First Look: Jinya
Visiting (and slurping) at new Jinya Ramen
LA import Jinya Ramen sits in a Sandy Springs strip mall. It’s the place with a swarm of ramen lovers waiting to be seated. The space is modern and slick- lots of wood and a tiled open kitchen with red and black bowls lined up along the adjacent ramen bar. It’s smallish but with efficient seating also at tables, a window bar, and a patio. Servers whiz through the room, not missing a beat to welcome guests in Japanese as they enter.
Founder Tomonori Takahashi wanted to continue his family’s legacy of restaurants in Japan and brought his “authentic” concept to the U.S. Noodles are made in house daily along with the tedious broths.
The menu at Jinya is extensive for a ramen-ya with tapas, rice bowls and curry, ramen, and wide-ranging choices of toppings. Lightly fried tempura Brussels sprouts ($6) are on every other table in wooden sake boxes. Creamy shrimp tempura ($7), tossed in a spicy mayo are plump and have a nice kick. Gyoza ($6) are fantastically golden brown with a crackly, craggy crust and juicy, flavorful filling.
In the busy kitchen, cooks cut the water from baskets of house-made noodles before nestling them into wide bowls of broth. Ramen bowls are listed by ranking. #1 here (for now) is the spicy chicken ramen ($12) with a clear chicken based broth, wide slices of tender marinated chicken, white and green onions, spicy bean sprouts, and spinach. Those homemade noodles are snappy and flavorful. It’s like grandma’s chicken soup through a Japanese lens, unless your grandma is Japanese. The menu suggests toppings and they are spot on. So add the spicy ground chicken (soboro) and mix in a creamy poached egg.
Most tables take advantage of combos. For an additional 4-$5 sets of gyoza, salad, crispy fried chicken niblets, and rice bowls come with ramen for quite a deal. Bowls come with certain sized noodles but you may order your preference as well as customizing the bowl with over 20 add-ons.
Jinya’s tonkotsu ($11.50)spicy comes with thick, springy noodles submerged in a rich, porky, unctuous large bowlful of broth. Frothy oil bubbles on the surface attest to the long process of melting marrow from bones. The bright red bowl was intensely meaty but also with subtle ripples of other flavors that burst forth with each slurp. Crunchy black wood ear mushrooms and spicy beans sprouts added texture. Two large slices of brined and braised pork were beautifully seasoned and tender. Next to spring onions was an added seasoned, slightly runny egg ($1.50) further enhancing the savory balance.
Service here is swift and friendly and the staff is very knowledgeable about what goes into each bowl. There is a decent sized list of local craft and Japanese beer.
Ramen is more than soup and in most places Americans understand. The simple combination of ingredients belies the complexity of not only the process, but the intense flavors. Atlantans now have many choices in which to hunch over a steaming bowl.