mr Ji is the brainchild of restaurateur Samuel Haim, the founder of Camden fish restaurant Hook, who got the idea for this place after hiking up Elephant Mountain in Taiwan and coming across ‘Mr Ji’, who recommended the best fried chicken on the island.
Back in London, Haim has opened Mr Ji on Old Compton Street, though the setting is definitely more UK than Taipei, with MDF walls paying homage to the restaurant’s pop-up past and a neon sign of a chicken with the words ‘you’ve found the Ji spot’.
Friendly, upbeat staff recommended a fruit tea of jasmine, hibiscus and strawberry spiked with gin, which made for a refreshing start to a meal based around Taiwanese-style free-range chicken, fried in gluten-free potato flour flavoured with a number of different powders which are all created and made in-house.
To start, crispy and succulent popcorn chicken and the ‘Big Ji’ fried butterfly chicken, with a selection of six sauces ranging from spicy mayo to sweet chilli and Korean barbecue, made for a promising start to our Taiwanese fried chicken experience.
We followed with juicy bitesize chicken tips, hot and sour soup with a warming broth, crunchy bean sprouts and the best thing we ate, Ji baos – the signature fried chicken with spicy hot sauce and kimchi sandwiched between a light and fluffy bao bun.
To accompany all that chicken, fries seasoned with Mr Ji’s speciality powders were nothing to write home about but a citrusy black cabbage with cashew was a welcome change from standard coleslaw. To finish, sweet potato and ginger doughnuts is the sole dessert, featuring melt-in-the-mouth balls of dough coated in cinnamon sugar.
On the drinks front, expect homemade seasonal teas from (jasmine, oolong, pineapple and ginger) if you’re steering clear of alcohol. With 1am opening on Friday and Saturday, Mr Ji could well be your new favourite place for post-pub munchies.