To non-cognoscenti old timers, KFC stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. But for those in the know, it’s also shorthand for Korean fried chicken, a usually spicy, crunchy take on a classic.
Like the Colonel’s buckets, Korean fried chicken is generally found in fast-food outlets, with the requisite counter orders and plastic furniture. But in the hands of chef Jinhee Lee, northeast Calgary’s Jin Bar definitely takes that concept upscale.
A graduate of Calgary’s SAIT Professional Cooking Program, Lee has earned national renown, winning gold medals at the Canadian Culinary Championships and becoming a finalist on Top Chef Canada.
At Jin Bar, Lee brings those skills to a refined yet comfort-food menu that includes appetizers like sautéed kimchi mac and cheese, crispy chicken skins and braised pork belly tacos. But it’s the fried chicken ($16) that takes centre stage: crispy yet tender boneless thigh marinated for 12 hours. It comes in a variety of flavours and heat, with sauces ranging from sweet and buttery to dragon-breathing hot; my choice was a delightfully savoury Korean chile glaze.
The fried chicken (there’s also a sandwich) shares the spotlight with a short list of Korean-styled, thin-crust pizzas featuring toppings such as beef bulgogi and fried buldak. Bartending guru Christopher Choi rounds things out with an award-winning Caesar and Korean-inspired and ginger-infused cocktails.
Jin Bar is located in Bridgeland’s de Waal Block, a 111-year-old heritage building with red brick walls and an original pressed-tin ceiling. Previous tenants included the celebrated Il Sogno and Whitehall restaurants.
With in-house dining currently verboten because of pandemic measures, I couldn’t treasure eating in this fabulous space. But I was able to step inside and take in the historic architecture while picking up my takeout bag.
I did chow down, however, a couple of hundred feet away in my parked car. There was no way I was waiting till I got home.
24 4 Street NE, Calgary
Sunday to Thursday 4 pm-9 pm, Friday-Saturday 4 pm-10 pm. Closed Monday
Sounds and looks delicious.
I was a child when the first Kentucky Fried Chicken was built 2 blocks away. It was the best chicken EVER. Perfectly seasoned and fried. It used to be my favorite. I found out from a relative who raised chickens for the restaurant chain that they had to be raised and fed a certain way. No substandard chickens were allowed.
In the early 1970’s it was sold to a too-big-to-exist food corporation. I will never forget moving to Minnesota and having dinner in a KFC. It was like having chicken at McDonalds. Such a disappointment.
Looks like another winner Bill!!
On my list for next trip
Can’t wait to try this one one day.
You do suss out the best hidden gems in Calgary and wherever you happen to be!