In front, the congenial mother directs the shy waitresses, also her daughters, towards the dozen or so occupied tables in the modest dining room. Back in the right corner hovers the grandma, all business as she closely monitors bubbling broths, a crackling deep fryer and a small grill overloaded with a variety of traditional Korean cuts of meat.
And the dad? He stands to the side just hoping to stay out of everyone’s way. One returns from the bathroom with a newfound appreciation of the term “family operated.”
After the kitchen tour, it’s not surprising that there’s nothing groundbreaking on the menu here. No re-imagined renditions of K-pop chicken (well, no K-pop chicken at all) or fusioned platters of organic bacon fried rice.
A stone pot of seafood bibimbap arrived at the table scalding hot, so much so that one of the daughters offered me a rubber glove with which to maneuver it. This version got the little things right: a perfectly fried egg with a yolk that oozed after a light fork prick, still-crunchy shreds of cucumbers, carrots and bean sprouts, and a crisped layer of rice at the bottom that I excavated like an adept archaeologist.
This dish was only marred by stinginess with the star ingredients. Only a few rings of standard-issue calamari, a couple of baby scallops and a lone mussel were found in the mix.
This theme continued with the seafood pa jun, an oversized, wonderfully eggy pancake studded with green onions but lacking the promised seafood. Each just-greasy-enough slice contained only 1-2 minuscule shrimp. Regardless, this dish was still delicious, especially with a squirt of hot sauce, but next time I’d save a couple of bucks and order the plain rendition.
The funkified scent of a gurgling caldron of kimchee soup hit the table a good few seconds before our server placed it down. Kimchee in a piping hot broth is certainly an acquired taste though I lapped up the fiery broth, perfect on a gray, breezy afternoon. Sadly, there were just a few cubes of the advertised soft tofu.
A generous portion of galbi confirmed my long-standing belief that Korean meats taste better when cooked by an expert, rather than oneself. Not only were the beef ribs far meatier than most I’ve eaten elsewhere, but they were also perfectly charred with just a hint of sweetness.
Not as successful was a platter of barbecue spicy pork, a victim of too much fat and gristle.
The mom shot me a cockeyed look when I ordered the jjol myun, doubting my ability to handle the chili paste-loaded sauce coating a mound of springy, cold buckwheat noodles. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t sweating after a few bites, but I quickly wiped my brow when the mom came back to check in.
Though I can’t say that the food at Jin Mi lived up to my lofty expectations after that first impromptu kitchen journey, it’s definitely a good spot for solid if unspectacular renditions of the Korean classics, most hovering around $10. And everyone can always use a little family loving.
Jin Mi Korean Cusine
Location: 366 Golden Gate Ave. (at Larkin Street), S.F.
Contact: (415) 834-5007
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Price range: $7.99 to $13.99
Recommended dishes: Galbi ($13.99), seafood dol-sot bibimbap ($10.99), seafood pa jun ($10.99), jjol myun ($8.99)
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted