Right from the start, the glowing neon messages – “cocktails and dreams,” “hello gorgeous” – signpost that no matter why you’re here, it’s going to be a good time. JinBar’s split–level space matches its dual vibe: sleek, yet unpretentious, with cozy corners for date nights and a convivial bar area.
Best Bar Dining
JinBar: True South Korean Comfort Food in Calgary
Chef Jinhee Lee’s cocktails, pizza and fried chicken make for the Best Bar Dining.
Chef Jinhee Lee, long–time chef de cuisine of Hotel Arts’ Raw Bar and later Foreign Concept’s opening executive chef, has proven herself to be a culinary powerhouse and an exemplar in contemporary Asian fusion cooking. (In 2017, she won a Gold Medal Plate; one year later she cooked her way to the final of Top Chef Canada Season 6.)
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In JinBar, Lee now has a lively cocktail–leaning embodiment of effervescent personality and her love of bold Korean flavours. (Jin is the Korean word for “true.”) Here, Korean comfort food meets bright, punchy libations brought to life with distinctive components like ginseng–infused gin and yuja tea.
Lee’s menu stars five flavour twists on Korean–style fried chicken – the jalapeño–soy is a lip–smacking balance of sweet and spicy – and something much less expected: Korean pizza. “People might think that my pizzas are crazy,” says Lee. “To us, nothing is impossible: From bulgogi to kimchi, nearly every iconic Korean food can be a pizza topping.”
Her honey–butter corn creation (the pizza crust is garnished with honey–drizzled potato chips) is what garlicky, creamy, cheesy dreams are made of, and the spicy, yet popular, buldak takes no prisoners with the one–two punch of gochujang and Korean red pepper flakes.
For a finale, the vintage teacup swirled full of cool soft–serve ice cream and warm brown–sugar tapioca pearls is a hell of a fun way to finish things off.
“Growing up in South Korea gave me many happy memories involving foods like pizza, fried chicken and ice cream, so I hope my guests will also have happy memories with our food,” Lee says. Turns out, you can make memories of Korea without leaving Calgary.
JinBar's Fried Chicken
Korean fried chicken is double fried for a coating that stays extra crispy beneath Jinhee Lee’s signature glazes.
Honey Garlic Butter: Inspired by South Korea’s favourite honey butter chips. “I love savoury so much,” says Lee.
Buldak: The “fire chicken” glaze uses a blend of two Korean chili powders. “It gives you Dragon Breath!”
Korean Chili: Sugar, soy sauce and gochujang simmered and whisked into garlic chili oil.