Vancouver Sun


Jinya app eases big crowds

- Food · Comfort Food · Recreation · Noodles · Cookbooks · Street Food · Restaurants · Recipes · Cooking · Dining Out · Fun (band) · Vancouver · Mexico City · Mexico · California · North America · United States of America · Los Angeles · Jinya Ramen Bar · San Miguel, CA · Hastings, Michigan · Port Moody

Line­ups into a restau­rant were once ads for mon­strous serv­ings of meh food at an en­tic­ing price. En­tic­ing prices, I like, but not so much the meh food. And line­ups? Call me no-fun. I flee.

And line­ups made me a late­comer to Jinya Ramen Bar, even though the crowds out­side looked like they knew good food. I could have driven to Ker­ris­dale or Burn­aby where there are now Jinya fran­chise out­lets. But I didn’t.

One bone-chill­ingly wet and gloomy Van­cou­ver day, an hour into re­turn­ing from sub­trop­i­cal Mex­ico City and San Miguel, I was down­town and over­come by a prim­i­tive need for a hot bowl of ramen — a now-or-never mo­ment for Jinya.

It was mid-af­ter­noon, not the height of ramen fever. We made our way to the host­ess to mark our spot in line and here’s where I did a cartwheel of hap­pi­ness. Jinya down­town has the Nowait app for restau­rants. It es­ti­mates wait­ing time and texts guests when their turn comes up. (On the flip side, a Nowait app for din­ers gives wait­ing times for nearby par­tic­i­pat­ing restau­rants and puts you in line for a ta­ble.)

“We had com­plaints in the first cou­ple of months where wait­ing times were up to a cou­ple of hours,” ex­plains Jinya pub­li­cist Junko Rus­sell.

“The staff were new, and they couldn’t guess how long the wait would be.”

So we ran an er­rand, and in 20 min­utes as pre­dicted, the app text hailed me in. The first slurp and mouth­ful of ramen was a most def­i­nite “ahhh” mo­ment. I had the cha cha cha, as­ter­isked on the menu like this: *For gar­lic lovers.

That, for me, is a grand se­duc­tion. Bring it on. I tasted the pork and fish broth, pork chasu, soft boiled egg, bean sprouts, onion, green onion, gar­lic, chili pow­der and manda­tory thick noo­dles (you can choose your noo­dles with some of the ramen). But hold on, the gar­lic was sub­dued. Then the server brought the goods — a jar of raw gar­lic cloves with a gar­lic press. Yes!

I crushed three into my noo­dles, partly for the taste and partly be­cause the woman sit­ting be­hind me on my flight home was like Ty­phoid Mary, in full flu mode, hack­ing and honk­ing. I needed an im­mune boost. So much for­ti­fi­ca­tion in that bowl. (Prices for ramen are an av­er­age $15.)

My hus­band’s spicy chicken ramen was lighter with chicken broth, chicken chasu (re­ally good), spinach, bean sprouts, green onions and a choice of mild, spicy or hot chili.

That lunch de­manded a com­mand per­for­mance and we found our­selves back there a few days later at 11:30 a.m. to avoid the crush. The server, cheer­ful enough, was at our ta­ble sev­eral times pres­sur­ing us to or­der, an­tic­i­pat­ing the noon rush. Not great for my hus­band who de­cides un­der great de­lib­er­a­tion. (Eye roll.)

He chose spicy umami miso ramen (pork broth, miso, ground pork, bean sprouts, green onion, bok choy, chili oil, thick noo­dles), and I would have taken it over had he not moved it out of my reach. The broth was as thick as tan tan noo­dle broth and ab­so­lutely de­li­cious with umami.

It wasn’t as spicy as ad­ver­tised, how­ever.

I thought I’d go off script and try one of the rice bowls, the Cal­i­for­nia poke bowl. (Bowls come in a small or large, $8 to $15.) Not fab­u­lous.

The dish, topped with a ton of herbs and en­dowed with tuna, salmon and prawn was healthy, but I’ve had bet­ter.

Un­der snacks and small plates, a bao bun with pork chasu was dis­ap­point­ing. The steamed bun was kind of life­less but the pork, glazed with a sweet sour sauce was good. I re­ally liked the tem­pura brus­sels sprouts with truf­fle oil — de­liv­ered scream­ing hot out of the fryer. It

could have used a dip of some sort. I also liked the mini-taco with pork chasu and kim­chee made with deep-fried won ton skin — even bet­ter than with an au­then­tic corn taco. It was light and crispy, al­most like pork crack­ling.

The kitchen is, fig­u­ra­tively, on fire. Dishes sped out (all the bet­ter to turn ta­bles) and given the vol­ume, they do a good job of it. A word of ad­vice to whomever makes the tea — warm wa­ter does not a de­cent cup of tea make.

The “bar” in the name says you’re wel­come to have a quick bite with a craft beer or cock­tail. As men­tioned, there are two other Metro Van­cou­ver lo­ca­tions and some 29 al­to­gether in North Amer­ica.

Rus­sell says a chef from the Los An­ge­les head­quar­ters makes reg­u­lar vis­its to check on con­sis­tency. The ramen noo­dles are made in L.A., where Jinya be­gan. The Rob­son Street lo­ca­tion is ap­par­ently the busiest in North Amer­ica, and that’s say­ing some­thing con­sid­er­ing the con­cen­tra­tion of ramen spots in the neigh­bour­hood. BEER AND TACOS

Ta­cofino teams up with lo­cal brew­eries to host once-a-month beer din­ners at its 2327 East Hast­ings lo­ca­tion.

Tofino Brew­ing Com­pany is on board on Feb. 22, fol­lowed by Steel and Oak Brew­ing Co on March 29; Strange Fel­lows Brew­ing Co. on April 26; Four Winds on May 31; and five Port Moody Brew­ers on June 28.

The ex­ec­u­tive chef is the tal­ented Ste­fan Hart­mann, and tick­ets are $50. For more in­for­ma­tion and tick­ets, go to

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 ??  ?? The bar at the Jinya Ramen Bar on Rob­son Street is a good place to en­joy a quick bite with a craft beer or a cock­tail.
The bar at the Jinya Ramen Bar on Rob­son Street is a good place to en­joy a quick bite with a craft beer or a cock­tail.
 ??  ?? Jinya Ramen Bar has a va­ri­ety of ramen bowls on its menu, in­clud­ing dishes with pork, chicken and fish.
Jinya Ramen Bar has a va­ri­ety of ramen bowls on its menu, in­clud­ing dishes with pork, chicken and fish.

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