Kirin Seafood Restaurant (City Square – Cambie)

Restaurant: Kirin Restaurant
Cuisine: Chinese/Seafood/Dim sum
Last visited: February 20, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Fairview)
Address: 555 W 12th Ave (City Square)
Price Range: $30-50, $50+

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

Food: 3 (on this occasion/location)
Service: 4.5 (nice server)
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 3 (based on couple visits at this location)
Additional comments:

  • 5 locations in Metro Vancouver
  • Fine dining Chinese
  • Authentic/traditional
  • Offers dim sum
  • Most popular/famous in Vancouver
  • Busy/popular to locals
  • Food varies in each location
  • Extensive menu
  • Famous for fresh seafood
  • Award winning
  • Popular for banquets
  • Reservations recommended
  • Closes Mon-Sun 2:30pm-5pm

**Recommendations: Dim sum: Steamed Chinese Donut and Green Onion Rice Roll. Almost any seafood will be good here: Garlic steamed Alaskan King Crab legs, Duck Lettuce Wraps, Pumpkin and Fish (I don’t know what the exact name of the dish is called, but they’ll know what you’re talking about), Sauteed Beef Tenderloin & Scallop, Coconut Tapioca Chilled Soup dessert… the menu is too big, but overall it’s quite solid.

Kirin is one of Vancouver’s most popular and famous fine dining Chinese restaurants. It’s popular to locals and tourists and I would say it’s a must try in Vancouver, BC. My only issue is that it has 5 locations in Metro Vancouver so the food can vary depending on location. The menu is the same, but since the chefs are all different, the outcome is always different as well.

For me, the best Kirin location is New Westminster, which is also the newest, but it’s not new – see here. I’ve also had great experiences at the Richmond location, and I’ve tried Coquitlam too long ago to say. I’ve been to the downtown location on event circumstances as well. Speaking of banquets, Kirin is definitely a popular place for Chinese style high end banquets or weddings. It is fine dining Chinese, so you have to expect the higher prices, but they do offer various menus for dim sum and dinner.

I’ve only been to the Kirin Cambie location for banquets so I can’t say how it compares to a regular night or even for dim sum. It’s not really fair to judge it when it has to “mass produce” food either. However on the whole I don’t find myself ever being impressed with the Cambie location.

On this evening it was for one of my annual Chinese New Year dinner banquets that always takes place at Kirin (Cambie). It’s always a set menu and it was on the lower end at about $35-40/person so it’s a pretty good deal for a 12 course meal. I should mention that it was a slight downgrade based on ingredients and menu items from last year’s menu (see here), but the food was actually not too bad… blame it on the economy or the restaurant, I’ll leave that up to you.

My other Chinese New Year dinners this year were at Fisherman’s Terrace (see here) and Jade Seafood Restaurant (see here), which are both top rated fine dining Chinese restaurants in Metro Vancouver as well, but the items on the table were different, so I can’t even compare them all. They do ride in the same caliber as Kirin though, but Fisherman’s Terrance and Jade Seafood each only have one location.

At this particular dinner my table included a group of younger generation guys born and raised with the majority of their lives in Hong Kong. Of course I asked them all their opinions on Chinese food in Vancouver, and yes, we all agreed it is very comparable to the best in Hong Kong. Whether or not they were foodies or not, is another topic, but considering all 10 of them are originally from Hong Kong, I think it’s safe to say, they would have a good idea of the food there. On the other hand, there are people that are born in raised in Vancouver that still think Floata is good Chinese food *shudder* – see my Floata post here.

On the table:

So instead of complimentary bread and butter, I snack on the XO Chili sauce they serve as a condiment. I love it! I just eat it plain. The one at Kirin doesn’t have as much dried scallops and shrimps and I actually prefer the one at Top Gun J & C – see here. It is simply a good sauce and it is offered at only fine dining Chinese restaurants. The server saw how much I liked it and brought me my own… it was cute. I was also just hungry…

Kirin Special Platter – 4/6

  • I was quite impressed with their seafood platter, although the deep fried chicken knees were unexpected.
  • I was expecting the mandatory suckling pig, but the chicken knees were a “cost affective” alternative.
  • Jellyfish 2/6 – It was salty, smoky and rough. The flavour was fine, but the texture was very rough and I really don’t like rough jellyfish.
  • Chicken Knees 2/6 – Something I think Taiwanese places will always do better, but I’m not particularly one for them in general. It’s lightly battered chicken knees and they’re very crunchy since it’s basically all cartilage. It has a light and crispy breadcrumb batter and it’s well seasoned with salt, but the most basic of recipes for it. Sometimes they can get creative with the seasonings.
  • Smoked Salmon 5/6 – I love it when it comes with smoked salmon. These ones were fresh, meaty and nicely cured with a salty flavour.
  • Shiitake Mushroom & Bean Curd Rolls 5/6 – This is one of my favourite items on the appetizer platter, and it’s usually the only vegetarian item. It’s a wrinkly thin sheet of dried bean curd wrapped with juicy, sweet and plump Shiitake mushrooms. These ones had a noticeably smoky flavour that was infused into the mushrooms. Delicious!
  • Beef Slices 5/6 – It’s incredibly tender, well marinated with a sweet and salty flavour and not dry at all.

Braised Dried Oyster Pork Tongue & Black Moss – 3/6

  • This is the must have item at any traditional Chinese New Year dinner menu.
  • It’s not particularly my favourite, but there’s lots of symbolism behind it. I actually talked about this particular dish on CBC Radio’s “On the Coast” with Stephen Quinn – see/listen here.
  • The braised dried oysters were meaty, tender and not tough and they are a Chinese delicacy. The quality will vary, but the more you pay, the better you get of course.
  • The dried oysters have a potent oyster flavour and they’re a bit mushy and pasty. See a great quality one here from Fisherman’s Terrace.
  • I loved that they gave lots of black moss, which is another Chinese delicacy that represents prosperity. Everyone is supposed to have some of that. It looks like we hair, as gross as that sounds, but it tastes like stringy mushrooms that just melt away with little chew. I love them, everyone does.
  • It’s all served on a bed of sauteed lettuce and a pool of oyster and abalone sauce. It has a mushroom seafood flavour and the sauce is quite thick and gluey, but good. However, the abalone flavour was faint.

  • Pork and beef tongue isn’t for everyone and I understand that. However if you haven’t tried it, it’s worth a try. I used to not eat it growing up because the thought of chewing on a tongue really creeps me out.
  • This pork tongue was delicious though. It was incredibly tender and soft and it tastes like super tender pulled pork. It requires very little chewing and the slices almost melt in your mouth.
  • If I didn’t tell you, you would never know it was tongue. It doesn’t have a rough exterior nor are there bumpy “taste bud” like textures on them. (**See comments) It’s not a gamey meat either.
  • It’s incredibly lean meat, but it’s very moist. Give it a try!
  • If you’re a pork tongue veteran, then this one was a great one and perfectly executed!

**Sauteed Beef Tenderloin Cube & Prawn with Black Pepper & Basil – 4/6

  • This is a signature Kirin dish. The sauteed beef tenderloin is a popular item and they serve it sauteed with either scallops (see here), fried fish (see here) or prawns. I’ve tried all 3 versions, but my favourite is the scallop version.
  • It’s of course better on a regular night because they’re not “mass producing” it.
  • The beef tenderloin is actually very good and tender. It seemed lightly battered and fried before it was sauteed, and it’s not dry, but not really juicy either. I could have had it cooked a bit less, but it was still very tender.
  • It’s a very aromatic dish and it has a sweet honey quality and soy sauce marinade with freshly cracked black pepper, basil and sauteed minced garlic.
  • I do wish for more Thai basil leaves though because it was great flavour and it needed more.
  • The prawns were crunchy and also flavoured with a sweet and salty balance and an aromatic dual of basil and black pepper.
  • The dish is sauteed with shallots and green pepper to give it added aromatics. The dish overall is more sweet than it is spicy and I really enjoy it.
  • The best version of this dish I’ve had is from Rainflower Restaurant – see here. It’s the same flavours, but still comparing apples to oranges a bit, but the one from Rainflower is my favourite to date.

Assorted Dried Seafood & Snake Meat Soup – 3/6

  • Every year it’s tradition for this association to order this soup.
  • The soup itself is a bit acquired, but the snake meat tastes just like shredded chicken, so that part is not acquired. 
  • The snake meat are not the black things you see. It’s actually the shreds that look like dark meat chicken. The white piece you see is actually shredded chicken.
  • The snake meat doesn’t have a strong flavour and it’s not gamey or anything.
  • The soup is a bit gelatinous in texture and thick with a savoury seafood based consomme.
  • The black things are black wood ear mushrooms and they’re crunchy and slippery with an earthy mushroom flavour.
  • There are also sweeter Shiitake mushrooms in it too. It’s a very similar base to Shark’s fin soup, which I haven’t eaten in years, but I still remember the flavour of the soup.
  • There’s also gogi berries for a slight sweet flavour and some dried scallop meat, although there wasn’t much of that, since it is an expensive delicacy.
  • Snake Meat Soup condiments: Cilantro, deep fried won ton crisps and fresh lemon grass.
  • These are the classic ingredients to serve with snake soup.
  • The grassy strands of lemongrass at the bottom are essential, but I’m not sure why. (** See comments) It does brighten up the quality of the soup and it adds a very aromatic and almost soapy flavour, but I also didn’t find it essential.
  • This dried lemongrass is very different in flavour than the lemongrass stalk though. This one is almost soapy and floral and similar to perfume.

Live Lobster & Crab with Ginger & Green Onion Served with Egg Noodle – 4.5/5

  • Yum! My favourite course of any Chinese banquet menu… it’s never dessert I look forward to when I’m going for Chinese food.
  • Anyone who says “I’m too lazy to eat shelled lobster and crab”… I don’t get you! However invite me for dinner and I’ll gladly take your portion.
  • The lobster was cooked perfected and so was the crab. They offer 10+ sauces for you to chose from and this is the most basic, or standard sauce.
  • I find most younger people like Cream and Butter Sauce – see here, but I actually like the Supreme Seafood broth – see here. Actually I like all of them and it just depends on personal tastes and cravings that day.


  • The lobster and crab meat were tender, crunchy and smothered with a thick coating of ginger and green onion gravy.
  • It was a nice and salty sauce that was slightly made richer with perhaps some added butter. There was a faint gingerly flavour and a nice sweetness from the sauteed green onions, which I always aim for to eat with my noodles, or even alone.
  • The chow mein egg noodles were overcooked and pretty greasy from the sauce, which didn’t seem greasy on the seafood.
  • Egg noodles are standard with the green onion sauces, but the white softer rice noodles are common for the heavier butter and cream sauces.

Marinated Chicken in Abalone Sauce – 2.5/6

  • Yup! It’s traditional to serve the full bird with the head!
  • It’s a steamed chicken that’s served warm.
  • It’s a nicely marinated chicken and the meat was moist, but the sauce had barely any abalone flavour, and that was supposed to be the point. Instead it was simple soy sauce and oyster sauce with perhaps some added cooking wine. The sauce was still good, but just not abalone sauce.
  • The skin isn’t fatty and it is a free range chicken, so the meat will be firmer and may come across as drier.

**Pan Fried Black Cod with Chopped Garlic – 4.5/6

  • I’ve never had this dish at a Chinese restaurant, but I actually enjoyed it!
  • 1) Who doesn’t love black cod? It’s impossible to over cook and always super moist. 2) Who doesn’t love deep fried garlic?
  • It’s 4 pieces of deep fried black cod bodies and tails. It tasted like awesome Chinese style fish and chips!
  • I think the fish was probably frozen, or they wouldn’t have deep fried it, but frozen black cod is still good to me, so I’m not bothered.
  • It’s quite a heavy dish since it is deep fried, but I thought the flavours were great.
  • The meat was juicy, moist and flaky and it had this ultra thin nice and crispy batter, just like in fish and chips. It was also quite nutty and aromatic from the garlic.
  • It was the same sauce they serve with regular steamed fish, that sweet and salty soy sauce, but it was still great. It cut a little of the greasiness from the deep fried aspect of it.
  • It’s deep fried whole with the skin and bones, and the thick bones were actually chewy and completely edible! I love the crispy skin on sable fish and that should never be tossed to the side, especially if it’s crispy.
  • The only thing was the lack in deep fried garlic chips, I hope they give you more on a regular night.

Leaf Lettuce in Chili & Preserved Bean Curd Sauce – 3/6

  • This was an incredibly simple vegetable side dish, and I don’t know if it was especially made for the banquet dinner, because it was really nothing special. 
  • It’s something Chinese people eat at home and it still tastes good, but I’ve had better versions of it as well.
  • It’s sauteed leaf lettuce well coated in a pungent, salty and slightly spicy bean curd sauce with sauteed garlic and some spicy Jalapenos.
  • It has a very potent fishy flavour and it almost tastes like a creamy sauce, but that’s from the natural quality of the preserved bean curd.
  • It was also sauteed with sweet mustard cabbage and the jalapeno gave the spicy kick that came after.
  • The mustard flavour and salty bean curd flavour is incredibly aromatic and I really like the combination.
  • The heat of the jalapeno almost cuts through the pungent aroma of the preserved bean curd.

Special Fried Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf – 2.5/6

  • It was better than the one last year, but it also wasn’t my favourite.
  • It wasn’t too dry, but not exactly moist either. It was well flavoured with some smoky preserved Chinese meat, dried scallops and mushrooms.
  • It’s similar to sticky rice, but not as good or saucy. It is a fried rice that is steamed after.
  • It has a smoky flavour throughout and I could have used way more dried scallops which were lacking.
  • The sweet bites of mushroom and salty smoky pieces of meat were nice though.
  • it’s not a saucy fried rice, but it has more sauce than a regular fried rice that isn’t steamed.

Two Kinds of Dim Sum Dessert “Dainty Twos” – Walnut Cookies – 4/6

  • These were served warm and they were sweet and buttery like shortbread with a nice crispy crumb and glossy top. Delectable!
  • It uses egg and and probably butter and shortening so it’s quite a rich cookie, but it doesn’t taste rich or very sweet at all. It’s like a crunchy eggy and nutty shortbread cookie.
  • Think of it as Chinese style biscotti.

Passionfruit Jello

  • This is new and I don’t think it’s offered on the regular menu.
  • It’s actually a dessert I liked though. I mean it’s just artificial Passionfruit jello powder but I liked it.
  • It’s not too sweet, but nice and tangy so it balances out and it wasn’t heavy on the gelatin.

Pureed Taro Root & Tapioca Sweetened Soup with Black Sesame Paste Rice Ball – 3/6

  • Alright, so we’re clear with the red bean! Nice! However any hot sweetened Chinese soup dessert is just not for me, so this was better than red bean, but still something not for me.
  • I feel like I’m the only one that doesn’t like these black sesame rice balls, although I love black sesame and I love rice balls separately. I prefer them in ice cream and frozen form though.
  • For those that don’t know, black sesame rice balls are glutinous chewy mochi balls filled with a creamy liquid of sweetened black sesame soup. It’s nutty, sweet and creamy and the filling is a very liquidy puree of rich creamy black sesame seeds.
  • I also love tapioca, but only when it’s in cold coconut soup, which Kirin also offers – see here.
  • The base of this soup was made from fresh pureed taro root so it was slightly starchier with the coconut milk adding a little more sweetness and fluidity. It’s served hot and it’s not too thick or creamy or sweet, but just not for me.
  • People that like this dessert thought it was good – so 3/6.

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10 Comments

  • 4SlicesofCheese says:

    Hi Mijune,
    I would have to agree the Cambie location is really sub-par compared to the other Kirin locations.. for the price we paid I felt pretty mad actually. I have not been to the coquitlam one yet, I shall go try. I wonder if it is common practice to send the best people to the newest locations to get it up running. That might explain the quality order of the locations.

    Actually I am not a new poster, I’m Jay we met breifly at Scotia Bank Theater.
    Thanks for the tickets btw, my friends and I really enjoyed the movie!

    4Slices/Jay

  • Mijune says:

    @4SlicesofChees – YES!!!!!! I actually wrote that exact sentence in one of my posts about Kirin! I was saying how New West if likely the best because the chef is probably there since it’s new… I think that’s the standard formula (which makes sense) for most restaurants that open more than one location.

    Ohhhhh!! how cool is that?!! I love meeting commenters! Ok sorry I did get confused with the 4slicesofcheese name…. but yay! I get it now! In that case, thank you for commenting and reading! 🙂

  • Miss Jane says:

    Every one of those dishes looked so good! I am drooling as I am sitting at school during my lunch break. Meals like this are usually seen at family gathering and weddings. You must have a big family. Lucky you!

  • Bow says:

    Did you notice after having the snake soup that your body temperature went up ? Every time I’ve had it I started sweating and felt warmer…the reason the tongue tasted smooth because they strip the tongue(after cooking) of it’s taste buds(skinning it). If you can, order crab or lobster in a pot with the egg noodles, it tastes even better(phonetically called FUNN SEE HAI BO, or crab with green onion and ginger in a pot with rice vermicelli and a lovely sauce). Better than leaf lettuce, order instead pea shoots. The purpose of leaving the head on a chicken dish was that the head pointed to the guest of the most importance. Keep up the good work.

  • Linda says:

    o man, snake soup! i actually gave this dish a world this year for the first time.. we were having family dinner because it was my bf’s uncle’s bday and when the snake soup came, i didnt even notice anything different about it – to me, it totally just tasted like chicken – maybe i just didn’t get a good bowl lol the thickness of it reminds me of shark fin!

    i don’t get why ppl don’t shell crabs or lobsters either – i personally like the lobster better partially because i think its more flavourful but also because the meat is easier to get out – every year for my staff dinner at work, we always have cny dinner instead of an xmas one and every year we end up taking crab home because everyone on our table refuses to shell it out in front of each other – i have to say this is probably because we’re usually sitting with girls lol but i get in there and shell everything first, then clean my hands and enjoy the sweet flavor of the meat with the saucy noodles!

    at first glance, i thought the fried rice looked really soggy – but i’m glad it was ok.. the beef tenderloin looks yummy – too bad about the chicken with abalone sauce – i have to say that the best chicken with abalone sauce i ate was in dalian china earlier last year – they have an abundance of seafood and the abalone there was spectacular 🙂

    haha its funny, usually my favorite dish for these set dinners always seems to be the appy platter right in the beginning, really sets the tone for the rest of the meal – plus the dessert looks good here – i love black sesame paste balls! 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    @Miss Jane – next time I’m inviting YOU then! You can share my food and my family!! 🙂 But this was an event actually. Either or, I’ll tell you about the next one!

    @Bow – Boooowww!!!! Awesome tips!! thank you!!! ahh yes that’s what people mentioned that your body temp. heats up after snake… I should include a *see comment to my post now. Mmmm I love pea shoots, that would have been good… bringing a sweeter flavour rather than mustard one. the tongue…. had no idea! Thanks for that! Sounds so grosss lol

    @Linda – yup! Your comment about snake’s soup is exactly what I wrote lol! Tastes like chicken and shark’s fin soup!

    lol yeah I go for the body of the lobster as well… it’s hard not to grab more than 1-2 pieces before spinning the lazy susan for someone else.

    thanks for all your awesome comments linda!! They’re so fun to read and I’m so happy you’re hopefully enjoying the posts! I feel like I know you already!! 🙂

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