Brookline: Jin's Fine Asian
Let's Eat by Kitty Kaufman, photos by Leslie Mattimore
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. We have a new place we can walk to. Japanese and Chinese with a lunch buffet during the week. It's Jin's on Harvard Street in Brookline, all new with two bars: one for drinking and one for fish. There are booths, tables and a room for 30 of your nearest. Similar but not matching to their Wellesley store with a menu Pan Asian from dim sum to soup to hot pot, pad thai and vegetarian. Chinese favorites plus sushi and maki: spicy, Alaskan, Philadelphia, California, Boston crazy, spider, godzilla, Wagyu, dragon green, volcano, lobster and TNT. One side of the menu is Japanese and the other is Chinese. Big, and even if you and your group don't know what you want, if it's fish, meat or vegetarian à la Asian, it's here.
Leslie and I are Sunday diners our first time. We're in the bar and we see cocktails coming from bar stars Kevin and Kim. Interesting, don't you think, when a new restaurant in an old space is the same cuisine as the former tenant? Yes, we were Mr. Sushi fans from day one. He had a good 20-year run starting in the '90s. Before, there were a raft of sinking ships. Who remembers? No more, now it's all sea legs, steady as she goes and then some.
Oh good, here's a pot of hot, hot tea. Is it jasmine? No, it's green. We tell Kevin it's not like any other green tea. He smiles and says it's rare. We think so and there will be no more questions. His expression says he's keeping it close to the vest. For them who are not tea fans, and that would be me, this is changing how I feel about tea. Maybe not my life but tea could be a start. And not that it is replacing cocktails but still.
On to fish. We go conventional: spicy tuna, rainbow maki, yellowtail with scallion and spider rolls, things we always have. And they arrive on black trays which means, and I can't tell you why, they taste better. What we see first is cool fish. Not groovy, chilled. Not cold, but not hot. I understand sushi mavens want fish that's room temperature but 78 is not for me. Or maybe that's the rice. Still, I don't want warm fish. Eating in or take out, Jin fish is cool. Though this is debated at length, and what isn't, online, let's not. I know what I like and it's here. (I gave up my last sushi place for, among other things, warm fish.)
We do takeout several times. Chefs take as much care with your fish to go as they do with what's inhouse. And containers are black like the plates. Inside your takeout is a clear bag holding a tiny dish for sauce, that this fish barely needs, a cookie with a fortune, and low salt soy. I'm not sure why the brown bags aren't packed with chopsticks but they're not. Sticks are an afterthought, even with a large bag. Bring pockets.
Spider rolls with tall tails of crab are lightly battered. Rainbow has chilled salmon outside. Even ginger is unusually fine with a hint, not a pool, of puckery vinegar. Last night, my salmon maki, avocado maki and summer rolls have a new go-with: a pouf of shredded carrot and daikon.
Rice paper summer rolls hold spring mix, avocado, cucumber and asparagus that's artfully cut. You get a cup of deep brown sauce with hoisin maybe, sugar maybe, chili sauce, garlic and probably a spot of peanut butter for a smooth finish. (It turns out after I take the picture, I flip the sauce container on the floor and it goes everywhere.)
We meet a variety of hosts. We're partial to the same faces who may, if we're lucky, get to know us and chat us up. It builds loyalty with a feeling of continuity. Tonight Joy is here, and we've met. I mention the tea and get a lesson in what goes into their teas. (They're not listed on the menu, so ask.) Though Jin's is my neighborhood, which may not be yours, we think it's got all the marks of destination dining. Even date night. Hold the jeans, or not. It won't matter, they're happy to see you. There's a raft of regulars at the bar regularly. I drink here. So will you.
January 2021 - Right now, it's takeout. Still very good.
329 Harvard St
Brookline, MA 02446
617. 860. 6288
© March 5, 2017 Leslie Mattimore is a health care professional and the creator of Mr_Flynnstagram. Kitty Kaufman is a writer who lives in Boston. Follow Kitty on Twitter. More food adventures at Corporate Edge
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