Kirin Seafood Restaurant 麒麟海鮮酒家 (Starlight Casino, New West)

Restaurant: Kirin Seafood Restaurant 麒麟海鮮酒家 (Starlight Casino)
Cuisine: Chinese/Dim Sum/Seafood/Fine Dining
Last visited: January 6, 2012
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: FMF Must Try!

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

  • 5 locations in Metro Vancouver
  • Since 1987
  • 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

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 and I could give lots more.

I’ve posted on various Chinese New Year menus, Continental Seafood, and now for the one everyone knows best. Kirin is Vancouver’s most famous Chinese fine dining restaurant specializing in Northern Chinese and traditional Cantonese cuisine. The dishes have an occasional modern flair and their fresh seafood and award winning dim sum is most recommended.

It’s won “Best Chinese” year after year at the Vancouver Magazine Awards, but it’s not as well recognized at the Chinese Restaurant Awards also based in Vancouver, BC. For this year’s Chinese Restaurant Awards, Kirin didn’t win any Critics Choice awards again, but they did win the Diners’ Choice award for “Best Fine Dining”. Regardless of awards, I find that it more or less delivers, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best in every category. It’s the most well known, and it is frequented by Chinese locals and tourists, but it’s not necessarily the leader of Chinese cuisine, although the appropriate standard for high end Chinese cuisine in Vancouver.

Since they have 5 locations in Metro Vancouver, I find each location varies in food and service. I would say consistency is an issue. The menus are also slightly different and the prices are higher as expected, but the more often I come, the more I find it a bit hit and miss. Personally, this Kirin in New Westminster is rated as its best location and it is the one I always prefer.

My last post on Kirin (Starlight Casino) was May 2011, and since then I have come on a couple occasions for banquet dinners and also visited their Vancouver locations. Being in Vancouver, there are endless options for excellent Chinese food, so Kirin isn’t really a go-to place unless I’m looking to formally entertain. I just find it difficult to order due to consistency which I previously mentioned as being an issue. Being able to decipher a massive Chinese menu in general is tough enough, so it is a bit of a gamble (which you can literally do next door at the casino too). I’m usually quite satisfied with my dining experience here, but on this occasion  it fell short of impressive, although I wasn’t disappointed either.

On the table:

Kirin’s XO Chili Sauce – I can eat this plain, but the quality of the Kirin XO sauce is actually not that good. There’s barely any dried scallops or shrimps (delicacy) and that’s the point. It’s garlicky, heavy with sesame oil, quite salty and medium spicy, but it’s not hot. Red Star Seafood and Grand Dynasty offer better XO Chili Sauce.

**Black Cod Braised with Squash and Roasted Pork Belly – 4.5/6 (Very good – Excellent)

  • $18.80
  • It’s gone up a dollar since I last had it. It’s only available at this Kirin location.
  • I used to love this dish even more, but this time it didn’t deliver as well as I remembered.
  • 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 was 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.
  • The pork belly was actually the typical suckling pig you often see at Chinese butchers, except this one doesn’t seem as fresh.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if it was day old though because they would likely save the day of stuff for just the suckling pig orders.
  • The pieces of pork were quite lean, firm and not that moist, so I wasn’t keen on the pork.
  • Since it was pre-roasted pork belly that was tossed in last minute the sauce didn’t have any flavours of pork renderings and I missed that.
  • The quality of the black cod fillets didn’t seem as good as last time either.
  • The cod was still moist, flaky and delicious, as they normally are, but they didn’t seem as meaty or juicy.
  • The deep frying of the fish 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.
  • On this occasion they had more pork than cod and it used to be the other way around, which I missed.
  • There were whole cloves of creamy sweet garlic and a bit of ginger sauteed into it as well.
  • There may be a hint of curry for some colour and extra aromatics too.
  • It was a thick creamy soy sauce gravy with the starchy texture of melted squash and it was delicious with rice.

House Special Marinated Pork Loin with Selected Vegetable – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • $17.80
  • This was basically pork loin and spare ribs served with Chinese style barbeque sauce and steamed broccoli.
  • It was a filling and rich meaty dish and the pork loin was pretty fatty too and it almost seemed like pork belly.
  • If you’re from a North American culture, you would probably see the pieces as being “cheap quality”, but it’s actually the preferred cuts for Chinese people and what makes it authentic and good.
  • The spare ribs and pork loin were no doubt a bit gelatinous, and I’m not keen on gelatinous textures so it was a bit much for me.
  • The pork was generally tender, but not falling apart, and I wish it was offered with a different cut/quality of pork (that’s my “Western tastes”).
  • The pork was generously sauced with a Chinese style barbeque sauce and I could definitely taste ketchup in it. This is common for Chinese style barbeque sauces though.
  • The sauce was on the sweeter side, but there was still a tang. Unlike Western barbeque sauces the tang isn’t from vinegar, but from a dried and preserved prune.
  • The sauce had a slight tea leaf aftertaste, but the initial flavour was ketchup for me and definitely some soy sauce. The combo works well if you’ve never had it, and the sauce was sweet, salty and tangy.
  • If you like sweet and sour pork, it is likely you will like this dish.

Chicken in Abalone Sauce Served in Wooden Pot (Half)5/6 (Excellent)

  • $16.80
  • I’ve had this before at the Kirin location on Cambie and I’m really a fan of the presentation.
  • It was a bone in steamed free range chicken soaking in a rich abalone sauce.

  • Being a free range chicken, it is naturally a bit bonier, firmer and drier, but it has good flavour and it is very tender and still moist.
  • The sauce tasted like natural chicken oils, a bit of soy sauce, perhaps Oyster sauce and abalone sauce.
  • Abalone (sea snail) is a Chinese delicacy that comes with a high price and a high quality good one served whole will taste like a meaty clam.
  • There were no actual pieces of abalone, but I could still taste some of its flavour infused in the sauce. It was savoury, but not too salty.
  • The abalone sauce was very likely enhanced with some shiitake mushroom juice since they can share a similar flavour profile. The ones that aren’t as high quality will taste a bit more mushroomy.
  • The abalone sauce can also come in a jar or a can, but I really hope they’re making theirs in house. This could be wishful thinking and most likely they’re using a combination since abalone juice is not easy to get.
  • The texture of the sauce is a bit gummy and thickened with cornstarch which is expected for Chinese style sauces.
  • The chicken was extra silky smooth especially with the sauce and it was great alone, but also good with the side of ginger and onion oil it was served with.

I love ginger and onion oil, but the one served with the chicken was only okay. The ginger was a bit chewy and old and I prefer a bit more onion. It’s not supposed to be eaten on the day it’s made, since the flavours need time to absorb, but this one just seemed a bit older than I prefer.

**Stir Fried Assorted Seafood with Egg White4/6 (Very good) (From May 2011 post)

  • $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 was somewhat of a healthy dish and pretty light without a heavy sauce.
  • It was served with a side of ginger red vinegar as the optional condiment.
  • It was 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 played 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 was very mild in flavours and simply savoury from perhaps just salt, a touch of soy, and some minced Chinese leeks and garlic.
  • There was 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 brightened 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 (Okay) (From May 2011 post)

  • $12.80
  • This was very overpriced and very boring. It was 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 were 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.

Roasted Free Range Chicken4/6 (Very good) (From May 2011 post)

  • $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 was 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 was a free range chicken.
  • I do wish it had more of a roasted flavour, but it was still executed well.
  • For something a bit different I’d recommend Jade Seafood’s award winning Grandpa’s Smoked Chicken – see here.

Desserts

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’m really not a fan of red bean anything, but if you like red bean soup, Kirin makes a good one (according to people who like red bean soup). I think I might like it later in life.
  • It had tons of beans and it wasn’t too sweet and had a mild orange peel flavour.

**Chilled Tapioca and Coconut Cream Sweetened Soup 4/6 (Very good)

  • $3.95/person (Complimentary) If you have more than 4 people they just bring you a giant bowl 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.
  • For what it is, this one is very good.
  • It’s a light and refreshing dessert and not too sweet at all.
  • It wasn’t 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 and dried 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. It was an 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 Soup alone.

Almond Cookies & Mango Pudding

  • This was like Chinese Petit Fours and it came complimentary which is unusual, but they were doing it for everyone on this night.
  • Almond Cookies
    • I love these cookies!
    • They’re garnished with a walnut, but they’re made with almonds.
    • These ones are really thick which is not that common because they’re usually thin and crisp.
    • They’re almost like Chinese style shortbread cookies, but they’re not as buttery or sweet and slightly more eggy and nutty.
    • It was slightly crispy and dry and crumbly as it usually is.
  • Mango Pudding
    • The mango pudding is not the same mango pudding they were serving a la carte which bothers me.
    • Of course a smaller portion is expected, but the mango pudding a la carte had actual mango in it.
    • These pieces they serve complimentary had no mango pieces or mango flavour for that matter.
    • They were sprinkled with dried coconut, but the flavour was just mildly sweet gelatin and had it been the same as the one they served it might convince me to order it a la carte next time.

Candied Banana – 2/6 (Okay here, but usually a 5/6 dessert) (From May 2011 post)

  • $11.80
  • I love this dessert and it’s traditionally a 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 was probably still good 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, but regardless the batter was wrong and 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. 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.

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8 Comments

  • Mimi says:

    Wooooonice!!!

  • Sara says:

    You Vancouver people are so lucky!! Such a great selection of quality Chinese food. Here in Montreal, a lot of the plates you mentionned are pretty rare sight.

    The chicken in Abalone looks absolutely so good. When I go to Chinese restaurants, I usually get this kind of chicken. Seems so simple but yet it’s delicious.

    And I love your comments about the red bean soup dessert. I HATE that thing as well. And like you, I love the tapioca with coconut soup one. They actually make one here at Maison Kam Fung with an added twist: honey drew melon flavour. It’s quite amazing!

  • Linda says:

    mmmm the elusive fried bananas.. that’s definitely on my list if i go to kirin 🙂

    the food quality here looks great and honestly, i thought the prices would be a bit higher considering the popularity of this place… i can definitely see why people luv booking this place for their wedding.. the execution and presentation of each dish is impressive.

    lol i thought the marinated pork loin was beancurd lol haha

    mm i think the ultimate test of a good chinese place is somewhere that you actually like their red bean soup! lol

  • Mijune says:

    @Mimi – yes it is!

    @Sara – Yes I’ve had the honeydew one before! I’m not crazy about honeydew, but i don’t hate it either. You need to come back to Vancouver! I wish I could mail you stuff.. i’ll work towards mailing you one of our chefs 🙂

    @ Linda – I never think they do a good job with the fried bananas at Kirin though. Well maybe I just had bad luck, but their technique was making them soggy 🙁

    hahah on your red bean comment! xo

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