It’s Friday lunchtime and the row of muddy boots outside Jin Jin indicates the popularity of the daily lunch box special. The row of luxury European cars on the street also demonstrates just how diverse the clientele is.
That’s because maestro Chef Dan O’Donnell has hit the right chords with his menu. It plays to the strengths of the multitude of Asian countries that have inspired him, maintains a broad appeal, and hits the right price point. Fusion is not the right word; Dan likes to stay as culturally honest as possible.
That’s because of the painstaking research that went into the menu. In 2015 he embarked on a tour of Asia. “In Bangkok I spent hours everyday just watching how they put the dishes together,” Dan says during a break from flipping the wok.
In Hanoi he brokered a deal with a restaurant owner wanting to serve food to the less adventurous tourists. Dan taught several chefs how to cook Western style with only a Wok at hand. In exchange they took him home to sample some of their family favourites. Since April 2016 Jin Jin has been delighting the taste buds of Matakana visitors and locals. Takeaways have been going gangbusters and what was originally a sideline has now become a core part of the business.
Dan says it’s now time to change things up a little. “Don’t panic, the menu is being expanded not restricted. We would like to cater more for children and give people that aren’t fond of spice an option to dine out with their friends.” That means steak, duck burgers, fish and chips and butter chicken. For the spice lovers, Wednesday will be $15 curry night. Dan has recently taken on Cha, a chef from northern Thailand. Cha has helped create the curry night menu and added some Zen to the open plan kitchen.
“Cha has been cooking Thai food for almost as long as I have been cooking Western food, and that’s 26 years. Our curries are predominantly Southeast Asian, but we will hopefully have something for everyone".
44 Matakana Valley Rd, Matakana www.facebook.com/jinjinmatakana
Photos, Louise M Photography