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Critics' pick
Photographs: courtesy JUJU
Photographs: courtesy JUJU
Photographs: courtesy JUJU
Photographs: courtesy JUJU
Photographs: courtesy JUJU
3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Guangdong Lu.

This venue has closed.

‘Let's play a game,’ one of the staff says as she balances shot glasses of soju on the edges of beer glasses at our table. We learn that these are soju bombs to the soundtrack of ‘Apache’ pumping out from the speakers at full volume, with Biggie and Nicki Minaj to follow. A quiet night out JUJU is not. Powered by restaurateur Mark Klingspon (The Nest, The Cannery, Rye & Co), the Korean barbecue spot at Three on the Bund is lively, over-the-top and a little bit gritty.

Almost in an act of defiance, brightly coloured graffiti murals have been spray-painted directly onto carefully wrought brushed metal walls, originally fitted out by architect power couple Neri & Hu for Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s upscale Korean barbecue restaurant. Scratched table tops and well-worn sunken seating leftover from Chi-Q and then short-lived high-end Japanese yakiniku restaurant Kanpai Classic feel almost subversive for the fancy, fancy Bund. Not everything great has to be new and shiny, now does it?

Arcade game machines, booze fridges and live octopus tanks are scattered throughout the space. Drinks are cheap. Highballs for 30RMB. Jinro soju for 50RMB. A three-litre keg of Kirin for 200RMB. Red plastic trash bins to collect your empties are by each table, indicating how much fun your night contained.

The menu’s a laminated one-page affair. All-you-can-eat barbecue takes the limelight with as much pork, beef and veggie plates as you can stomach for 288RMB a head. Throw cuts like pork belly and beef brisket strips on the table grill until you’re bursting, or if you’re not keen on the meat sweats, order à la carte meat for 98RMB a plate and add on premium cuts for extra. Beyond the grilled meat, a selection of banchan (on-the-house side dishes) like unexpectedly good potato salad and kimchi help fill out the table.

Elsewhere on the menu, tuck into riffs on Korean comfort and street food: jeon (fried pancakes), odeng (fish cake skewers), jjigae (stews) and bibimbap (mixed rice). Spicy is unabashedly spicy at JUJU. Sinus-clearing tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes, 38RMB) come swimming in gochujang chilli paste sauce, and make sure to get the combo platter (88RMB) of Korean fried chicken – you’ll be chasing the eye-wateringly hot ‘Fire’ variety with bites of the classic fried chicken, which feels both very wrong and very right. A punishingly spicy chilli pepper soft-serve ice cream (38RMB) at the meal’s end is truly painful. But while some things might hurt at JUJU – your hangover, for one – the final bill does not. Good value, great vibes: we’ll drink another soju bomb to that.

Dinner for two: around 600RMB.

By Cat Nelson

Venue name: JUJU (CLOSED)
Metro: Nanjing Dong Lu
English address: Second Floor, Three on the Bund, 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Guangdong Lu.