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