Kirin Restaurant – New Westminster, Starlight Casino (Review 1)

 

Restaurant: Kirin Seafood Restaurant
Cuisine: Chinese/Sim Sum/Seafood/Fine Dining
Last visited: December 24, 2009 **Updated post
Area: Multiple – New Westminster, BC (Starlight Casino)
Address: 350 Gifford Street
Price range: $30-50, $50+

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3.5-4
Service: 3
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • 5 locations in Metro Vancouver
  • Since 1987
  • Executive Chef Allen Liu
  • Fine dining Chinese
  • Extensive menu
  • Famous for fresh local seafood
  • Traditional Cantonese cuisine
  • Big portions, dine with 4+
  • Award winning
  • Set menus available
  • Private rooms available
  • Dim sum/Lunch/Dinner
  • Reservations recommended
  • Free casino parking
  • Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm, 5-10:30pm
  • Sat-Sun 10am-2:30pm, 5-10:30pm
  • Kirin Restaurant – Post/Visit #3

Recommendation: Almost any seafood will be good here: Lobster, Alaskan King Crab legs if in season, Peking Duck with Crepes, Duck Lettuce Wraps, Black Cod Braised with Squash and Roasted Pork Belly, Sautéed Beef Tenderloin & Scallops, Sautéed Beef Tenderloin Cube & Filet of Fish with Basil & Black Pepper, Stir Fried Assorted Seafood with Egg White, Chilled Tapioca and Coconut Cream Sweetened Soup and Sesame Rice Ball for dessert… the menu is too big I could give lots more.

This is the fine-dining Chinese restaurant in Vancouver. It’s a common place for dim sum, dinners for large groups and special occasions. I’ve been here on several occasions, but more often than not it’s for weddings, banquets and special occasions. Like most Asian cuisine the portions are huge so going with 4+ people is ideal. They do offer menus for 2 people, but it’s more or less “White people” dishes and the typical banquet food. Chinese food isn’t catered to individual/couple dining, it’s all about sharing… that’s why we have lazy susan’s and communal chopsticks and serving spoons.

Kirin is famous for its fresh and local seafood all prepared in traditional Chinese/Asian methods. It doesn’t matter if you’re going for dim sum or dinner; every location is always busy so I highly recommend reservations. It’s very familiar to locals and the huge Chinese population in Vancouver and the lower mainland. With 5 locations (and growing) in Vancouver, I’d say it has succeeded in building its reputation for elegant dining and exquisite Chinese cuisine. The seafood is excellent, but they do use too much MSG… probably why it’s so delicious though.

I came here for Christmas Eve dinner and it’s also where I had Christmas Eve dinner last year. It’s one of Vancouver’s priciest Chinese restaurants specializing in Cantonese cuisine and they’ve won multiple awards as “Vancouver’s Best Chinese Restaurant”.

On the table:

Crab & Fish Maw in Supreme Clear Broth3/6

  • Crab, fish maw (gas bladder), scallops and egg white cooked in a clear thick soup base
  • $24.80 or $6.80/per person
  • It comes in a huge serving bowl and they serve it at the table. It’s basically a seafood soup and the star is the seafood. It’s loaded with crab and fish maw which are both gourmet ingredients. Some places will put shrimp in it, but this actually “cheapens” this dish because the ingredients are far more gourmet than shrimp. The shrimp becomes “cheap seafood”. The one at Kirin has no shrimp.
  • It’s a thick base with hearty ingredients. It’s a creamy soup base made with no cream or dairy. It’s silky from the egg whites they stir in and a bit slimy from the fish maw and the combination of egg white and thick soup broth.
  • The fish maw is chewy and jelly like and it’s a Chinese delicacy. It also has slightly crunchy parts and very slimy. If you don’t grow up with it, it will probably freak you out a bit. I like it though.

  • The condiment to eat it with is red vinegar. I add a lot in mine because I love vinegar, but you should only use a teaspoon because you don’t want to overpower the other flavours. The flavour of the soup is really simple, it’s just a light tasting chicken broth flavoured with dried scallops and thickened with cornstarch. It’s just a simple clear salty broth. The crab and fish maw are what make the dish.
  • What I don’t like and began to realize afterward was the MSG they use in the soup. It’s too much. I couldn’t really taste it, but afterward you could definitely feel it in the dry rim in creates around your lips. That was brought to my attention from my friend.

**Peking Duck Skin with Crepes5/6

  • Served with Hoisin sauce and green onions.
  • Peking Duck – Two course: Skin with Crepe and Duck Lettuce Wraps or stir fried shredded duck: $39.80 Half: $24.80
  • This is a really typical special occasion dish, that’s not made at home.
  • It’s an incredibly well executed Peking Duck and more traditional to Cantonese cooking rather than Beijing cooking.
  • Peking Duck originated in Beijing though, so technically that version is more “authentic” – see my post for it here.

  • It requires great technique and expertise to remove so much of the fat from the skin and this is valued in Cantonese cuisine.
  • The more authentic Beijing version of Peking Duck has the skin and meat attached and the key is to slice it with a good amount of each.
  • Traditionally a machine is used to blow air between the skin and fat to separate it, and that could have been used in this case.
  • It’s a very costly method that restaurants rarely use nowadays, but it’s the only explanation I can think of for getting the skin so clean of fat.
  • This unique method made the duck skin incredibly crispy. It’s one of the crispiest I’ve had and it’s not that oily either. I only like that fatty part when it melts in my mouth.
  • A lot of Chinese people like that part because it’s flavourful, but I hate the gelatinous texture of fat that is not well rendered.

  • The crepes are really fresh, soft, almost fluffy and chewy and served in a bamboo steamer to keep warm.
  • They’re handmade in house and you can tell because they’re imperfect.
  • I actually think they should be perfectly round, especially for a restaurant of this caliber.

  • To eat these you spread a layer of Hoisin sauce to the crepe, add a piece of duck skin, some shredded green onion and a shrimp cracker (which were really fresh too). Then roll it all up and enjoy.

  • It’s sweet from the Hoisin sauce, salty from the duck, a bit spicy from the raw green onion and just overall delicious. The texture is soft from the crepe, crispy from the skin, and crunchy from the onion and shrimp cracker. Everyone likes this dish, it’s almost impossible not too unless you’re vegetarian.

Minced Duck Lettuce Wraps6/6

  • Peking Duck – Two course: Skin witn Crepe and Duck Lettuce Wraps or stir fried shredded duck: $39.80 Half: $24.80
  • Marinated pan-fried duck with diced onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms and water chestnuts. Served with fresh iceberg lettuce leaves and Hoisin sauce.
  • This is pretty much the “part 2” dish of the duck. They use the duck skin for the crepes and the duck meat for the lettuce wraps. You can order them separately, but they should be ordered together. I always wonder what they do with the other part if a table only orders 1 of the 2.

  • This is one of the best lettuce wraps I’ve had. Forget about ground meats or shredded beef etc., these are gourmet lettuce wraps. I think the only way it could get better is if they included some dice pan-fried foie gras in the mix. That would be my recipe, but that’s another topic. (Not that I’m a PETA advocate, but I still feel bad for “promoting” foie gras… I try to keep my intake of it to a minimal).
  • The duck is nice and juicy and very lean. It has a lovely flavour to the dish because it’s salty and yet naturally sweet.
  • I love how they included all the aromatics like celery carrots and onions. The water chestnuts were the perfect addition and brought this refreshing and crunchy texture and flavour to the overall dish. It almost brightened things up.
  • I’m assuming everyone know how to eat these, so I’ll just skip the “how to” part.

Lobster Cream & Butter Sauce5/6

  • A whole steamed lobster cooked in cream and butter sauce. Market price. (From their in house seafood tanks)
  • When you order a whole crab or lobster at Kirin they’ll bring it out to show you in a plastic container before they cook it… that’s weird… that just mad me really sad to write that out… anyways the point is so the customer gets to “approve” it before it hits the steamer. Therefore for you know exactly what you’re getting – the size of it and the weight of it. They charge by pound or kg and they keep all live seafood in tanks in the restaurant so when I say fresh… it’s really fresh!
  • Lobster and any sauce will be good here. It just depends on what you like. They have I think 8+ sauce options and they’re all great.

  • Cream and butter is a very popular option. The cream sauce is an Asian style cream sauce, not like a Western cream sauce where there’s usually cheese in it too. I find the Asian cream sauce is a lot lighter and perhaps “healthier” because it’s not as rich. It’s more like the texture of a cream soup. It’s still really creamy, but it’s light tasting – lighter than a béchamel or Alfredo for sure. It’s not too salty, a tad sweet and buttery, but not to the point of really greasy. The sauce is heavy, but not as flavourful, which is fine because you want the lobster to be the star of the show.

  • I was not a fan of the noodles. You need to pay extra to have it served on a bed of noodles. They use the flat thin rice flour noodles but I thought they were too soft. They were fresh but because they also cook under the heat of the steamed lobster I found they got overcooked and became mushy.
  • Added note: For King crab legs: steamed garlic sauce is the way to go.

We accidentally started eating it before I got the photo, so it was nicer than this and bit more of it too.

Steamed Pea Shoots4/6

  • You can order this in a couple variations. We ordered it “sheung tong” which is basically “supreme chicken broth” a special broth they stew in house. You can’t really ruin this dish, unless you overcooked the vegetable or it’s really oily. The one here is very good, but again watch the MSG.
  • I liked the one atbetter for some reason. The visits to each are quite far apart, but I just remember being more crazy about it at Shanghai River. I need to do a direct comparison between the two. I’ll get them to go next time.

Sautéed Beef Tenderloin & Scallops5.5/6

  • This was sautéed beef tenderloin with black pepper and basil and your choice of prawns, scallops or squid. It’s served on a bed of freshly chopped lettuce and very lightly sautéed onions.
  • I think they also have a fish option, but our server didn’t advertise it. He actually recommended this dish to us and I’m glad he did because we wouldn’t have ordered it. It reminded me of the pan-fried prawns with basil from Rainflower Restaurant which I rated 6/6. I think those are better though.

  • Everything was perfect and really good except for the beef which is really disappointing. The beef tenderloin was really tough and not tender at all. The flavour it was marinated in was excellent though.
  • They actually deep fry the beef before sautéing it in the sauce so it has this crispy coating. It tastes just like honey garlic spare ribs. Ideally, I would order this dish with scallops and prawns, but too bad that’s not an option. They would probably still let you do it, but charge extra of course.

  • The scallops were fantastic! They were tender and had a crispy exterior from being quickly deep-fried and then pan-fried to finish cooking. They were honey glazed, slightly tangy, and a bit spicy from the freshly cracked pepper it was lightly coated in. They were so flavourful and aromatic and absorbed the basil and garlic used in the sauce. I ate at least 3 of them and that was at the end of the meal…it was painful, but so worth it.
  • I found it more of an appetizer or hot salad because there wasn’t much sauce and the portion wasn’t that big. The marinade could have been more reduced because it was more of a sauce than a glaze, even though there wasn’t much of it. It could have also used more fresh basil, although it was still flavourful as is. It just could have been slightly better.

Dessert

**Chilled Tapioca and Coconut Cream Sweetened Soup4.5/6

  • $3.95/per person. Usually served complimentary.
  • They make delicious coconut tapioca ‘pudding’. It’s not a pudding, but that’s a popular name for it. This is one of the few Chinese desserts I actually like.
  • They use real coconut in it along with coconut milk. It’s watered down and sweetened so it’s not thick or really creamy at all.
  • They bring it up a notch by using finely ground dried coconut too. It’s not too sweet, very light with a strong coconut flavour.
  • It’s almost like a refreshing drink. It’s really cooling and a perfect way to end a Chinese meal as opposed to red bean soup… which I’m just not a fan of personally.

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