As long as I’ve been here, one of the most popular spots among the foreigner crowd has been Jinos Garden. Sometimes referred to as the other Bottle (which is also a nice place), it seems to have done a decent job at keeping people moderately satisfied. After having gone there a few times, I can happily say that I’m one of those people.
A few friends and I recently went to Jinos to celebrate a birthday. As usual, the setting was clean and a little rustic. We had trouble picking out what we wanted, considering the decent amount of selections to choose from on the menu. They even had some delicious looking sets, but we chose to control ourselves. Between the five of us, we ordered Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms, Caesar Salad, Lasagna, Bacon Asparagus Risotto, and a Pesto Pizza.
As with most Italian themed restaurants, we were served free bread with a balsamic vinegar dip while we waited. There was a bit of a wait, which seems to be the norm here, but we arrived fully expecting it. Luckily, we were seated next to a wall that had a projector playing cooking shows the whole night, which helped with the wait.
The first dish that came out was the Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms. Though I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, these were delicious. The mushrooms were plump and filled with melting cheese, and they lacked that slimy texture I’ve come to associate with mushrooms (and my disdain for them). The whole thing was garnished with greens and drizzled with a thick balsamic sauce. I could have eaten the entire plate, though I can’t say that we were all fans of the “marinated” peeled grapes on the side (it took us a while to figure out what they actually were).
Within moments of us finishing the mushrooms came the rest of the dishes. While I’m not used to having bacon in my Caesar Salads, this salad was actually not bad. Though it wasn’t the classiest of salads, especially with the awkward slices of toast that weren’t crispy enough to be considered croutons, the overall flavor was nice, and definitely not sweet (a real plus!). I also managed to steal a bit of the Lasagna, which is something I haven’t enjoyed in a while. It was delicious and full of a nice balance of meat and veggies sandwiched between layers of pasta and melted cheese, but I personally though the portion was a little small for the price. Even so, it’s something I’d definitely order for myself if I was craving it on any given day.
My dish was the Bacon Asparagus Risotto. Once again, the portion was a little small (though that’s probably ideal for such a heavy meal), but it was absolutely delicious. The combination of brown rice, chopped asparagus, bacon, broccoli, and onions all brought together by a tasty cream sauce turned out to be much better than I had expected it to be. The only thing I wish could have been different was the type of bacon that was used (Korean bacon just doesn’t cut it for me), but I was happily willing to overlook that for the sake of asparagus, which is also a bit of a rarity in this country. While I was enjoying my meal, I also managed to snag a small piece of the Pesto Pizza, which turned out to be one of the most basil-infused dishes I’ve had in Gwangju. Though it could have used a little more pesto, it was still tasty and an overall solid dish.
All in all, Jinos Garden is a great place for good food, even with its higher than average prices. It’s a place I’d definitely recommend for a nice date or an evening out with friends. Keep in mind that the portions for some of the dishes can be a little on the small side (especially for folks with a big appetite), so don’t expect to have a completely filling meal unless you have a thousands upon thousands of won burning a hole in your pocket. If that’s the case.
Address: 광주 동구 황금동 55-3 2층 (located on the second floor of the Mr. Pizza in downtown)
Average Price Range: 10,000~20,000 won