Jinja Bar & Bistro
- 8900 Holly Ave NE # B
- Location 2:
- 5400 Sevilla NW
- $$$ Website
Upon a first glance, the high-priced drinks, South Pacific/WWII-era Chinese decor and all-over-the-place Asian menu may make you think Jinja isn’t worth a second look. But then, you’d be wrong.
Founded in 2002 in Santa Fe (yes, we know) by several experienced restaurateurs, Jinja now boasts two locations in Albuquerque. If you ask your waiter, he’ll probably tell you Gene Hackman used to own it (yes, that Gene Hackman). While they can apparently no longer boast that they are owned by a movie star, their posh interiors and fancy drinks may make you feel like one.
The pictures and advertisements from 1940s Hawai’i and Singapore and Thailand may be a bit quaint (or repulsive, if you feel as if you’ve stepped into an oriental fetishist’s dream), but the food is definitely fresh. Don’t be turned off by the “Pan Asian” thing, because the Pad Thai is just as good as their rice-wrapped salmon, and their edamame holds its own.
They also have their own beer, brewed in Santa Fe, which is delicious (perhaps surprisingly, as we’ve never seen them at a brew tour), and they pour a few other brews that are hard to find other places (e.g. a Kona Brewing Company seasonal – que viva Hawai’i!). Their drink menu is as long as their food menu, and if you consider yourself an old-school-cocktail connoisseur, you’ll find all your favorites from the 20s and 30s waiting for you.
Of course, if you go looking at that menu right now, you’re going to freak out. “$10 for a Mai Tai?! Why don’t I just go to Burt’s Tiki Lounge and save myself the heartache?” Chillax, amigo, they have happy hour from 2-7pm, which knocks $3 off the fancy drink prices and gets you $3 pints, etc. Also, arriving at happy hour reveals that this has been the mingling point for the 40+ crowd for several years. (That means if you’re over 40 and looking for a “special someone” in your age bracket, you may have some luck here. Or, you know, if you’re cougar bait.)
There is music at the NE Heights location from time to time, but you have to stop by or call to figure out what it’s going to be, ’cause it ain’t on the website. The view from the Westside location may be worth the trip alone, as long as you can wait out the high schoolers who are there with their dates for Prom or Winter Ball or whatever seasonal dance is on this weekend.