Alaskan King Crab from Kirin Mandarin Restaurant in Downtown Vancouver

We had dinner with TS and JS (Eating Club Vancouver) and ET and Christina of Doesn’t Tazte Like Chicken earlier this month at Mis Trucos. During the dinner, I brought up the fact that I have NEVER had Alaskan King Crab before. Christina was raving excitedly about the King Crab dinner she had recently and I asked if anyone would be interested go to for it next.

Everyone said “YES!” without any hesitation.

So there and then at Mis Trucos, Christina made a call a certain Ah Joe in Kirin and make reservation for the following weekend. That was very efficient of her. Oh … Christina and ET are regulars in fine dining it seems. They don’t have to call Kirin for reservation … they ask for Ah Joe. And Ah Joe will personally pick a prize crab for them.

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So we went to the Kirin in downtown. This one is on Alberni and Bute. For a moment I thought I was at the wrong place because it looked very different. Apparently, they had just renovated the restaurant.

So from Alberni, the only indication that Kirin is here is that little sign above the door. The entrance was plain looking and really unimpressive. It is just all glass on metal frames.

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However, the moment you walk in it is a different world. It exudes classiness all round. The decor is elegant and the service is impeccable. ET and Christina was talking to Ah Joe like they are old friends. Ah Joe is a real person pleaser and an excellent captain who attended to us the whole night.

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We met at 6PM because some of us had to get somewhere else later on that night. It was early and so we were among the first customers there. Little did I realize that by 7PM this entire restaurant is teeming with customers … many of them having Alaskan King Crab too.

ET pointed out that this place is also popular with Japanese tourists who travels in tour groups.

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Our table were reserved and all decked out for the Alaskan King Crab with crab forks and scissors even before we arrived. I was kind of impressed with that. I thought earlier that all tables were set out like that but no.

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This is what we came for primarily. That is $14.80 per pound. At minimum you are looking at an eight pound crab … so … we are looking at a minimum of $120 just for the crab.

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I was embargoed from mentioning the weight of the crab because ET said we were given a good deal. I can tell you it looked huge and it is huge.

You know, I have been hearing of restaurants cheating about the crab sizes in many places. I was told that you gotta to be careful with places that advertises to be cheap but they will give you a lighter one. Unless you had this like dozens of times, you will likely not know the difference. So, I guess the best thing is never look for the price alone but go to a restaurant that is reputable.

It is standard routine to bring out the crab and show it to the customer before they take it back to the kitchen to cook it.

The crab is the main course. We had an appetizer first …

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The “appetizer” is the Peking Duck 2-Way. This is one of the national dishes of China.

The “1st Way” are just the skin of the duck. There are no meat here; only skin … awfully nice thin crispy skin. The skin were pre-sliced and served on a bed of crackers underneath it. I wished they had brought the duck and slices the skin right in front of us (like they do in Man Ri Sung — you will like this restaurant).

Strange isn’t it? Today Peking is known as Beijing and yet the name of the dish will never change to keep up with the times. I had never heard of anyone referring this as the Beijing Duck.

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Peking Duck is a DIY kind of dish. Half the fun is assembling it. The pancakes were served warm in a steaming basket. On the side is hoisin sauce and scallions.

According to Peking Duck purists, the duck has to be slaughtered when it is 65 days old. I am not sure if Kirin observes this. Even if they did I would not know any difference.

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Yeah, it is a hand food. No need for chopsticks. Assembly is simple … spread the hoisin sauce on the pancake, pick a piece of scallion and a piece of duck skin … wrap and roll … and eat.

If no one is looking you can pick two pieces of the duck skin and quickly wrap it up before anyone sees you. People will notice eventually because at the end they will find one piece short. You need to have a poker face to pull this off.

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The “2nd Way” also requires DIY assembly.

The meat of the duck is stir fried with vermicelli and other unidentified stuff. On the side are very cool and fresh and crisp lettuce — perfectly formed.

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Another hand food, this is kind of messy to eat because the crisp lettuce tends to crack apart at times spilling the food all over the palm. It was messy for me … and I liked it.

The two Peking Duck dishes costs $40.

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Tada! The real dinner is served.

I could feel everyone putting their hands together and clap when the crab is brought to the table. No one actually clapped but I felt that they did. It is a sight to marvel.

The Alaskan King Crab are only caught during harsh winter months, mostly in the waters off Alaska. It is lucrative fishing for these prized crabs but it is also very dangerous. Fishing for king crabs is the second most dangerous job in the world after lumber.

The fishermen makes enough money during the short fishing season that they don’t have to work if they don’t want to for the rest of the year. Guess how much money they make.  At the peak years, captains make $150K while crew members make $80K.

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Oh … a quick question for you. There are no meat in the large body shell isn’t it?

I think all the flesh is in the legs, not in the body.

Anyway, the Alaskan King Crab is served in two separate dishes, which is the most popular way that people have it.

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The first dish is steamed with garlic.

The garlic is a mix of minced raw garlic and deep fried garlic. It is simply marvelous. It is like one of those food you just have to eat it with your eyes closed and savour every lip licking bite.

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It is the size and the succulent flesh that make the King Crab the king of crabs. All the pieces were pre-cut nicely so there is very little work getting to the flesh. All you need is to hold the leg with one hand and the crab fork on the other to dig out the flesh.

The flesh … OMG … you gotta just eat it at least once in your life. ET said that this is a combination of dungeness crab and lobster.

Please give me a minute while I wipe the drool on my keyboard.

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For this piece I pile on the minced garlic … lots of it.

Mid way through this meal, I suddenly realized that I actually had King Crabs before. As a matter of fact I had FOUR full plates of it in a casino buffet restaurant in Reno (see here). But that king crab is just steamed and served cold with melted butter as dip. This one is classier.

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They so thoughtfully gave us each a bowl of lemon water to cleanse the palate before the next serving of the King Crab. Strange no one drank this. I guess the crab must have been really delicious.

I like the second King Crab dish better …   (more…)

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