Monday, June 13, 2011

Jin Din Rou

It isn't very often when my best friends from 7th grade and I can get together. With different schedules and life paths, we are very rarely in the same place at the same time. So to my delight, 3 out of the 4 (shout out to Nick who couldn't be with us!) of us were here on the island this past weekend! Kristen had just gotten back on Thursday, while Patrick was just about to leave for Russia on Sunday. It was Friday that we had planned to meet for lunch. Pat and "KZ" had planned the day and time, while my job (since I'm the foodie!) was to find a suitable place for all of us. This honorable duty came......with a few requests. Patrick, having an uncultured palate (haha, just kidding) requested "inauthentic food," and gave an example just so I would be clear: He "would rather go to Peppa's Korean BBQ over Sorabol." Funny guy.

Having this in mind (or not......again, just kidding!), I conveniently picked up the "Weekly Honolulu- Foodie Destinations" newspaper that had just recently come out. Read a bit on some lunch places, until Jin Din Rou popped in mind! My parents also reminded me of this place, and I had also remembered reading about it in the paper when it first opened. I remember being very curious, as it said they specialize in Xiao Long Bao- dumplings filled with meat and soup. I had my very first taste of Xiao Long Bao in San Francisco at a very famous and popular Dim Sum place called Yank Sing. It was absolutely wonderful, and if anyone is in the SF area, you must stop by there at least once! Located close to Market St, it is very accessible. Many people that work in the financial area of downtown SF and SOMA, make a short trip on their lunch break or get takeout from there.

Anyway, back to the Xiao Long Bao at Jin Din Rou. After this place popped in my head, I thought it would be the perfect place to take KZ and Pat. Let me give some background on these two wonderful BFFs of mine. Patrick is half-Chinese, and I figured he might as well reacquaint his taste buds back to his Chinese roots. On the other hand, with Kristen, I often introduce her with the following: "...and this is my haole friend, Kristen!" You get the picture, right? (Kristen, though, is very open-minded and I knew she wouldn't have a problem trying new things.)

The Saturday comes. We finally meet up and hug. On the way to the restaurant, I apologize to Pat: "I know you wanted inauthentic food, but uh...SORRY! This place is pretty authentic Chinese dim sum!" To make matters worse, he goes on to tell me he isn't very good with authentic Chinese food! We all have a big laugh.......we'll definitely see how this goes!

To make a long story short, the food was decent, and no one had many complaints afterward. Tummies were full and satisfied! Success!

Verdict? Service was good, the waiters and waitresses were very attentive, though we had to ask for water once, maybe. Food came out surprisingly quick, and the lunch deals were a really good value. I recommend getting one of the sets. We had lunch Set B which came with 4-piece Xiao Long Bao and two other dishes of your choice, all for $14.99. We asked for extra plates and bowls and shared it all. It was a good amount of food for 3 people, plus we still had a bit of room for dessert. I really like those kinds of restaurants where you can walk out feeling satisfied, but not to the point where you will "kanak" (get sleepy from a full stomach) and have to take a nap. You walk out feeling good!

As for the Xiao Long Bao, we had the original which came with the set, as well as some Ala Carte flavors- Spicy Pork (red) and Oolong Pork (green). See pictures below. I really liked the original and the Spicy Pork the best. Not being a big spicy fan, I tried the Spicy Pork anyway, after KZ said it wasn't too spicy. She was right- it was actually the tastiest one, I thought! The Oolong Pork was my least favorite. I probably wouldn't order that one again. I could hardly taste the oolong tea taste, and KZ and Pat both agreed it tasted too much like the original. I think they both liked the original Xiao Long Bao the best. We also got the Tan Tan Ramen and Chicken and Vegetable BBQ sauce dishes with our set. The Tan Tan Ramen tasted like unspicy Peanut Butter soup, and quite unlike the usual Goma-Tei Tan Tan that I was used to. I guess I was hungry, but I ate a lot of it. Not a bad taste, just not what you're used to tasting if you go to Goma-Tei or Goma-ichi for your Tan Tan. The Chicken and vegetable BBQ sauce was a decent dish as well, but nothing spectacular. I really did enjoy the chunks of orange sweet potato (yams) in it though!

Another thing about the Xiao Long Bao. There were a lot of notices on the placards placed on our table and in the menu about the Bao being VERY HOT. A lot of cautionary notices to warn you before you place it in your mouth. Apparently the broth in it is what you need to be careful of. Now, I don't know if we let it sit on our table too long (we were busy finishing up the Tan Tan and Chick/Veg dishes, and talking!), but as we cautiously popped the Bao in our mouths, it wasn't hot at all. In fact, it was pretty lukewarm. In this case, I don't know whether to blame ourselves or the place, but I doubt we waited more than 5 minutes before digging into it. If it was really hot, I figure the Bao would still be hotter than lukewarm...

Some other tidbits: This place is Japanese-owned, but specialize in Taiwanese dim sum. HUh!? I don't usually like places like this, just because I figure they would specialize in food from their homeland. Right?? It seems only practical and reasonable. But Jin Din Rou was a decent place to have a nice lunch, and they didn't kick us out after we sat in there for 2+ hours talking away and catching up. Props for that, JDR!

Now, one of my favorite topics, Parking! I was lucky to scoop up street parking RIGHT next to the restaurant (only 2 hours tops, before you need to redeposit), but there is also a lot with $4 validated parking in the back of JDR.

Lastly, while talking story, a nice little tip came up, thanks to Patrick! If you don't already know, on Tuesdays, Dole Cannery Theatres has an all day special- $6 movies, any movie, all day/night! Now, I'm all about deals, not only food (!) deals, so I had to put this on here! We're all trying to save money, right!? Enjoy!

Located on King Street, across the Piano store!

Set B

Chicken and Vegetable BBQ Sauce- those orange chunks
are not carrots, they're yams! Yum!

Tan Tan Ramen

Salad that comes with the Set- a nice cold ginger-y dressing

Xiao Long Bao!

Spicy Pork and Oolong Pork

Trying the Oolong Pork first!

Step 1: Dip Xiao Long Bao in sauce with preferred amount of fresh cut ginger

Step 2: Slice open (I don't know how to do that with chopsticks, but do your best...)
Xiao Long Bao so soup seeps out

Still trying to figure out how to "cut open" the Bao with chopsticks

There we go!

Step 3: Drink the soup in your spoon first

Step 4: Then proceed to eat the Bao. Enjoy!

The Original had a lot more soup!

Nano Shave Ice Mango flavor with Mango popping balls!
I love the popping balls!

Stamp card!
Get 10 stamps and get a Membership card that gives you 10% off the Dinner Menu!

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