Kirin Mandarin –
Day two of our Kirin dim sum back-to-back brings my mother-in-law, wife, and I to Kirin Mandarin located in downtown Vancouver. This is the Kirin location that is most convenient to us, but it is also the place where we received our first subpar local dim sum meal. Hopefully, the food will be much better-tasting this time around.
The restaurant has an interior typical of higher-end Cantonese seafood restaurants. Its dining area is divided into two separate rooms, and we were seated in what I assumed to be the “main” dining room.
We ordered six items, with two being items that were different from what we ordered yesterday and four being repeats. We ordered the repeats so that we could make an exact comparison between the exact same dishes served by the two branches.
The first repeat item was the Lotus Leaf Wrapped Sticky Rice with Chicken.
This dish had flavours similar to the one we had at their Richmond location. Eating the sticky rice, I could definitely detect the aromas of the lotus leaf and dried scallops, along with the flavours of the mushrooms, chicken, and salted-egg-yolk that came from the ingredients below the rice. The textures of the sticky rice and the other ingredients were not as moist as the version we had at their Richmond location. The grains of rice were firmer while the sauce was thicker, which made everything just a little harder to swallow. I still considered this version to be pretty tasty, but the moistness of the one we had yesterday just made it a little more enjoyable.
The second repeat item was the Phoenix Claws (Chicken Feet).
The individual claws were much bigger than the already good-sized chicken feet that we were served yesterday. The claws we had today were also more visually appealing. The skin of the claws looked more complete, with each individual chicken feet retaining all of its skin. Like the version we had yesterday, each individual claw survived the trip from the dish to our plates with their skin intact. Since these were bigger claws, we were treated to more collagen, more connective tissues, and more tendons. And everything had the right slighty-chewy-and-not-disintegrating texture that I preferred. My wife actually liked the texture of the claws we had yesterday better, so we’ll call it a tie in the texture department. The flavours of these claws were not as noticeably tangy than the ones we had yesterday, but they were still very enjoyable. Overall, I would say that I enjoyed the version we had today more simply because the bigger claws provided us with more of everything to enjoy.
The third repeat item was the Tofu Skin Rolls.
These tofu skin rolls were funny-tasting. It wasn’t that they were unpleasant tasting; it was just that, when drizzled with the provided black vinegar, both my wife and I thought that the rolls tasted like chicken McNuggets. Other than that, the skin was as adequately crispy and the filling as adequately teeth-bouncing as the tofu skin rolls we had yesterday. But I just can’t quite get over the fact that it tasted so much like chicken nuggets, so I’ll have to give the edge to the version we had yesterday.
The last of the repeats was the Salt and Pepper Deep Fried Squid.
The skin was crispy and the inner-squid was chewy yet chewable. In this respect, the salt pepper fried squid we had today was similar to the version we had yesterday. But the flavours of the dish we had today were totally different than the dish we had yesterday. The pieces of deep-fried squid we had today were so salty that I had to drink a cup of tea with every piece that I ate. Apart from the saltiness, the squid also had a very unpleasant flavour that was eerily similar to the smell of hair-dye. We didn’t finish the dish, and it wasn’t because we were too full.
Our last savory was the Soup Dumpling, which was the first of two dishes that we did not order at their Richmond location.
The soup dumpling was solid. It was definitely not the best soup dumpling that I’ve had, but it was still pretty flavourful. I could detect distinct flavours from both the soup and the dumpling. The filling of the dumpling was pretty standard; there were shrimp, mushrooms, and meat, among other ingredients. The skin of the dumpling also had the right thickness, which meant that it was not so thick that it got in the way of the enjoyment of the other components. I thought that the inclusion of the shark’s fins was gratuitous. Ethics of shark-hunting aside, I didn’t think that a few strands of shark’s fin did anything to enhance the flavours or the textures of the soup dumpling.
Our dessert dish of Sesame “Quicksand” Buns was also something that we did not order yesterday.
None of us liked this version of the “quicksand” buns. A good quicksand bun is supposed to have a filling that is thick yet liquidy, with the filling flowing down from the bun when the bun is parted. But when I opened the bun, no liquid flowed down from it. What I observed was instead a thick paste. The paste had sesame and peanut??(might be its yellow colour playing mindtricks on me) flavours. The flavours I got from the filling were also entirely sweet and they felt a little too one-note for my tastes. I am more partial to quicksand buns that have a salty-sweet flavour from the combination of salty duck yolk with a sweet component. I guess I’m not used to quicksand buns with a thick and 100% sweet filling.
Out of the six total dishes we ordered today, I would say that three were tasty, and three were subpar. This is a much better result than the meal my wife and I had the last time we were at Kirin Mandarin, when all of the dishes were subpar. Based on the food we had today, I would say that we will be returning to this branch of Kirin in the future for dim sum if we happen to be in the area and craving dim sum. But the food we got today was in no way comparable to the food we had at their Richmond location yesterday. The back to back meal basically confirmed to us that there really is a big difference in the quality of food between different branches of Kirin…The only new information that came out of this comparison is that the food at their downtown location is actually edible.