Step into Jina Yoo’s Asian Bistro located at 2200 Forum Blvd #108 and you’ll immediately feel welcomed by the classy atmosphere, the wafting smells of Asian cooking and the greetings of friendly staff, most often even by owner Jina Yoo herself.
Born and raised in Korea, Yoo believes in creating delicious, inventive dishes that are as unique as she is. Although from a Korean background, her dishes do not perfectly follow traditional Korean recipes. For example, one of her most popular dishes, the Bibimbab is traditionally made with beef. In her favorite rendition of the dish, Yoo replaces the classic ingredient with a seasoned filet of wild caught salmon.
“There are a few people on my reviews that say there is nothing traditional about Jina Yoo’s. I never said that this was “Jina Yoo’s Traditional Korean Restaurant.” I didn’t even say Korean in there,” Yoo says with a laugh. “It’s not like it’s bad, it’s just different.”
This diversion from tradition comes from the changing definition of “traditional” from family to family over the years and lack of availably of Korean ingredients in the U.S. In fact, no family recipes or traditional Korean recipes are behind the savory menu items. Dishes are created by taking inspiration from these recipes and swapping fresh, previously unthought-of ingredients in where traditional ones would have stood.
Yoo creates her dishes by drawing on her own healthy, active lifestyle to make dishes that are both delicious and made with the best products available. She prides herself on being educated on where her food products come from and knowing the nutritional value of her ingredients and recipes. As someone who used to eat anything from cheese puffs to chocolate bars, Yoo studied up on what was actually in store bought products and is now very health conscious in her own daily life as well as in her restaurant and the food she serves to others.
Yoo strives to meet each and every customer’s taste desires with Omakase which means “trust the chef.” If a customer wants to change something about a dish or comes in with an open mind and optimistic palate, this can be used to have Yoo create a personalized dish. Omakase is a style of ordering where guests are asked to share any food restrictions, what mood they are in (food wise) and what kind of flavors they like to eat. The result is a dish that is completely unique to the guest that ordered it.
Evident through all of Yoo’s food is her artistic ability. When any dish gets set down in front of you at Jina Yoo’s, it looks like a work of art. A perfectly aligned sushi roll, glistening, mouthwateringly seasoned salmon. This stems from her love of plating food, an art form all its own yet, not the only art she performs. As a child, Yoo’s mother encouraged her to play the piano and dreamed it would become her permanent career. When Yoo decided to open her restaurant, it caused temporary family tension because it was so off from the musical career her mother had dreamed of her doing. However, Yoo has found a way to balance her love and talent for both music and cooking. She still plays the piano regularly and her family has tried (and loved) her food and supports her fully.
A second restaurant is a current work in progress for Yoo and will hopefully open soon. “I’m the kind of person that challenges myself all the time, even if I’m not in the situation to challenge myself,” Yoo laughs. “That’s how I live. I absolutely hate boredom.” There are many exciting journeys ahead for her to infuse with her creativity, personality and non-traditional ways.
Dishes Sampled & Suggested Wine Pairings
Mother of Dragons Roll aka Khalesi Roll (Yoo is a huge Game Of Thrones Fan )- A refreshing mix of cucumber, cilantro paired with a contrast of spicy tuna and ginger, topped with avocado and a slice of fresh ginger. The ginger on top is the first thing to hit your taste buds and cuts through the spiciness of the fish and the creaminess of the avocado.
Wine pairing - Pinot Grigio
Crabby Basket - Crab rangoons with real Dungeness crab & pepperjack cheese, egg rolls with a spicy ginger vinaigrette dipping sauce. You believes in using fresh ingredients so the crab is as fresh as you can get in MO. None of that canned stuff. Same goes for the chicken breast used in the egg rolls. This appetizer is Yoo's fresh, non-frozen, non-processed take on asian street food.
Wine pairing- Pinot Grigio
Bibimbab - The unoriginal, original koran recipe, a combo of white rice, salmon, stir fried vegetables and mixed greens layered together topped with a perfectly seasoned filet of wild caught salmon. The perfectly cooked salmon flakes off into bite sized pieces an mixes in with yummy bites of rice, soy sauce and veggies.
Wine pairing - Riesling or Pinot Noir