This November, Mr Ji founder Samuel Haim will bring his take on Taiwanese night market chicken to Soho as he opens the doors to his first permanent home, following a successful pop-up in Camden. Samuel, who founded award winning “new school” fish and chip restaurant Hook in Camden and now Greenwich, was inspired to open Mr Ji by his visits to the bustling capital city of Taipei. Mr Ji will dish up Taiwanese crispy fried chicken, dusted with flavourful powders, alongside booze-spiked, oriental fruit teas.
Using only 100% free range chicken throughout the whole menu, the focus is on Taiwan’s signature crispy fried chicken often found in their night markets. Their hero dish, the Big Ji is a huge butterflied chicken breast, brined, coated in gluten-free sweet potato flour and deep fried. Samuel prototyped many different flours before drawing to the conclusion that sweet potato flour worked the best, keeping the chicken juicy but extra crispy as well as non-greasy on the outside.
The Ji’s are dusted with a range of flavourings which the team have developed from scratch, including Traditional spice, Thai ketchup, Korean BBQ and Salt & Black vinegar. These are accompanied by Mini Ji’s – bite-sized pieces of marinated thigh meat tossed in a range of house made sauces. Also available will be the steamed Bao burger – spiced fried chicken thigh served in a steamed bun.
Side dishes include hot and sour soup made to a traditional Taiwanese recipe and Mr Ji’s chicken tips: split wings shaken up with a seven-spice powder. There’s also house fries; crunchy Taipei slaw with ginger and chili; and pickled cucumber and soy and citrus cavallo nero with cashews. To finish, those with a sweet tooth should save room for the sweet potato doughnuts dusted with ginger sugar, a firm favourite at the Camden pop-up.
To drink, Mr Ji will pour homemade, Taiwanese teas. Rotating on a seasonal basis, guests can choose from the likes of floral Jasmine, Blood Orange & Hibiscus; refreshing Green Tea & Mint and soothing Oolong, Pineapple & Ginger. For those looking to make a night of it, each tea can be blended with a range of spirits. Mr Ji will also exclusively serve Gold Medal Taiwan Beer, brewed from Taiwanese rice, widely enjoyed in night markets and restaurants across Taiwan.
Designed by Mystery, the interiors take their cues from the neon-lit buzz of Shilin Night Market in Taipei and uses recycled materials such scaffolding boards for the tables. Dropped lighting features along with walls decorated with Taiwanese street art. The space is enlivened by light boxes emblazoned with bold quotes.
Samuel says, “I first met the real ‘Mr Ji’ whilst hiking up Elephant Mountain in Taiwan – he was an enigmatic character who tipped us off on where to find the best fried chicken in Taipei. I’m looking forward to bringing my modern take on Taiwanese fried chicken to Old Compton Street, using fantastic quality chicken and punchy powders.” Mr Ji will open on Wednesday 20th November and to celebrate their opening will be giving away 100 Big Ji’s on a first come first serve basis.