Welcome to Jin Kichi, a tiny, bustling Japanese eatery that’s been a fixture of Hampstead’s well-heeled Heath Street for decades.
Pull back the sliding door, duck under the fluttering noren curtains, and you’ll find yourself in a Tokyo backstreet izakaya, a cross between restaurant and bar where the air’s thick with steam and smoke; the clash of pans and sizzle of fire licking up from the robata grill.
Take a perch at the small dining counter surrounding the grill for the best seats in the house. The sheer scale of the menu here is staggering – where other restaurants zone in on ramen, yakitori or sushi, Jin Kichi manages to do it all (to a supremely high level).
The grill’s where chefs lay down skewers loaded up with almost anything you can imagine: tsukune (chicken meatballs with teriyaki sauce), ox tongue, quail eggs, king prawns. It’s also where they prep bigger plates like miso black cod; soft, smoky aubergine and salted mackerel. But beyond that, there’s also a staggering array of sushi and sashimi; gyōza; tempura; tonkatsu; udon & soba dishes; and the ‘drinking food’ so popular in izakayas. Basically, if you get a craving for pretty much any typical Japanese dish, you can find it here, and it’ll be excellent.
To wash it all down, there’s a couple of shochu, plum wines and Japanese whiskies behind the bar, as well as a whole list of sake (which you can enjoy hot or cold). What’s imperative is that you try one of the characteristic Japanese cocktails on offer, like the Calpico soda sour, made with a popular soft drink that’s a bit like Yakult.
Your gut will thank you. Your head may not.
NOTE: Jin Kichi is open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Sunday. You can make a reservation (highly recommended), and find out more, on their website HERE.
Jin Kichi | 73 Heath Street, Hampstead, London NW3 6UG
Looking for a good nightcap spot? Stop in at The Duke of Hamilton for drinks and jazz.