Dainty grilled plates big on seasoning
The hype: The Les Amis Group adds a Japanese-flavored notch in its belt with modern sumiyaki restaurant Jinjo. Parked on the second floor of Shaw Centre, the cozy establishment boasts a specialization in Japanese charcoal-grilling and exclusive sake pairings.
The vibe: Designed to feel like an authentic Japanese den you’d stumble into along Tanjong Pagar, the Orchard establishment features an intimate wood-furnished setting perfect for enjoying your Japanese plates. Take a seat at the live grill or the 7-seater bar counter for a more personal experience.
The food: Veteran washoku (traditional Japanese food) chef Makoto Saito helms the kitchen, presenting a traditional, prefecture-focused menu so you know exactly where your food comes from. If the plates look small, they come packed with bold, unexpected kicks of flavor. Start with a juicy tomato ($12), saturated with yuzu for a citrusy taste, and work your way to hot bites like the addictive Chawanmushi ($12) and Yaki Goma Tofu ($6); the latter has a curious mochi taste.
You simply must taste Jinjo’s signature charcoal grill, available in Toto Chan-approved "From the sea" and "From the land" plates. For seafood, try the Kama ($28)—juicy tuna belly done sumiyaki style it looks almost like tender beef—and Nodoguro ($26), a seared black throat sea perch from the Ishikawa prefecture. From the land, get the Seseri ($18)—grilled chicken neck, shredded, then grilled again over charcoal and hay for a sublime smokey taste. Paired with a rich sauce, it makes for the fine dining equivalent of addictive popcorn chicken.
Still, you can’t go wrong with any of the subsections on the menu. Yakitori like the Tebasaki ($8) and Sunazuri ($6)—wing and gizzard respectively—feature the same heavy-handed seasoning of the Binchotan plates, while vegetable options like the Satsuma-Imo ($20), a classic Chiba sweet potato, are easy on the palate. And for the less adventurous, there’s a selection of Donabe, or Japanese rice pots, in sharing portions for two to four; the Freshwater Eel ($38/$55) features succulent slices of the fish that unagi fans will love.
The drinks: Leaving without some sake would be a mistake—the beverage menu was curated to be an essential part of the Jinjo experience. The extensive selection ranges from aged to sparkling sakes (from $78 a bottle); but the drink to try is the house sake, Jinjo Private Label ($100 for 720ml, $200 for 1800ml), exclusively brewed for the restaurant by Tatenokawa brewery in the Ginjo prefecture of Yamagata. Smooth and light, it will dispel all vodka-related misconceptions of sake you’ve previously had. Otherwise, the Kinschachi Aka Miso lager ($15) and highballs ($10-$13) are a great option too.
Why you’ll be back: The slightly higher price point is well worth the hole in your pocket, for Jinjo’s dainty plates pack a memorable punch with their mastery of the charcoal grill and seasoning. Mouthfuls are precious here, and hence extra rewarding, treated with the respect afforded by a team that wants only to assure you leave 100% satisfied.