Jugemu is not your typical run-of-the-mill Japanese restaurant; it’s an izakaya. The chef and all the servers are actually Japanese. This tiny establishment is sooo Japanese, you will consciously try to pick up certain Japanese mannerisms to not stick out like a sore thumb (think not talking obnoxiously loud… When in Rome or more precisely Japan 😋). It surely was a first experience for me and it was hella delicious!
It’s been a good while since I’ve been able to enjoy an authentic Japanese meal and so I was itchin’ to have one while in London! Whilst I was doing my research, Jugemu popped up BUT the reviews were very mixed. On one end, serious foodies were lamenting about their hesitation to share this hidden gem to the public and on the other end, many negatively commented about the tiny portions, expensive prices and questionable service.
Firstly, Jugemu is an izakaya. In Japan, an izakaya is deemed a casual place to eat and drink, most popularly as an after-work pub that serves a variety of tapas-style dishes to share amongst friends. So yes, the à la carte dishes are small… That has been the tradition all along. Devouring small bites and delicious sushi whilst in the good company of alcohol and friends: Hell YES!
Given that Jugemu appeared to be a small joint, I asked my friend to make a dinner reservation the week prior for the two of us. They don’t have a proper website, but you can easily find their contact number on their Facebook page for reservations.
Our dinner reservations were booked for 7 pm but we decided to head over for 6 pm instead as we were planning to check out a speakeasy bar right after. Alas, Jugemu was closed when we arrived for 6 pm and thus we hopped over to Tsujiri (a mere few steps away) for some matcha and houjicha soft serve to kill time.
My friend and I were so engrossed in our conversations that we hadn’t realized it was actually 7:20 pm! Oops. Lucky for us, the staff at Jugemu were very sweet about it and led us to our table. Jugemu is tiny. It probably can sit a maximum of 18 people at full capacity inside.
At first glance, half of the patrons here are Japanese. The menus à la dim sum style with tick boxes were placed in a bamboo container on our table and so we got to tickin’ away! There is the à la carte menu, the sushi menu and lastly, the today’s specials menu. The à la carte menu priced from a range of £3 to £10 per item and the specials were each £6.50. The sushi menu started from £13 for a basic Omakase sashimi platter and £5.50 to £8.50 for rolls/handrolls.
We began with the spicy cod roe (admittedly, I’m a sucker for anything spicy), tofu bean curd salad, fresh cucumber with miso dip and the pan-fried squid with sweet chilli and mozzarella. Before I continue, I must apologize for some of the shaky photos I took 😬
It was really dim in Jugemu and I have quite a bit to learn when it comes to taking crisp shots in low lighting settings! It was taking me quite a while to get any clear shots and so I didn’t end up photographing the aforementioned dishes. My poor friend, how patient she was!
I must say, the cod roe isn’t for the faint of heart. Naively, I ordered the dish thinking they were the clear, teeny fish eggs. Nope! Hearty, orange with a texture of a soft tongue? Not as appealing as sea urchin, I still finished my little dish without any help from my friend 😋 She much preferred the tofu bean curd salad and eventually, the grilled Greenland Halibut with miso.
Oh myyyyyyy…. The halibut literally melted in our mouths! The meat was buttery smooth and so fatty, we could have had many, many more dishes of this bad boy.
Their miso soup was pleasantly soothing and it hit the spot. You can tell they make their miso soup from scratch. 🙌🏼 I found that the pan-fried squid with sweet chilli and mozzarella was too sweet for my liking hence it was the only dish we didn’t end up finishing.
Next up, sashimi and nigiri (sushi)! Boyyyy, was I getting giddy. I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve had decent Japanese 🙊It’s been a long time coming — come to Mama! We ordered the 5 assorted pieces of Omakase Sushi and the 7 assorted pieces of Omakase Nigiri. For those of you wondering, Omakase in Japanese simply means chef selection. Basically, the chef will serve you the freshest available catches of the day.
I can’t recount every single piece of sashimi we had, but they were definitely FRESH AS F*CK! If I’m not mistaken, we had some scallops, hamachi, mackerel, salmon, and some sea bream? I don’t know for sure, but what I do know is that the quality of the fish at Jugemu is heavily applaudable!
The Omakase Nigiri platter we ordered had 7 pieces and each was a different type of fish. My friend and I decided we’d share each piece by halving each one. Right away, the server came to us and warned us that the chef would not like that and if we really wanted to try each one, it’d be best to order another platter. She came out of nowhere and so swiftly! My friend and I were quite taken aback but hey, we weren’t about to disrespect the chef.
Again, I cannot list each and every sushi piece we had, but they were d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s! The fish was outstandingly fresh, well seasoned and the sushi rice was utter perfection. The next time I’m in London, I won’t be holding back — Mama be getting her own platter of sashimi and nigiri for herself!
To clean our palates, we ordered the green tea and black sesame mochis with ice cream filling. Tasty lil bite-sized tiiiiiings! These were certainly not the typical boxed mochis from your everyday Asian supermarket.
As we were about to leave, we started a friendly conversation with our next door table of Japanese expats. They kindly told us that Jugemu was indeed a very authentic Japanese joint and one of them even tipped me off about the “best” Japanese restaurant in London. This sweet Japanese lady has lived over 20 years in London so I’ll undoubtedly take her word for it 😁 We’ll just have to wait for my next London trip to find out!
One last thing, the staff at Jugemu brought in the daily menu board from outside as well as flipped the Open sign to Closed at 8:13 pm. Safe to say, dinner reservations are definitely a MUST at Jugemu. The service was polite and we were never rushed at all during the whole service.
Before we left, I asked the server if the chef would mind me taking photos of him which he promptly returned to tell me, “Chef says you can take as many pictures as you want!”
My friend and I had such a good time at Jugemu that we stayed longer and skipped the speakeasy bar. Let’s just say that my last dinner in London was an absolute treat. Doumo Arigatou, Chef Yuya and your wonderful staff. 👏🏼
Location: 3 Winnett Street, London, United Kingdom W1D 6JY
Hours: Monday – Sunday : 12 pm – 3 pm // 6 pm – 11 pm*
- *Opening and closing times may vary, so do call ahead to double check!
- Call to make reservations especially during dinner times.
- Certain hand rolls are only served if you are sitting at the bar.
- Sharing individual sashimi or nigiri pieces is frowned upon.