JINzakaya is the Les Amis Group's newest pocket-friendly concept that’s the playful yang to the zen Sushi Jin just next door. Unlike the dingy-fun izakayas you might be accustomed to in Japanese metropolises, the off-the-city-centre location begets a pretty dead after-work atmosphere – come back on weekends, its website emphasises, for more fun-filled times. The mural of vintage posters and irrationally happy throwback Japanese TV ads try their Yatta! best to help things along in the meantime.
A row of bar seats facing the buzzing open kitchen is ideal for solo and couple dining, but bigger groups will just have to watch the chefs from an inn-like dining room. With the atmosphere visibly off, the purported 'fun dining' advertised is left to the food, but JINzakaya's reasonably priced snacks, sticks, salads and noodle bowls keep to the script. Still, the execution surpasses a lot of its competition. A serving of charcoal-fired squid ($15) is grilled to tender, smoky perfection – the INKA-stoking Spanish should take notes. Those exposed coals also cook Aussie wagyu beef ($9) that bites clean and juicy. Minced chicken tsukune yakitori ($3.50) is lacking a little in seasoning, while the two ruffled oysters wrapped cleverly with bacon ($5.50) and then skewered are addictive.
After knocking back a Japanese draft beer ($13-$15) or a few cups of sake ($89-$119) – which the servers are pretty clueless about – you'll want to dig into a warm bowl of soup. The house signature JIN tori ramen ($12.80) has a homespun 'birthday noodles' quality to its chicken stock, with nubs of grilled chicken and a gooey egg to drape over springy noodles. The lighter counterpoint to the yakimono options can be found in the refreshing, chewy Akita-style dipping udon ($12.80) that resembles narrow kway teow threads. Lunch options offer a pretty sweet deal: $12.80 nets you a hefty bowl of meat-topped salad, donburi, ramen or a sandwich, and a glass of hot or cold tea.
JINzakaya ups the game on the ‘izakaya remixed’ format, but can be a bit of a buzzkill with its vacant vibe. Plonk this on Circular Road or Keong Saik and the great food will make it a stand-out option for the post-work set.
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