By Sara Kay, Features Editor
Restaurants in Garden City are surrounded by constant competition. The diversity of food in the area has grown over the past several years, and a majority of these places belong in the "great" category or the "not-so-great" category. Jin East, on Franklin Avenue right in the center of Garden City, unfortunately falls into neither of these categories. But I don't necessarily find that to be a bad thing. I wouldn't call Jin East not-so-great, but I wouldn't call it great either. I found Jin East to be outstandingly average, but it was the outstanding part that would keep me going back.
The inside of Jin East is quiet but has an air of trendiness that separates it from the other restaurants in the area. I found it to be very calming, a restaurant trait that I appreciate, since several places make it impossible to hear yourself think inside their walls, let alone the people you're sitting with. With seating for 25 people in the main dining area, including four tables on the ground for a traditional Japanese dining experience, Jin East screams date night. The service at Jin East was also a part of my outstandingly average dining experience, because although they were attentive, it got to the point where I felt I was talking more with the servers, of which there were two constantly around us, more than my own dining companions. Some may find this to be a server doing their job efficiently; I find it to be a server fishing for a bigger tip.
Our meal started with the best bowl of miso soup I've ever had. The scallions were fragrant and crunchy, and the tofu was in small cubes instead of giant blocks.The best part was the broth; which was so flavorful and yet did not have the typical salty flavor that miso soup tends to have. It was light and clean, and a perfect start to our dinner. The soft shell crab appetizer with a ponzu sauce was tasty, but I liked the sauce more than the crab itself. The citrusy flavor of the ponzu gave the necessary acidity to the crab so its heavy fried crust wouldn't be so bland.
Our main courses consisted of several different sushi rolls and a teriyaki entrée. The sushi was very satisfying; the fish was incredibly fresh and flavorful and was complemented well by crunchy cucumber, creamy avocado and jalapeno peppers with just the right amount of heat. The entrée portion of my dinner however was not as satisfying as the rest. My tofu and vegetable teriyaki, while the teriyaki sauce was pleasantly sweet, was lacking in other areas. The tofu was cooked perfectly, but was covered in what was probably meant to be a crunchy teriyaki glaze, but looked more like a sesame seed jelly gone wrong. Instead of being crunchy, this outer layer was gummy and had an unappetizing taste and consistency. The vegetables, which were hidden underneath all the tofu, were overcooked to a mushy pile of onions and peppers.
Jin East has all the qualities of a restaurant that has only been open for a year or two; its service is kind of shoddy and some of the food is great while the rest left something to be desired. Overall, Jin East is lacking a good consistency that will keep people coming back. But that is just it, Jin East has only been open since 2008, and has plenty of room to grow. In time, Jin East will have all the qualities of an outstanding Japanese restaurant, and I plan to be a diner in that room when that happens.