Scrambling for fans; dripping with sweat on the tube; lapping up the rays in the park – the hottest day of the year really did unleash itself upon us this month. Chances are, you spent yours cooling down… but not me. With a booking at Shoreditch’s newest Korean BBQ joint Yanji, things were set to sizzle.
Sporting industrial-themed décor, this east London newbie touts black booths and grey hues with a TV streaming K-pop. Hidden among walls adorned with steampunk cogs and a Union Jack guitar are huge silver fans. They might resemble a certain Teletubbies vacuum, but they're ready to extract the imminent BBQ heat. There’s private booths downstairs, but we opted for cosy seating between the Korean girl bands and a group of guys chugging a 2.5 litre vessel of beer… prime position.
The menu is straightforward; there’s individual BBQ skewers and dishes served cooked, as well as starters and mains. You'll find chicken heart, beef aorta and lamb kidney on the menu, so it pays to try something a little out of your comfort zone. With my dinner date being a friend with whom I’d once shared oesophagus in a questionable Tokyo restaurant, we were more than prepared.
An assortment of raw morsels arrived at our table ready to be fired up. Luckily for us, an observant waiter was on hand to stop our dinner burning as our attention was drawn away from our rotating skewers and to the bottle of wine (£19) that was quenching our thirst. Squid legs (£2.20 per portion) were chewy, spicy and packed a punch while fish tofu (£1.50) brought a squidgy texture to the table. Pork and beef were a little too fatty for us – a near miss.
Not just a one-trick pony, Yanji managed to churn out a slew of lip-smacking plates that didn’t require our attention. Fried oysters (£4) got our mouths watering before scallops (£5) arrived – cooked in a garlicky, peanutty, sesame coating; the good kind of in-your-face flavour somehow enhanced by being topped with noodles and chilli. A surprising hit was the stir-fried rice cake (£7). Advertised as a starter, this bad boy employed extra thick cheung fun-like slabs, slathered in a fiery sauce and scattered with quails eggs. So strange that it really worked.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Looking for a restaurant in Shoreditch that won’t cost a bomb? Skip the queues, ditch the expensive menus and head to Yanji where you’ll find a hidden gem that values delicious food just as much as K-pop. Plus with a rotating skewer system and some of the best Asian dishes this side of London, Korean BBQ has never looked so good.
You’ll find Yanji at 153 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 7DG.