As a Seattle transplant and spicy food lover, I’m always on the hunt for good Asian spots in Austin. I’ve sleuthed out a couple pretty good Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese places, but one of my very favorites is 888 Pan Asian down on Oltorf (so legit it doesn’t even need a real website to maintain popularity) thanks to its menu variety, affordability, and straight-up deliciousness. And now I have another pan-Asian type restaurant to add to my list of faves: Jenna’s Asian Kitchen.
Jenna’s is pretty deep north for my normal state of affairs, but last weekend Rob and I were headed to the Lakeline Drafthouse to see It Follows (which was one of my favorite movies I’ve seen in a long time – don’t let the “horror” categorization deter you. Its vibe is more like the Virgin Suicides meets the first part of Halloween. Very creepy for sure, but also fuzzy, idyllic, and beautifully shot). ANYWAY I figured if we were going all the way up there, we should eat at a North Austin restaurant we wouldn’t normally frequent.
I’m so happy I saw some of my other Austin food friends’ posts about Jenna’s and realized it was near Lakeline, because it is now my North Austin dining hotspot. When we visited on Friday it was only their second night open to the public. We came in around 9pm and the restaurant was still almost completely full, which is great. We were seated promptly and everyone who works there was really warm and friendly. The space itself is very clean, bright, and modern. I really like it – they fit in a good amount of tables while still maintaining a spacious, airy feel.
But beyond all that: THE FOOD. Jenna’s offers a mix of Korean and Chinese dishes, with a couple touches of Thai-influenced entrees, Singapore noodles, etc. as well. Rob and I each picked an appetizer – I ordered my perennial favorites, fresh summer rolls, while Rob went for the fried salt and pepper baby octopus.
The apps took a little bit of time to come out, but our server explained that the summer rolls are rolled to order (using all housemade pickled vegetables!) and the baby octopus is fried to order as well. Sure enough, both arrived extremely fresh with housemade dipping sauces on the side. I’m not very big on fried calamari type items in general, but the octopus was really nice – I’m sure if you like calamari you would love this. As far as the summer rolls, they had the aforementioned pickled veg, plus avocado, pork, and shrimp, all beautifully presented. Add a side of peanut sauce and baby, you’ve got a stew going (or a summer roll).
For our main… and this is my big regret in life… we shared the dolsot bibimbap. I don’t regret the bibimbap because it was bad – on the contrary, it was awesome – but I wish we had ordered more! We weren’t super hungry after gorging on our apps and we had to hurry to the movie so we decided one entree would do. The bibimbap had beef bulgogi, all sorts of fresh vegetables and mushrooms, and a luscious, raw, golden egg yolk atop a pile of brown rice in a stone pot. The rice gets all crispy on the bottom the longer you let it sit there and the yolk emulsified everything together. Oh, and they serve it with an excellent housemade gochujang, so smoky and sweet. The mix of flavors and textures is just SO GOOD. If you haven’t had bibimbap, what are you doing with yourself? Get on it.
Even though, as I mentioned, Jenna’s is a little more north than our normal restaurant radius, I will be back. I will be back for the blue crab rangoon, the Singapore street noodles, the lump crab & crawfish fried rice, the salmon salad feast (feast!), the poké trio, the almond & cashew chicken, the Thai curry mussels… I think you get the picture. I WILL BE BACK TO EAT ALL THE FOOD because it all looks fantastic. (And wash it down with some white wine, a sparkling sake, or maybe even a Kirin Light.. because Jenna’s has beer/wine/sake, too. Even better!)