As a native of Sydney’s North Shore it often pains me that our restaurant scene is simply not as strong as those in the CBD, Eastern Suburbs, and West. Some are changing that narrative, with the Chatswood restaurant scene challenging any in the city and a few highlights such as Big Sam Young’s ‘S’More’ in Castlecrag standing out amongst the best anywhere. However, there’s a secret Cantonese delight that’s opened up in the bustling Macquarie Park area and Sydney’s North Shore is all the better for it.
Looking at the photos and I hardly expected JINJA to be located just a stone’s throw away in Macquarie Park. The restaurant opened its doors back in August on Level 1 of The Governor Hotel and is named after a Chinese woman, Jinja, depicted by artist Ronnie Samuels in original paintings around the venue. Her name is seen throughout the menu and is a “play on her passion as a foodie and love of cooking with the spice ginger.” All I know is that the modern Cantonese blend is top-notch.
I took a seat near the back of the restaurant and started with an ‘AMELIORATE’ cocktail (Gin, elderflower, apple, prosecco), however, I could’ve chosen from the 100+ bottle wine list that has an international spin, as well as established Australian classic Bins, rare and speciality wines, high-end champagnes, and chilled reds, all showcased in the glass display.
The menu is an easy one to understand with Head Chef Sebastian Tan – previously Crown Sydney where he led recently hatted Silks and Teahouse – leading the charge with options that range from BBQ to Dim Sum and Wok, alongside mains that include fresh market fish, 9+ Wagyu and live lobster. While there are some high-dollar (and somewhat intimidating) choices to make on the menu you can spend big or go home with a few fun choices that won’t hurt the back pocket.
Starting with the chef’s selection 8-piece dim sum platter ($42) and JINJA signature lobster san choy bao ($32), I was impressed by the presentation of the latter, however, I’d probably stick with just the Dim Sum platter for two people. This was a great starter with the prawn and vegetarian dumplings about as good as they get and the standout ‘pan-fried prawn sesame mousse brioche (2 pieces)’ acting as JINJA’s take on ‘prawn toast’. It’s a star of the menu and reminds me of the best I’ve ever had at WILMA in Canberra. Not too salty.
Moving onto the mains and the choice was easy for me, starting with Peking duck pancakes ($46 half) with cucumber, leek, shallots, hoisin sauce before moving on to King Crab fried rice ($40), and steamed market fish ($MP). I think it’s fair to say that Peking duck can make or break a menu at a Cantonese restaurant and JINJA gets full points. The duck was perfect, not too fatty, full of flavour, and there’s really nothing more fun than putting together your own curated bite when it’s this good.
In hindsight, I’d probably stick to ordering a full serving of Peking duck pancakes as your main if you’re eating with two people on a budget, or switch out the King Crab fried rice for JINJA’s signature BBQ smoked pork ribs if you’re looking to trial more of the menu.
What I wouldn’t swap out is the market fish that’s simply delicious. Prepared in true steam Cantonese style with green onion, ginger, and kombu soy sauce. It’s a must-order.
I finished with JINJA’s ‘Secret’ deep-fried ice cream before making my way around the restaurant to check out some of their tea rooms and hidden rooms for larger groups. First, the ice cream was a miss for me… the flavour was uber vanilla and seemed to juxtapose the rest of the menu which was fairly neutral in balance.
So how did I feel after my time at JINJA? Pleasantly surprised. From the moment you step outside the elevator at level 1 of The Governor Hotel, you’re stepping into a great new restaurant. The interiors are elegant, timeless, and luxurious. And the menu reflects this sentiment with premium options for both the food and drinks, alongside more affordable choices that encourage return visits from customers. We can’t wait to head back to the restaurant for another round of Peking duck pancakes. We’ll see you there.
Located in: The Governor Hotel
Address: Level 1/9 Waterloo Rd, Macquarie Park NSW 2113
Hours: Wed-Sat 12-2pm, 5-10pm, Sun 12-2pm
Phone: (02) 9287 1418