Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jinya Ramen - Restaurant Review

Jinya is a chain ramen restaurant with numerous locations around the US. The restaurant looks nice - hubby thought it had better decor than Kanji Ramen. I thought that it was okay, but nothing special.

Sassy Wine Belly - Jinya Ramen

The first thing we noticed was that the restaurant was about half full, with easily more than 20 empty seats, but the hostess told us that there would be a 15 minute wait. Really?

After a few minutes it was clear why there was such a long wait in a restaurant with so many empty seats. The restaurant was understaffed for dinner on a Sunday night in a very vibrant restaurant area, and the poor hostess was left to bus most of the tables herself. 

She finally cleaned a section of the bar near the door and seated us there. This seemed fine at first, but quickly it became clear that it wouldn't be a nice, quiet date night for us. Every time the hostess sat another party, she yelled an unintelligible greeting next to my right ear, which was then repeated by the kitchen (thankfully nowhere close to my ear).

The wine list was paltry - a Merlot, a Chardonnay, and a Pinot Grigio, all for $7 a glass. I didn't order any wine.

Being seated at the bar, the bartender doubled as our server. She was professional.

Sassy Wine Belly - Jinya Ramen

I searched the menu for a basic, traditional pork-based ramen, but couldn't find one. I settled for the Chicken Ramen ($10.50) with a side of bean sprouts ($1) and a poached egg ($1.50). Hubby ordered the Spicy Chicken Ramen ($11.75) and extra ground chicken ($2), as well as a glass of Austin Amber on tap ($5).

I was a little surprised when my ramen arrived. The basic ramen with chicken, broth, wood ear mushrooms, greens, green onions, and noodles was underwhelming for almost $11. For an extra dollar, I expected at lest a generous handful of bean sprouts, but as you can see there was just a pinch of them included, and they were very cold, as if they were just pulled out of the fridge. The poached egg wasn't what I was expecting, as I had asked the bartender/waitress for the type of soft-boiled egg with a runny yolk. This egg was also cold, as if it was pre-made and put in the fridge to keep. If they choose to do prep ahead of time, they should at least warm the refrigerated items up before serving. The cold ingredients brought down the temperature of my ramen very quickly, as did the extremely cold stream of air conditioning that was blowing straight towards my seat.

The ramen tasted okay for a chain restaurant. The broth was just average, but I was glad it wasn't too salty. The noodles under the chicken were actually still in a clump; however, those noodles not in the clump had a nice texture. The chicken was tender and tasty. Everything did taste fresh and not too salty, which is good.

Taking into consideration the less than great atmosphere and wine list, the average ramen with fewer than expected ingredients, and the fairly high cost for a less than satisfactory meal and experience ($35 before tip for 2 bowls of ramen and a beer), we won't go out of our way to return. We might stop in if we're already in the area and don't have any better choices. I'm extremely surprised that Eater Austin has named Jinya one of the hottest Austin restaurants for September 2016.

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