Jinseon Korean BBQ Restaurant, Unit 5 Priory Place, Fairfax Street, Coventry CV1 5SQ. Small plates £6.55 – £12.55, grill items £8.95 – £11.95, rice and pasta bowls £11.95 – £13.55, dessert £6.95, sake and rice wine £9.50 for 125ml
Modern food preparation technology should be celebrated: it’s cleaner, more energy efficient, and easier to use than the old ways. The thing is, it’s not very romantic. No one will ever write emotionally intense prose about the workings of a 1200W convection oven. They might write something full of knowledge of pigeons, but not a sentence that makes the heart flutter. The steel cauldron of glowing charcoal, brought to our table at Jinseon Korean BBQ Restaurant in Coventry, is legendary. By that I mean the Norse legend full of conceited, bloodstained men who roam the fire in the dark woods at night, cooking up that day’s hunt while telling each other stories of their bravery. As the plump man in black robes stained with ashes soared to the cauldron at his resting place, sparks and streaks of white smoke swirled in the sky. We feel the heat on our cheeks, our arms, and our souls in the caves.
We see. The real fire, or the red fire of man as King Louis VIII called it jungle bookJust do the thing. It’s rare to see it on the table these days. The last time I came across the burning coals was in my glorious crazy sword, opposite the Imperial War Museum. Before that it was 2009 at Soot Bull Jeep, a dark hole in a restaurant best known for being the last BBQ place in Koreatown in Los Angeles to use. It seems that the rest now prefer electric heaters. And yes, I know health and safety has faded, but still. However, I thank the modern industrial scale extraction system that dangles under each table from the high ceiling here in the back. I want to eat my lunch, not choke on it.
Jinseon is part of a cluster of Asian restaurants and supermarkets crowded around a modern plaza across from the headquarters of BBC Coventry and Warwickshire. The existence of these places, serving Chengdu hot pot and the like, is a tribute to a relatively new market created by the influx of students from different parts of Asia; You’ll find them in many, if not all, college towns these days. Jinseon is clearly here to serve this customer base with the greatest enthusiasm possible. The menu begins with variations of Korean fried chicken, those double fried wonders drizzled with gochujang sauce enough to paint the entire city center red.
I’ve always been bothered to associate morality with food. Sure, you can call me filthy, maybe somewhat, but a highly stacked burger couldn’t be more dirty than a clean salad. The word for describing Korean fried chicken is a messy word, and it’s made even more in the “dirty” presentation here, by adding melted mozzarella, cheddar cheese and a handful of jalapeños. Nobody needs to add melted cheese to fried and fried chicken. But then nobody needs that chicken in the first place. He’s in the “want” zone a lot. I wanted that.
To go on the grill, we’ve got thin, marinated cuts of beef short rib, sliced through the bone, and similar cuts of lamb with cumin, both about £11 for a fair share. These aren’t the best cuts of meat, but once the sugar-rich pickles start to caramelize over burning coals, who cares? We have an assortment of sticky sweet chili sauces with kimchi and crunchy bowls of iceberg lettuce leaves to wrap, if you can feel good with the supervisor. As always, Korean barbecue brings with it a lot of moderators.
In this case, it also brings a certain amount of work to the kitchen. The wide rim of the steel fitting that fits into the boiler has curved metal chambers. A yellow liquid is poured into one of the teapot. It’s a scrambled egg that, with a little encouragement from our forks, will slowly scramble due to the heat. The other contains sweet corn kernels with caramelized cheese. Both are a pleasing compulsively-chosen sideshow, but I’ve become really concerned about the way they peel the tray. How do they bring it down in the name of God? It seems to me a boiling job.
The menu features some interesting soup dishes, including Budae Jjigae at £25 for two, which is described as “a popular Korean-American fusion soup derived after the Korean War”. The main mark of this merger is the inclusion of spam along with tofu, kimchi, ramen noodles, and cheese. I don’t imagine spam today, or ever, as it happens. Alternatively, we have the seafood bibimbap, a ferociously hot iron pot filled with rice and topped with mussels, shrimp, and squid. It achieves much of its effect with bits of sweet chili sauce, but let it sit for a while and a chunk of precious burnt rice forms at the bottom that you can fight over. We also have the Seafood Pigeon, the popular cross between pancake and omelette. We took so long to explore the joys of a rotisserie that have turned lukewarm. We toss pieces of baguette over the coals for a few minutes and then it’s deliciously cooked.
The folks behind Jinseon own a café elsewhere in the city serving Korean fried chicken and croffles, which, like cruffin and cronut, are a hybrid baked good that includes a croissant, in this case pushed into a waffle iron. You can have both the flaky lamination required and the waffle slots to fill things up. Here they are served as dessert and shown to me as evidence of humanity’s endless capacity for innovation and beautification, especially when it is completely superfluous. I’m here a lot to cheat. Our cinnamon-enhanced sugar crust comes with a bowl of fluffy ice cream, caramel popcorn, and a bit of fruit. Oh, and the ceramic polar bear sits proudly in the middle of the plate. Because, well, just because.
I learned about Jenson from beautiful rugby journalist Eileen Manning who blogs at eatwithellen.com. She was worried, when I invited her to join me, that it wouldn’t be as good as other Korean restaurants I’ve tried. It really is in a totally attractive way. Anywhere I can still be bothered by burning coals is a good thing for me. But also, really, we know that the best Korean barbecue is probably somewhere in Korea. What matters is that Coventry has this ragged-paneled space that offers a very good time for anyone to enjoy cooking their lunch.
Borough Market in London organizes a series of events in the lead-up to Christmas hosted by chef and food writer Angela Clutton, author of the just-published book Borough Market: Knowledge. Next Tuesday, Cynthia Shanmugalingam will be joining her to discuss her first cookbook rambutan which is based on its Anglo-Sri Lankan heritage. On November 22, you’ll have a chat with authors Ed Smith, author of Boro Market Cookbook and Mark Redway, author Edible date. On December 7, Christmas will be special. Tickets are available over here.
The charity Guide Dogs for the Blind has launched a campaign highlighting the issue of illegal guide dog owners being denied access to businesses, including restaurants and bars. Recent research has found that 81% of guide dog owners have experienced some form of denial of access, with 73% saying it has occurred in the past year. Additional research found that one in five hospitality staff were unaware that turning down a guide dog was illegal, and half said they would have difficulty identifying a guide dog from a pet. visit this site For more information about the campaign.
Chef Phil Howard, of Elystan Street Restaurant and Kitchen W8, has changed the name of the pasta restaurant he’s about to open in Piccadilly. It will now be called Notto instead of Otto, to avoid confusion with the much-loved French restaurant Ottowhich has been trading at Gray’s Inn Road for nearly a decade.