Kirin Restaurant – New West at Starlight Casino (Review 2)

Restaurant: Kirin Seafood Restaurant
Cuisine: Chinese/Dim Sum/Seafood/Fine Dining
Last visited: May 11, 2011 – Updated post
Location: Multiple – New Westminster, BC (Starlight Casino)
Address: 350 Gifford Street
Bus: EB Ewen Av FS Gifford St
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 & Fillet 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.

Kirin is perhaps one of Vancouver’s most famous and best fine dining Chinese restaurants. With five locations in Metro Vancouver it has quickly become a local and tourist favourite. They specialize in Northern Chinese and traditional Cantonese cuisine with the occasional modern flair and their fresh seafood and dim sum comes most recommended.

It’s consistently named “Best Formal Chinese Restaurant” year after year by Vancouver Magazine, and Zagat has also named it as one of the city’s “Top Food” restaurants. So what do all these accolades and awards mean? Well of course higher price tags and bragging rights! However, to be fair, I do find the food excellent here and the prices are expected for fine dining.

The only issue I have, and I mentioned it in my Kirin (Cambie location) post here, is that each Kirin Restaurant is inconsistent. The quality, execution and service varies at each one and it struggles to keep quality control with their expansion. The menus are also slightly different too. Luckily, this Kirin, the New Westminster location, is rated as one of its best locations. Therefore if I have a choice, I will try and come to this location before the others.

Since it’s the newest location for Kirin, although it’s been a few years already, the dining room is grand with private rooms and even a modern lounge area. I’ve only been to this location for dinner and banquets and have yet to try their dim sum.

On this occasion the purpose was to come for their Alaskan King Crab. However upon arrival we discovered that it was $34/lbs as opposed to the expected $20/lbs. Considering it’s pretty much out of season by now, pricey was expected, but $34/lbs is quite outrageous. Nonetheless we were a group of five and decided to veto the Alaskan King Crab which would have been $340 just for the 10lbs crab. Yikes!

I must say that after that decision the service significantly declined. I never really expect stellar service at Chinese restaurants anyways, but Kirin is known for its better service. Regardless, on this occasion, it was brutal to know that our money was no good there, literally and figuratively. So what was plan B? Well we did the next “best” thing and ordered all their weekly specials! You know… just to ease the tension. (We did also end up ordering a few things off the regular menu though)

On the table:

Kirin’s XO Chili Sauce – I seriously love this stuff and even eat it plain, but the quality isn’t great here. It’s thin and there’s barely any dried scallops (delicacy) and that’s the point. It’s quite salty and it’s quite spicy, but it’s not hot. Red Star Seafood, Top Gun J & C, and Grand Dynasty offer better XO Chili Sauce.

Double Boiled Soup of the Day4.5/5

  • $14.80
  • This was one of their specials. Chinese meals usually start off with soup as opposed to a salad like Western cultures do.
  • The soup of the day was a pork and vegetable soup and it was delicious!
  • It’s served piping hot and the broth was made with boiled carrots, ginger, Chinese melons, pork and other Chinese herbs.
  • It is a mild but flavourful vegetable pork broth and it wasn’t oily or watered down.
  • It wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be and it isn’t obvious in any particular flavour.
  • I did get a background ginger flavour and the taste of the Chinese melons which were used, but it wasn’t seen in the ingredients.

  • The ingredients from the soup are served on a separate side plate with some sweetened soy sauce for dipping.
  • The pork pieces were falling apart and melt in your mouth tender. I could barely pick them up with my chopsticks.
  • The meat was lean and naturally drier from being boiled, but still not dry. Simply irresistible.
  • I would have liked to see the Chinese melons on here since they were used in the soup, but they must have ran out early… ?

**Stir Fried Assorted Seafood with Egg White4/6

  • $21.80
  • I love this dish in general, but it can get better than this, although this one was very good. This is a Mandarin/Shanghainese (debatable) dish.
  • It’s a somewhat healthy dish and it’s pretty light without a heavy sauce. It’s served with a side of ginger red vinegar as the optional condiment.
  • It’s sauteed egg whites, pieces of baby shrimps, diced fresh scallops, dried scallops and fresh crab meat topped with a raw egg yolk and surrounded with steamed broccoli.
  • It has a silky smoothness from the egg whites and fresh scallop pieces, feathery lightness from the shredded crab meat and dried scallops, and nice crunch from the shrimps, so it plays with texture well. I would have liked more crab meat and the prawns to be whole rather than diced, but the amount given was okay.
  • It’s very mild in flavours and simply savoury from perhaps just salt, a touch of soy, and some minced Chinese leeks and garlic.
  • There’s an equal amount of seafood and egg white and the egg yolk gave it a little creamy richness and smooth buttery texture.
  • The red vinegar was infused with pickled ginger and it just brightens up the flavours of the seafood, but I liked it better without it.
  • There are various styles for this dish and I really like the Taiwanese version at Delicious Cuisine called Stir Fried Crab with Egg and Shrimp. Empire Chinese Cuisine also does a Steamed Broccoli with Crab Meat & Egg Whites and Jade Seafood Restaurant does a Fresh Crab Meat Sauteed with Egg Yolk & Soy Milk.

Baby Bok Choy Braised with Dried Scallop and Dried Prawn2/6

  • $12.80
  • This was very overpriced and very boring. It’s something I could have made at home and I found the flavours much too simple even considering what it was.
  • The baby bok choy was fresh and cooked well, but the broth it was cooked in was bland. It was a basic vegetable broth with a shrimp flavour, but even wonton soup has more flavour.
  • There was some dried scallops and dried shrimp on top, which are both expensive ingredients, and they were high quality, but the dish just didn’t taste that good.

**Black Cod Braised with Squash and Roasted Pork Belly5.5/6 (**Updated – 4.5/6)

  • $17.80
  • I love this dish and it’s only available at this Kirin location.
  • I love black cod and I love squash, so naturally I would say it’s a must try dish. I also like pork belly, but that’s the only part of this dish I didn’t like because it wasn’t very tender.
  • The dish is hearty and perfect for winter, although I could have it at anytime.
  • It’s a rich stew of boneless lightly battered and fried black cod fillets, tender creamy melt in your mouth sweet Japanese Kaboocha Squash, and pieces of roasted pork belly with a couple Shiitake mushrooms.
  • For pork belly it was really tough and firm though, so I’m glad there was more fish anyways.
  • The fillets of black cod were moist, flaky and delicious, but the batter didn’t really seem necessary since it got a bit soggy, but it almost had to be deep fried or it would have fallen apart in the stew.
  • The pork belly seemed pre-roasted and then just tossed in last minute because I couldn’t taste any pork renderings in the sauce.
  • There are a few cloves of creamy sweet garlic and a bit of ginger sauteed into it.
  • There may be a hint of curry for some colour and extra aromatics.
  • It’s a thick creamy soy sauce gravy with the starchy texture of melted squash. It’s savoury, not very oily or sweet, and delicious with rice.

Roasted Free Range Chicken4/6

  • $12.80
  • This was a weekly special. This may come across as “spoiled” but I get this way too often at Chinese banquets that I’m quite tired of it. On the other hand, they do a good job with it here.
  • It was very tender, moist and well marinated in a savoury salty brine.
  • The sauce was a golden yellow and it was made with the natural chicken oils, roasted sea salt that’s melted right into it, and perhaps a little sesame oil. It was quite delicious and well seasoned.
  • The skin was crispy without the gelatinous chewy fat and the meat was naturally a bit drier since it’s free range chicken. I do wish it had more of a roasted flavour, but it’s still executed well.
  • For something a bit different I’d recommend Jade Seafood’s award winning Grandpa’s Smoked Chicken – see here.

Desserts

Yes, the Chinese, or any Asian cuisine for that matter, are not known for good desserts (at least to the Western palate). I’m speaking generally there, but seriously, it’s not looking to good in the sweet department. I have a very Western palate when it comes to desserts and there’s not many Chinese desserts I like, but once in a while there is something that works.

Kirin will always offer a complimentary dessert and it’s always either Hot Red Bean Soup (ick), or chilled Tapioca and Coconut Cream Sweetened Soup. I hate to burst your bubble if you think you’re getting special treatment, but a free dessert is almost standard now at every Chinese restaurant. If they don’t offer it, just ask. The Chinese would do it… when in Vancouver do as the Chinese… which is a massive part of the population. No one will judge you.

Red Bean Soupn/a

  • Complimentary.
  • I never want this dessert even when it’s free. I really dislike red bean.
  • This one had tons of beans, but the texture was watery and not creamy.

**Chilled Tapioca and Coconut Cream Sweetened Soup 4.5/6

  • $3.95/person (Complimentary) If you have more than 4 people they just bring you a giant bowl of it and that’s at least 2 bowls per person 🙂
  • This is one of my favourite Chinese desserts. I love coconut and sago and cold desserts, so this is usually a win.
  • This dessert is light and refreshing and not too sweet at all.
  • It’s not very creamy and I like it a bit more frothy and thicker, but it had lots of sago and was made with real coconut milk.
  • It had little bits of fresh coconut in it too. This is a perfect dessert during the summer.

Mixed Red Bean Soup & Chilled Tapioca & Coconut Cream Soup – Credit to my Aunt for coming up with this one. It looks gross, but it was actually pretty good. Interesting texture and it made the red bean soup more creamy and less starchy and it worked really well. I still would rather just have the Coconut Tapioca alone, but this was better than Red Bean alone.

Candied Banana – 2/6 (Usually a 5/6)

  • $11.80
  • I love this dessert and it’s a traditional Shanghainese dessert.
  • I had to order it because it’s not common to find at restaurants and I haven’t found a place that can do them as well as the ones I’ve had in Hong Kong. Not even close.
  • This is one of their “production desserts” and there’s a table side show like making cherries jubilee at a French restaurant… but without the flames. Instead it’s the complete opposite. It’s an ice water bath!
  • The bananas are battered and deep fried in the kitchen with a hot caramel sugar syrup drizzled on top. They are quickly brought out to your table where the server will cold shock them in the prepared ice water bath. The sugar hardens and the bananas are then quickly removed from the water bath and plated on a separate dish.

This is the end result or final product for the Candied Banana.

  • It’s probably still a 3/6 even if you haven’t tried it before, but if you have had a good one then you know this one wasn’t executed well.
  • The times I had them in Hong Kong they don’t even batter or deep fry them. The “batter” ends up being the boiling hot sugar syrup that crystallizes around the banana and they also sprinkle it with sesame seeds so it has a nutty crust. I like that version much better.
  • Even though they did the deep fried version here, the batter was savoury! Either the batter was savoury or it was picking up savoury flavours from the old oil, either way it was wrong. Also the batter was much too thick.
  • The process also wasn’t done quick enough and the bananas soaked in the ice bath too long so they weren’t hot and it’s supposed to have a hot and cold aspect.
  • Overall the bananas were crispy and crunchy, but the golden sugar syrup was oddly not that sweet.
  • The banana pieces were huge and should be smaller and they were naturally sweeter than the syrup from just being ripe.
  • I love the crunchy exterior and the soft centre of creamy sweet banana, but the dessert is usually so much better than this!

**Sesame Rice Ball 5/6

  • $7.80
  • I’m cheating a bit because this was an item I had for dessert at a wedding hosted at this Kirin location last summer. I had to feature it somehow because it was great.
  • These are softball sized sesame rice balls and usually they are bite sized. I never really cared for them until I had them here. They were delicious!
  • It’s made fresh upon order and they’re hot pastries. It’s almost like a Chinese donut, but not as rich or filling.
  • This dessert takes a lot of technique to make too.

It’s an airy light, lightly battered and fried sesame crusted mochi skin. It’s a super thin, crispy, chewy, sticky, nutty, and lightly sweetened mochi skin made from rice flour. It’s just chewy and melts in your mouth.

  • The inside is usually filled with either red bean paste, black sesame paste or sometimes a creamy peanut or taro root filling.
  • In this case it was filled with a little bit of what seemed like a milky coconut custard. This was even better! I loved it!
  • I don’t care for beany starchy pastes, and I do love the peanut filling, but this filling was delicious! It’s not a lot either, so it doesn’t gush out. It just coats the inside.
  • It was warm and ooey gooey and added to the creamy sweetness of the unique mochi pastry.
  • I’m not even sure if there was coconut milk in it, but with the nutty combination of sesame seeds it mimicked a nutty aromatic flavour.
  • It’s one of the best sesame rice balls I’ve had to date.

Selected Fresh Fruit Platter

  • $3.50/person
  • I’m cheating a bit again because this fruit platter was from the wedding I attended here last summer.
  • This is a platter for about ten people and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t come like this unless it’s a special occasion and the restaurant has advanced notice.
  • I’ve never seem such presentation for a fruit platter at any other wedding I’ve been to at a Chinese restaurant. I was impressed and it was served over a bed of ice. Nothing better than fresh, cold, and crisp fruit.

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14 Comments

  • Linda says:

    the food here always looks amazing and i haven’t had the chance to visit any of the kirins before – i’ve heard great things about it and i definitely need to give this place a try – i’ll need to find ppl to go with first lol

    i loved boiled soup! its always so sweet from the meat and the vegetables and i eat it all the time at home – mine usually has potatoes in it too 🙂 all the seafood dishes look great here especially the one with the egg white and the cod – i have to admit that the only seafood i order from any restaurant is always of chinese descent 🙂

    mm i love the crispy chicken they serve at chinese restaurants – i don’t know how they make the skin so crispy and yet the meat stays so incredibly tender – koodos to them! the desserts look great here – the combination your aunt created reminds me of the red bean shake they make at vietnamese restaurants – it’s a mix of red bean soup and evaporated milk so i can totally see why this coconut + red bean concoction was delicious! 🙂

    mmm i gotta try making those sesame balls with coconut custard – i’ve only really had it with red bean paste!

  • WS says:

    Curious, do you ever return a dish if it’s sub-par? For example, the candied banana at Kirin here this time(you rate it 2/6 but it’s usually 5/6). Or a steak is not to right doneness. If I’d asked for medium-rare steak, but it comes to me medium doneness, should I bring it up to the waiter?

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – WHAT!?!?! You’ve NEVER been a Kirin?!?! I’m surprised you haven’t been with parents of family? or a wedding? event? I’m shocked lol!!

    i agree! Chinese seafood is my favourite way of preparing seafood.

    I’ll tell you how they do it… they deep fry it! Brine it, then deep fry it lol. that’s why it’s so good.

    the red bean combo reminded my of “hong dou bing”

    @WS – If the dish is sub-par I won’t return it, but I will if it’s made poorly. i didn’t return the banana because it’s nothing they can fix easily. It’s just their method that wasn’t great, but that’s how they do it.

    Yes I’ll return it if my steak is WELL DONE and I asked for it medium rare, or if my pizza is burnt etc. If it’s lacking salt or it’s bland, no I’ll still keep it. But requesting medium rare and coming out medium, no I would not return it. The difference isn’t a big enough deal for me… I’d only bring it up at a 5 star steakhouse if it happened… but I highly doubt it would.

    It has to take a lot for me to return a dish and it’s gotta be really off or inedible. Usually if it’s under $10 I’ll suck it up too, but if it was $30 then I’d expect a higher standard.

  • Rmd_Foodie says:

    Mijune, do you have a recipe for making the sesame rice ball??? I’d love to attempt to make it some time. Oh, and any recipe for a good egg tart filling as well???

  • Mijune says:

    @Rmd_Foodie – hmm I’ve never made them myself.. but I’ve mad Portuguese egg tarts before! Let me check for a recipe though and I’ll get back to you 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    @Rmd_Foodie – A recommendation from my fired! Check youtube channel – dessertzhouse, she has a egg tart recipe+video! Check the latest video on it because there are 2 🙂

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