On the other hand, we're not too sure about Japanese Izakayas in Mong Kok. Eventually, we remembered the recommendation by a friend of my wife, who was/is still a Japanese writer based in Hong Kong. She recommended "Jinya". So we figure we will risk it.
We arrived at about 7:00 p.m. and there were a lot of tables available. They gave us a table for four even if it was just the two of us. I began observing the ambiance of the restaurant and find it very nicely designed. All the tables were placed wide apart. There were partitions placed at "strategic locations" so almost all tables had it's own private area. The lighting was dim and the ceiling was quite high. Perhaps this explains why there were so many couples present!
We decided to order some drinks first. My wife ordered a "grapefruit chu-hi" (soda water, plus a bit of sochu and fruit juice of your choice). When I ordered a big bottle of Asashi, the staff went away for about 5 minutes and then returned to tell me that it was out of stock. She told me that they've changed to another beer. When I asked her what that beer was, that same staff went off for another 3-4 minutes.
She returned and told me that they only had "Kirin", which was find because I prefer Kirin anyway. So I asked for a bottle. She then told me that she wasn't sure whether they had the big bottle or not. I was already getting quite fed up at this point
I told her, slowly, to make sure she got the message, that if they have a big bottle of Kirin, bring me the big bottle of Kirin; if they don't have a big bottle of Kirin, bring me a small bottle of Kirin. I think one can't get much clearer than that
At this point, another waitress, with slightly dyed hair in a single ponytail, perhaps sensed the rapidly increasing heat and stepped in. She informed me that they had a big bottle of Kirin. She was very nice, friendly, polite and efficient - we stuck with her the whole night and only ordered when she's around! (Sorry for that and Thanks a lot! ) She saved our evening and definitely their ratings from me too
All the wings were hot, juicy and tender. The medium spiciness, which tasted a bit peppery and should be glazed with garlic powder, mirin/honey, is mild. I'm not trying to be sarcastic, but it's less spicy than the colonel's hot wings at KFC. You can't beat the price at just HK$6 each!
The quality and the price of the Tebasaki here was much much better than "Toba" (strong flavour but dried like a stick) and "Nagoya" (better than Toba but less juicy than Jinya). My wife liked it a lot and thought it was very good.
If you like Nagoya Tebasaki or wanted to try it, I recommend Jinya.
Chicken kidney (Sunagimo): Those were rather thin. It was slightly marinated but quite juicy.
Asparagus roll with bacon: The asparagus was very fresh and crisp. The quality of the bacon was not bad. It's not too salty and had about 70% fat and 30% meat. Some might find it fattening but I liked it.
Cheese tsukune and Tsukune: The Chess tsukune was less dry than the normal version and both had chicken cartilage. However, the standard was just OK as it was slightly dry in the middle. I think it might be kept in the freezer for a bit too long. Certainly could not be compared with "Nishiki", "Gomitori", "Jun"...etc.
But the next dish arrived and completely took us by surprise:
You're supposed to scoop the chicken meat out from the bamboo container with the spatula (?) provided and dip the minced chicken meat into the egg provided.
This bamboo minced chicken was very good. The chicken had chicken taste - which should not be taken for granted and was already quite an achievement in itself. The timing was good: It arrived piping hot and aromatic plus slightly crisp on the outside. The chicken meat was very tender and well marinated with mirin and sake. The egg should be imported from Japan as the yoke was big and tasty - in other words, the egg had egg taste.
Definitely the highlight of the evening and the most compelling reason why I'd recommend this restaurant.
All these came pretty quickly and we finished all of those in about 30 minutes. Since the quality of some of the dishes were really of exceptional quality, we decided to order a bit more. We ordered a famous Nagoya dish Eel rice (櫃塗し）and a Kagoshima Pork with Tofu on Hot plate.
The eel rice came with a pot of tea, and is the traditional way The steps of eating were conveniently printed on the menu. Basically:
(1) Try the first bowl of eel and rice without adding anything;
(2) Try a second bowl and taste it after adding the seaweed and wasabi;
Whilst I'm talking about unagi, i.e. eel, I don't know any good shops that specializes in unagi (I don't believe it's "Mikawaya"). I tried unagi at a new shop called "Hachirin" and tasted like soil (the set dinner, Japanese rice and the view was good though - but that's for a different review). I tried the unagi once at Hataka Dojo, and it tasted liked rubber (I like their other stuff though). Anyway,
We also ordered a bottle of hot sake. Both my wife and I thought the hot Matsu, Take, Ume 松,竹,梅 tastes much better when drank hot. We also ordered a Tsukemono, i.e. preserved vegetables. The portion was pretty substantial but a bit salty.
The bamboo minced chicken was top quality stuff. Definitely as good as other famous Japanese restaurants. The Nagoya chicken wings were also very good and much better than most Nagoya themed restaurants.
Service-wise, other than one waitress who seemed to be a bit of a scatterbrain, the rest were very professional. The waitress with dyed single ponytail whom we approached instead was particularly composed and helpful.
The bill came down to HK$260 per head, which was very reasonable considering the amount of food and drinks we had as well as the quality of some of the dishes.
We were too full because we had ramen a few hours beforehand. But we'll definitely return to try out their other chicken dishes like chicken sashimi and chicken hotpot.
Supplementary Information:We noticed that the menu stated "Tokyo Hong Kong Los Angeles" and we checked it on the internet. It turned out that Jinya indeed came from Tokyo (Ebisu to be precise)! They were surprisingly low key about it.
Table Wait Time: 0 minute(s)
Date of Visit: Apr 07, 2012
Spending per head: Approximately HKD260
Value for Money4
Keep it up!