October 2, 2022
Supervisor Seunghee Hur mixes a cocktail at JINBAR in Calgary on March 18, 2021.Todd Korol/The

Supervisor Seunghee Hur mixes a cocktail at JINBAR in Calgary on March 18, 2021.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

  • Location: 24 4 St NE, Calgary
  • Cellphone: 587-349-9008
  • Web site: jinbar.ca
  • Value: $5-$24
  • Delicacies: Up to date Korean meals
  • Environment: Enjoyable, cool and relaxed
  • Drinks on provide: Cocktails, beer and wine
  • Finest bets: Crispy hen pores and skin, wedge salad, candy and savoury fried hen, honey butter corn and chips pizza, smooth serve with brown sugar tapioca pearls
  • Vegetarian pleasant? Sure
  • Further infomation: Minimal choices for gluten-free diners and open for dinner service solely (seven days per week).

Right now final 12 months, if I had heard an individual say one thing to the impact of, “You possibly can’t journey the world, so why not journey by means of meals?” I seemingly would have rolled my eyes. But right here we’re one 12 months later and it’s one of many solely issues many people can do to flee. It’s virtually all I need to do.

With that sentiment in thoughts, anybody who’s spent a little bit of time in South Korea might really feel transported whereas spending a night consuming and consuming at chef Jinhee Lee’s restaurant, JINBAR. Since opening in November, the charismatic eatery has garnered a status for sinfully scrumptious Korean-style pizzas and fried hen.

Being an business veteran since her days at Resort Arts’ Uncooked Bar, adopted by a chef de delicacies position at International Idea and her near-winning stint on Prime Chef Canada Season 6, Ms. Lee will not be solely a family identify in Calgary, however in all of Canada. Many would argue that the chef’s status for creating dynamic meals precedes her, particularly with regards to elegant, extremely composed plates of meals. With JINBAR, although, she leans into her love of consolation meals, and it’s enjoyable to observe the chef have, effectively, enjoyable together with her meals.

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Candy and savoury fried hen, wedge salad and candy corn pizza with gin cocktails at JINBAR.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

The area itself – on the cusp of Bridgeland, simply off the nook of Edmonton Path and Memorial Drive – has an extended historical past inside Calgary’s meals scene, most notably working because the award-winning Italian restaurant Il Sogno from 2000 to 2015. Since then, it has had 4 eating places: Whitehall (2015-17), Elwood and the Rabbit (2018), Waalflower Kitchen & Cocktails (2019-20) and now JINBAR.

After a rotating door of ideas, it appears as if Ms. Lee’s restaurant is the one that’s sticking, and I’m completely happy to see it.

Upon strolling into the area for the primary time, I used to be completely impressed with the way it felt. Subdued lighting, an upbeat playlist and loads of small teams of individuals chattering at high-top tables within the bar space – separated by copious plexiglass, in fact – assist set the tone for a enjoyable night time.

The cool purple glow of a neon signal behind the bar reads “Cocktails & Desires.” It has caught my eye on each go to; the assertion one way or the other feels so becoming, even to be fortunate sufficient to dine in a restaurant throughout these continued odd occasions.

A sleeper hit on the menu right here is the wedge salad.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

The wine checklist right here is concise, however complementary to the menu’s primarily salty, fried eats. Over the previous 12 months, I’ve had minimal soiled gin martinis out in town, so it’s a deal with to sip one right here that’s completely balanced with simply sufficient vermouth.

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I maintain mentioning the phrase enjoyable, however it’s actually one of the best ways to explain a dinner at JINBAR. The menu is stuffed with salty, crunchy, saucy, tacky creations that deliciously run the gamut. There’s lots to strive right here that you simply gained’t discover wherever else in Calgary, not to mention the whole thing of the Prairies.

Beginning with the fried hen pores and skin, it’s onerous to go flawed with these crispy, fatty shards, particularly when dipped right into a barely tangy jalapeno cream-cheese dip. Following that, a small bowl of Brussels sprouts – additionally fried – brim with flavour due to an umami-heavy vegan “xo” sauce and additional depth from a topping of fried shallots.

Brined hen is pounded out, minimize up, coated in breadcrumbs, fried and served alongside fried rice patties as “popcorn hen” with a soy dipping sauce. It’s onerous to pinpoint the entire spices within the combine that each the hen and rice patties are tossed with, however Korean crimson pepper chili flakes play a pleasantly spicy half.

This looks as if a superb time to say that there are solely a handful of sunshine dishes on the menu and vegetarian dishes are much more scarce.

The ahi tuna crudo is a refreshing stunner. Skinny slices of tuna sit fortunately in a vivid yuzu and soy French dressing, topped thoughtfully with chives, radish, tobiko and inexperienced onion. In some methods, this dish appears like an ode to the chef’s previous culinary work the place the satan was usually within the particulars on the plate. At JINBAR, the crudo serves as a palate cleanser of types.

With refreshing bites in thoughts, a sleeper hit on the menu right here is the wedge salad. Unassumingly tucked into the side-dish menu, you’ll be able to simply look over it. Chunks of cool iceberg lettuce are dressed generously with a cream dressing made with yeongyeoja – a pungent Korean mustard with wasabi-like results – and topped with radish, pickled onion and cherry tomatoes. A must-order.

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On to (extra) fried hen and pizza, I say!

Korean fried hen is available in most main Canadian cities, so there’s a benchmark to match with and Ms. Lee lives as much as it and surpasses it. Made with 12-hour marinated boneless hen thighs, on all of my visits right here I’ve had no qualms about devouring the appropriately thick battered hen tossed in sauces corresponding to honey garlic butter or jalapeno soy.

The one dish that notably transports me again to my travels in South Korea – and, extra particularly, my late nights of consuming and consuming in Seoul – is Ms. Lee’s pizzas, specifically the honey butter corn and chips pizza. A comparatively thin-crust pizza is topped with wealthy alfredo sauce, loads of mozzarella, much more corn kernels and skinny items of jalapeno. As soon as baked, the pizza is garnished across the crust with house-made potato chips and completed with honey garlic butter.

Gentle serve ice cream is served in a classic tea cup and studded with heat brown sugar tapioca pearls.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

Corn is a quite common topping on pizza in South Korea, however seldom one you’ll discover on a pizza in Canada and, moreover, it’s hardly ever the star ingredient. Candy, salty, fatty … it’s one thing that may solely be described as oddly scrumptious.

I extremely advocate ordering it.

Although I’ve by no means been something lower than very full after an evening at JINBAR, I’d think about myself a idiot to not spoon into some smooth serve for dessert. Served in a classic tea cup and studded with heat brown sugar tapioca pearls, every chunk of this creamy, cool end whisks me away to my travels, however this time in Taiwan.

I suppose travelling by means of meals isn’t so unhealthy in any case.

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