Jin Mi Restaurant - Authentic Korean Cuisine Prepared with Pride
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Jin Mi Restaurant is located on Route 16, on the Dededo side of this busy thoroughfare a little north (towards the Mall) of GPA. The stand-alone white building with the dark blue trim, tinted windows and rooftop signage can't be seen if you're driving too fast, and you'll want to be sure to get there early to get a parking spot, since it is very limited. After frequently passing this restaurant on my power walk regimen before my March 17 (2001) leg injury, I knew that this restaurant was popular with local Koreans since it was always busy. Now that I've dined there for lunch, my curiosity has been appeased, and I can confidently list Jin Mi Restaurant as one of my top choices for good, authentic Korean food.
It didn't take much to decide on Jin Mi...I just asked my Korean friend and occasional dining companion, Renee, for her opinion on which Korean restaurant she'd like to go to for lunch. Jin Mi's owner, Mrs. Jung Soon Kim, has operated this popular restaurant for many years. She does all of her shopping for the ingredients every day before opening, to assure freshness.
Jin Mi features the standard traditional fare of Galbi (beef ribs $16), Bul Go Gi ($15), Jop Chae ($13), several table-top grill entrees, and well over a dozen specialty soups. The easy-to-read menu has large color photographs identifying every main dish with descriptions listing their ingredients. We decided that today I would try some new items I'd not yet eaten...after all, I must keep on broadening my "food guy" repertoire, especially for the exotic!
One of Renee's favorite dishes is Gae Jang, which is fresh raw crab seasoned with ground red pepper and mixed with vegetables ($16). This was definitely something I've never had before! We also ordered Soon Tofu Soup ($10), which is slightly spicy, with crushed tofu, baby shrimp, clams, and some vegetables in a beef broth. To round out our order, I ordered a traditional grilled favorite for Westerners, Galbi, since one can tell the caliber of the restaurant by the quality of the beef they serve.
Jin Mi is a simple restaurant, with each table separated by dividers, providing the diners with a bit of privacy. Atop each divider are boxes of living plants, giving a natural ambiance to the restaurant. The Korean artwork is tasteful, and there are some attractive colorful ornaments decorating the walls. Nothing detracts from this restaurants main attraction - the food!
Our server delivered the "Pan Chan" (assorted vegetables and kimchis in little dishes). Most of these are typical to Korean cuisine, such as dried baby anchovies, bean sprouts, cucumber kimchi, and radish kimchi. Today, two exceptional dishes were served - eggplant kimchi, and sauteed squash. The squash was unusual (my first time seeing it), with a kiwi-green external ring and orange center. It was refreshing to the palate, balancing against the spicy kimchi seasoned vegetables.
Our Soon Tofu Soup was delivered in a boiling cast iron cauldron on a serving platter. We watched it bubbling, and the steam revealed some of the flavors we would soon be enjoying. Renee stirred it a little, then portioned some of the soup into our bowls. It was delicious. This particular tofu was produced by Renee's family business, which makes the Sunsoy® brand. This tofu was very mild, with a soft consistency similar to silken tofu. This special type is made right before it gets pressed into a pan, which is the normal process for the tofu available in retail stores. Renee stated that this tofu product is very popular with those Japanese who enjoy Korean food. The soup's fresh flavors only improved as the dish cooled down, and it was something I helped myself to throughout the meal.
The Gae Jang was served on a large platter...it was a big crab, and had been broken into easy-to-handle pieces. Believe me, that makes a difference, since this dish tends to get very messy. It is highly seasoned, so if you are squeamish about spiciness, this dish is not suggested. In all my years of eating, I have had crab in a variety of ways, but never was it served raw. The only ingredients added were the red pepper/kimchi base with green vegetable stalks. Renee picked up a piece and got down to business. This WAS one of her favorites, and she consumed it with relish, sucking the raw meat out of the shell. My sense of adventure was once again tested, and I picked up my crab leg and pulled out a piece of meat and ate it. It was not what I expected, but neither was sashimi when I'd first tried it decades ago. It was actually pretty good. The meat came easily, and sucking on crab this way allowed me to get a true taste of the essence of crab. I believe, though, that one must have an acquired taste to appreciate it the way Renee did. She emphasized the importance of the crab's freshness, and that she would not eat this crab delicacy at just any restaurant. She trusted Mrs. Kim's high standards for selection and preparation of all the ingredients.
The Galbi (sounds rather ordinary after the crab) was served on a sizzling platter, with a large sheet of grilled, marinated beef cut off the bone and into smaller bite size pieces. The beef was tender, and of a good quality. I usually try this entree when I eat at Korean restaurants, however, I believe that I've reached a stage in my eating career that I want to try more unfamiliar entrees...especially the unknowns I've avoided in the past. What's the famous gourmet motto? "Leave no food untasted!" (did I just make that up?)
After our meal we were served a refreshing glass of Shikeh, which is a dessert beverage that's sweet and made with rice. It seems that this is the usual way to end a spicy Korean meal...by leaving something gentle, cool, and sweet on your palate. Always a nice touch.
Jin Mi Restaurant is open Monday - Sunday from 11am to 10pm. The phone number is 637-4398. For those of you who are serious about eating good Korean food, I highly recommend a visit to Mrs. Kim's restaurant. She'll be happy to serve you! Definitely something she takes immense pride in doing!
Chal Mok Ge Sumnida!