By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
I liked it. If I happened to be wandering around CityPlace after a movie with 20 bucks burning a hole in my pocket, I'd drop back in for a bowl of chicken udon noodles ($9.95) or a glass noodle togarashi tuna salad with seaweed ($10.25) Jinja is open until midnight on weekends, expanding our late-night options by a hair. The Vietnamese crispy chicken spring rolls we sampled ($6.25) were tasty and filling, though they had none of the popping flavors or ethereal lightness of authentic Vietnamese cuisine they were more like Chinese egg rolls with nuac cham. Everything tends to run together in a vague approximation of "Asia" there's kung pao chicken served "Thai style" ($14.95) or the Vietnamese "shaking beef" we had ($17.95) of wok-seared beef tenderloin with wilted spinach, caramelized onions, and vegetable fried rice. It came out hot, carried in the competent arms of a pleasant and cheerful server; it tasted good; it was cheap and filling and no doubt the 20-somethings hanging at the bar and lounging at the tables thought so too.
The same was true of our Szechuan salmon ($15.95). If the fish itself was a shade on the dry side and the chili sauce draping the snow peas and red peppers although hot, hot, hot! lacked much depth or complexity, a hungry girl couldn't complain. The plate came with a couple of Chinese sweet steamed bean buns, long ago my default snack of choice, and I still love them.
I can't say much for our dessert molten chocolate cake with a strange, jellylike texture at the center ($4.95), but we liked the "Vietnamese coffee ice cream" that came with it. On second thought, I should have ordered the coconut mango tapioca pudding ($4.95).
Can Jinja make it? I'm rooting for the place so far, it's fighting the good fight. If it keeps serving decent food at low prices with this level of hospitality, it might just outwit the CityPlace curse.