I am usually not a fan of Japanese restaurants as I find the atmosphere a bit cold, and if they only do sushi then you are out of there pretty quickly. None of that at Jin Kichi in Hampstead. It is a lovely little gem, hidden in plain sight! It is only a few steps from Hampstead station, up the hill, right in front of a pizzeria. Be careful, it is a bit difficult to spot when you come there for the first time.
The restaurant itself is very cosy, with a warm atmosphere but it is a tiny place, so I would recommend going there with a couple of friends or on a romantic date rather than with a large party. The extensive and mouthwatering menu features many types of japanese dishes, from the classic sushi to less common items. I can already tell you you will spend a while figuring out what to choose!
There are 3 parts to the food served here: the grill in the middle of the restaurant, a traditional sushi menu (no California rolls or anything with mayo or hot sauce here) and finally the main kitchen, with its meats, noodles, soups, tempura etc. which was our choice for the evening.
Among us we tasted quite a range of dishes in the end. We started with a nice vegetable tempura and some Onigiri (rice balls). I was intrigued by the Ume Onigiri, a rice ball stuffed with sour plums (top right picture) and decided to take it as a starter rather than a side. It was a bit of a mistake as the dish was tasty but was definitely not meant to be eaten on its own. Oh well, I tried.
Then we all went for noodles and soup. I had the Nabeyaki Udon (top left) , a noodle soup with fishcake, an egg yolk, vegetables and a prawn tempura. It was positively delicious though I had a hard time eating the udon noodles. They are huge and always slipped off my spoon or sticks.
The other soup you can see on the pics is the Kae, with prawn tempura, an udon noodle soup with spring onion and fried king shrimps.
We also had another noodle dish, which the staff made vegetarian just for us, upon request.
We got a bit adventurous on the dessert and shared the pancakes you can see above between us. They are called Dora-Yaki and they are made of sweet red bean paste and water chesnuts, sandwiched between two small american-style pancakes. Surprising but actually really tasty! It is the first time I had red bean in a dessert and it was worth a try!
In a nutshell, by all means try the restaurant, with your significant other or a couple of friends no more. Try the sushi and the grill for me and let me know what you think. On the noodles, I considered myself well informed and very satisfied 🙂