Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kirin Restaurant - New Westminster

Restaurant: Kirin Seafood Restaurant

Cuisine: Chinese
Last visited: December 24, 09
Area: Multiple – New Westminster, BC (Starlight Casino)
350 Gifford Street
Price Range: $30-50

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

Food: 5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Multiple locations in Vancouver
  • Since 1987
  • Executive Chef Allen Liu
  • Considered the fine dining of Chinese cuisine in Vancouver
  • Very spacious, grand dining room
  • Extensive menu
  • Famous for fresh local seafood
  • Large selection of seafood
  • Some exotic meats
  • Big portions, dine with 4+
  • Winner of numerous Chinese dining awards
  • Set menus/Group menus available
  • Open for dim sum in the morning
  • Private rooms available
  • Brunch/Lunch/Dinner service
  • Reservations recommended
  • Closes Mon-Sun 2:30-5pm

**Recommendation: 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), Coconut Tapioca 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 it’s 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’s 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. I’m only going to review what I ordered from this year’s Christmas Eve dinner to be fair. I don’t have the names of what we ordered so don’t quote me on the names. The dishes are so familiar we never need to really see the menu to order. The menu and prices aren’t online either, the descriptions aren’t great either (typical of Asian restaurants) so I won’t be able to include them.

On the table:

Crab & Fish Maw in Supreme Clear Broth 3/6

  • 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 a jelly like and it’s a Chinese delicacy. It’s chewy, has slightly crunchy parts and it’s also 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 Crepes 4.5/6

  • Served with Hoisin sauce and green onions.
  • Peking Duck - Two course: Skin witn 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.
  • The fish itself is excellent, but I prefer when it’s not just duck skin, but also duck meat on the skin. Some places serve the skin with some duck meat on it as well. They don’t do it at Kirin because they intentionally save the duck meat for the duck lettuce wraps which you would usually order with duck crepes.
  • The duck skin is really crispy here. It’s one of the crispiest I’ve had and they remove as much of the fat as possible, so it's not that oily either. I hate that part anyways so I was really pleased with how much they were able to remove. A lot of Chinese people like that part because it’s flavourful, but I hate the jelly texture and flavour fat has. I actually don’t even like skin that much, I’m almost afraid to say that on here…but I’ll eat it in some cases…like this one.
  • 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 Wraps 6/6

  • 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 m “how to” part.

**Lobster Cream & Butter Sauce 5/6

  • 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 Shoots 4/6

  • 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 at Shanghai River better 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 & Scallops 5.5/6

  • 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 I rated 6/6 on from Rainflower Restaurant. 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 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.


Chilled Tapioca and Coconut Cream Sweetened Soup 6/6

  • Tapioca pearls served in coconut milk with coconut flakes. Served cold. $3.95/per person. Usually served complimentary if you order one of their set menus.
  • They make the best 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 not a pudding at all; it’s more of a chilled soup, almost like a drink. It’s really refreshing and a perfect way to end a Chinese meal.

Kirin (New West - Starlight Casino) on Urbanspoon


  1. each review gives me a new craving. i have yet to try kirin but i hear their dim sum is really good! definitely high end chinese food here.

    drooling over the peking duck. i love the crispy skin and hoisin sauce. i love lettuce wrap, i hate that it's so messy though.

  2. I know right?! You havta see me eat...I have notebook beside me, pen, camera, berry..and all of it has food on it....the rollerball on the berry sucks so bad barely rolls from my greasy hands and taking notes while I eat...=(

  3. look I just found chocolate on my camera...crusted chocolate :|....and yes it is chocolate!! I had tiramisu today =)...I thought of you Nicole!!

  4. LOL no I can totally see you with all that stuff around you while you try to eat. Awesome. You're a truly dedicated foodie Mijune!

    awwww I like being associated with tiramisu!!! hahaha I just think of you whenever I have good food in general so that's a lot, but not in a creepy way!!

  5. Hello, I just stumbled upon your site via Urbanspoon while doing research for my first food blog (your Earls review, go fig)... I'm so excited to see someone else who loves the Kirin restaurant chain! It's long been a favorite of my family, and the only place I've had better Chinese was at the Iron Chef Chinese restaurant in Tokyo.

    I must confess, though, that your review has made me moderately embarrassed about my lack of adventure; I always mean to try some of the duck dishes or something I've never tried before, but Kirin does such a good job with my usual favorites (sweet and sour pork, chicken with cashews) that I rarely order anything else. I think you've convinced me to try the duck skin dish, both because it sounds right up my alley and because your pictures make it look delicious. :-)

    I poked around some of your other reviews (I love your taste; you like Kadoya and Guu as much as I do!) and I was wondering if I could link to your blog? I'm currently writing a blog specifically made for Vancouver Olympic visitors who are on a budget (think Earls or White Spot as the high end of the range, with good old Tim Hortons at the other end). Your reviews are really helpful and very detailed, and I think my readers (when I get any, LOL!) could really benefit from taking a look.

    Just let me know if you'd mind. If so, no problem. :-) Either way, I love this blog and hope it continues!

    (PS sorry for bursting in like this, I'm still getting the hang of this whole blog thing. ;-))

  6. Welcome to my blog Michelle!!! Don't apologize at all! You have no idea how I love getting these enthusiastic comments! I really appreciate them!!

    I'm so glad you enjoy my reviews and I love how you're inspired to venture out to new items at Kirin. What we ordered is very typical for Chinese people and I think you're really going to like it. E-mail me and let me know if you do! I also can't wait to see your blog and wish you luck in writing it.

    In regards to your other request I'm going to e-mail you privately :)

    Thanks for posting!