Those Delightful, Handmade Dumplings
Wednesday - April 13, 2011
As soon as the crowds outside Jin Din rou thinned out a bit, I headed to the South King Street location with an eager palate. When noodles and specialty dumplings are on the menu - and handmade in an open kitchen - I’m already inclined to like the food. and there’s a lot to like about Jin Din rou. Service is quick, parking is available on the street and behind the restaurant (if you get there at somewhat off-peak hours), and the décor is clean, contemporary and displays the kind of crisp attention to detail that we’ve come to expect from modern Japanese restaurants.
Xiao Long Bao is the signature dish here, and on each table there’s a diagram showing patrons how to eat the perfectly pinched, soupy little dumplings - not that most of us dumpling devotees need one.
A well-appointed counter, situated directly in front of the kitchen is the seat I might recommend; the effect is almost like sitting at a chef’s table, and while you can’t see everything that’s going on, you really feel in the middle of the fast-paced kitchen. Those who love to cook will find the process of twisting and beating the dumpling dough into tiny cubes ready to be pulled and patted into paper-thin circles quite fascinating.
No matter how expert your chopstick skills, you’ve most likely punctured one or two Xiao Long Bao during your own dining travels, haplessly watching precious broth disappear into your bowl. The Xiao Long Bao at Jin Din rou, while delicately wrapped, seem longer lived than most, so go ahead and scoop them up with confidence.
restaurant manager Shoichiro (Bob) Suzukawa explains that while the dumplings are a Taiwanese specialty, other dishes on the menu represent chinese food “with a difference.” at lunch, choose from two or three set courses (for about $9 and $15), and a variety of entrees (or dumplings) that may be substituted for a few dollars more. on the table you’ll find a selection of black vinegar, ginger and soy sauce ready to enhance the dumpling experience. Ton ton ramen comes with an excellent peanut broth that’s almost too rich and creamy. I thought the won ton noodles and the takana fried rice were excellent, as was the soft, tender eggplant that comes as an entrée choice. But while other menu choices are fine, it’s the dumplings that are the main attraction - dumplings with spicy chili, crab and even oolong tea are just some of the variations on a fabulous theme.
The very idea of a Japanese chain of restaurants serving a Taiwanese specialty in Hawaii might incur skepticism in some, but I believe some of our best food comes from the fusion of culinary techniques from one culture and recipes from another. Don’t go looking for authentic chinese food, but do expect casual elegance, fast, cheerful service, a reasonably priced menu, lots of color and noise, and just enough surprises (foie gras, anyone?) to keep you going back. as well as delightful dumplings, Jin Din rou offers attention to detail while keeping things unassuming and fun.
Jin Din Rou
1491 S. King St.
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