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 …  

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The other half of the king crab is deep fried with pepper salt. Very different from the steamed with garlic version … the complete opposite of it. Just like ying and yang … served according to the principles of Chinese cooking of harmonious balance.

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The fatter legs are used for this.

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Look at it. The coating outside the shell is fragrant. Yeah, I gnaw at the shell to scrape off every morsel of the coating.

Inside the shell is surprisingly juicy too.

When we ate this dish, I noticed the conversation level dropped a bit. Everyone was busy.

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You know what the above is?

I don’t know what you call this but it is all the bits and pieces of garlic, chili, scallions, and whatnots from the deep fried king crab. They are wonderful. The waiter was smart to keep that for us. This is great with steamed rice.

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Oh … we were not done yet. More food to come believe it or not.

The above is a recommended item from Ah Joe. This is called Beef Stir Fried with Dried Tangerine Peel and Hot Chili ($12). The sauce has a very strong citrus taste … it is so strong that at a sniff it almost smelled like wine. The beef was tender.

Dried tangerine peel are expensive the older it is. It is normally stored and dried for 1 year for normal commercial grade but there are rare ones that is decades old.

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We also had the Fried Buns which they call Deep Fried Silver Thread Roll … this is dipped in condensed milk served on the side.

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I noticed that the insides were layered. I had never come across this before. Question I have is, why is it like this?

Anyway, this is $7.50.

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We also had fried rice. This is $16. Hmmm … I am thinking that I had never have fried rice this expensive before.

This is Egg White and Scallop Fried Rice. Actually we were all too full to really enjoy this. The ingredients are top notch but I felt the execution was not up to par.

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Desserts. We always have room for desserts.

But this one came in such a big dish. We hardly had half of it and had the remaining to go. This is kind of expensive at $23 and is called Tapioca with red bean paste. But for some reason this is complementary. I think this is another gift from Ah Joe to ET and Christina.

I had better ones although this is undoubtedly delicious. You see, I just hate the red bean paste that is right underneath the flaky pastry on top. It made this dessert too “busy”.

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The tab surprised me. It came up to just $203 before tips. That works out to be about $82 per couple.

I know Mis Trucos is gonna hate me forever for saying this again but I want to make a point why I felt this meal is more satisfying than the tapas meal we had in Mis Trucos. For the same number of diners (six), the bill was $196 while the feast here is $203. Swing over to the Mis Trucos post and see what we had and then come back and see what we had here.

It was a fantastic meal. So … TS, JS, ET and Christina … tell me your thoughts of this meal. Good one huh? It’s gonna be hard to top this. Where to next?

Kirin (Downtown) on UrbanspoonBusiness Hour

Monday – Friday: 11:00am-2:30pm; 5:00pm-10:30pm
Saturday – Sunday & Public Holidays: 10:00am-2:30pm; 5:00pm-10:30pm

42 thoughts on “Alaskan King Crab from Kirin Mandarin Restaurant in Downtown Vancouver

  1. looks like a feast for a great value. the roasted garlic look really really good.. that was an amazing value dinner for sure.

    used to live a couple of blocks from Kirin alberni. i never found any good dimsum places in dt vancouver. so just assume that kirin wasnt good for dinner too. not sure if you said they reno. but it was weird eating there before when there you were surrounded by office windows.

    always thought the kirin at city square to be better and just went there instead. plus parking there is a breeze. kirins dt parking was a hassle and confusing i thought. will have to give Kirin Dt a try now.

    silver thread bun is an odd name. it’s just a direct translation from chinese to english. while in china i’ve seen the ‘threads’ of the bun as thin as vermicelli. imagine a croissant one with many more layers and fluffiness. it was wonderful…

    at vegas king crab,AKC is from frozen not fresh. esp the buffets. cant compare the texture and flavor to live AKC

    joe thanks for the movie recommendation. i will want to see it hopefully i can find it.

  2. I’m not sure the origin of the “silver thread bun” but I always thought that it was to give texture when it was deep-fried and to keep kids busy when it was steamed ^^

  3. This feast sure looks way better than Mis Trucos and Zen. I have passed by Zen’s new location many times around dinner time because my relatives live in that neighborhood. Every time I pass by, 6:30pm or 7:30pm, weekdays or weekends, there’s only one or two tables of customers. That’s really bad. They might need to come back down to earth and make real solid and decent meals like Kirin instead of what they are making right now.

    Here, many restaurant chefs and owners misunderstand what fine dining really means. They think fine dining means selling beautiful plating first, food second, and atmosphere is just a bonus. Fine dining is about everything – decent food, great ambiance, and excellent service. If you skip one, customers won’t return. The don’t want to pay a lot more for mediocracy.

    Zen sells pretty plating but food looks average. The ambiance is not there, granted the restaurant looks clean and new (so are a lot of brand new restaurants)but it certainly doesn’t have great atmosphere and doesn’t feel luxury.

  4. I agree with you Ben hahaha. I never understood Tapas in general. Chinese food FTW =P

    By the way Suanne can try cooking king crab! My mom cooked it and it’s absolutely delicious ❤

  5. lol you should not drink that water!! It’s for cleaning. Mmm I love eating all those dishes whenever I get the lucky chance to. Why is it the messier a dish, the more delicious? After eating crab all my life the Chinese way, I can never get as much satisfaction eating just plain steamed with butter as they do elsewhere.

    Mmm and I love those rolls with condensed milk! Omg, this post made me starving.

  6. This looks fantastic. The layers should be the “silver threads”. Usually see these type of bread when they are fried, and sometimes steamed. Looks prettier to me and I like to take apart each of the “threads” to eat. Very fun!

    The king crab looks so succulent. I’ve only had it at buffets in Las Vegas, but I’ve never had it in a restaurant. The difference looks quite obvious!

    And you guys had my favorite fried rice too :). Some masago on top would have made it even nicer. Yum!

  7. Hi Ben, I just got home from Montreal and saw this post – great writeup. And judging by the number of comments, King crab seems to be popular with people.

    I mostly echo yours, TS’, and JS’ sentiments about the dinner – company excellent, King Crab excellent, Peking duck good, beef stir fry ok, and dessert so so. But I thought the fried rice was done quite well – subtle, not too oily, good texture. And the value for money factor was good. I actually went again for another round one week later, when the crabs were were almost $26/lb – really made us appreciate the $14.80/lb price! That time, instead of having the legs steamed with garlic, we had them steamed with Chinese rice wine and egg white. It was a definite wow! – especially for people who like Chinese rice wine. Also, it should be noted that Kirin’s deep-fried “pepper salt” preparation is actually very similar to a “HK bei fong tong” style of preparation.

    Kirin on Alberni remains our favourite Chinese restaurant in Vancouver – not every dish is a winner, but on average, they serve up more hits than misses. We haven’t found another place in this city that we like more yet.

    So, it’s your turn to figure out something next. “Meaty” sounds like it will hit the spot – we’re looking forward to it.

    [ET]

  8. There is meat in the shell! There is meat!!!

    My parents and I used to go out for it, but after we learned to make it ourselves, we stopped. It’s much more fun eating it messily at home with good company and not have to worry about how savage you look. My favourite part is the shell. There’s a lot of the “fat” (not sure what it’s called in English) in it which is delicious with rice. I’m drooling as we speak. Also, most of the time, there’s a “baby shell”. Inside the baby shell is very tender meat with a tad of bite. (If that makes any sense.)

    You should try it someday! Just steam it so you can enjoy the natural sweetness of the crab.

  9. Ah, those pics look yummy Ben. I love garlicy crab legs 🙂 I’ve been there a couple times now since the renovation, for some reason I found the place a bit sterile looking, although the food quality is still decent. I had my wedding there so I’m just going on memory of the old days. Good write up though. Keep it up.

  10. It’ll hover around $40/lb in a couple more weeks and then it will stay there until the season starts again next year.

    • fmed, when does the alaska king crab season starts? I missed the opportunity this year. I saw live king crab on sale for 9.98 a lb at T&T last month (Feb) but I passed on it. Now it’s 20 bucks a lb. I guess I’ll have to wait till next year.

  11. Hey Ben, when did you guys go?? I called to make reservations at Kirin today and the king crabs are $25/pound 😦 Missed the season again!

  12. Kirin has always been my fav Chinese restaurant to eat downtown besides The Imperial (Burrard/W. Hastings). Their tangerine beef is very delish, but it should come with the little steamed white flower-shaped buns for dipping into the sauce. The authentic way of eating Peking duck is to have it carved in front of you and to leave some meat on the skin. Besides having the 2nd dish as lettuce wrap, some restaurants offer 3-ways i.e. usually making salted mustard green/tofu soup with the carcass. Alaska King crab is usually eaten the 2-ways you guys did and the 3rd would be to have fried rice steamed in its shell. If the crab has lots of roe (like the last 13.5lb crab I bought), I would either steam or fry eggs with it…..very yummy! Very often at restaurant, they give you the empty shell and I’m beginning to question that…..LOL! Also, every restaurant, no matter how reputable, would rip their customer at least 0.5-1 lb if not more of the actual weight of the crab. Sshh….confidential info…..They know well the customers would not bring their own scales, so…….. Having said that, I bought my 13.5lb from a Rmd wholesaler for only $6.99/lb!

    • Smart, HM. That’s a great idea to do it at home. I won’t dare suggest to to Suanne to make it. The last time I asked her to make chili crab at home, she almost snapped my head off. But she made it eventually and it was delicious!
      Ben

  13. Kirin is a good restaurant if your Chinese or rich person who dine at Kirin everyday otherwise if an average joe or family dines at Kirin, expect awful rude grunt service from them…

  14. One of the pricier chinese restaurants out there, but one of my all-time no fails (favourites). We’ve always had great service, and the food quality have always been great.

    I’ve had the king crab there too. Num!

  15. That “salt” fried crab was so good… it’s different from the usual formulation in other restaursants. I know the two of us were gnawing on the shell to scrape off every last bit of that coating, LOL. But of course, I’m a sucker for garlic so I liked the first dish equally well, drinking up that garlic-infused juice from the dish.

    As for the bun, if I’m not mistaken, I think it’s called “Silver Thread Bun”. So if I see a bun without those “threads” inside, then it’s not a very well-made one.

    Hmm, so much food, so little time. Let’s just go eat somewhere, anywhere, quick! Organize the next one, Ben! =D

  16. Good company, good food — and GOOD VALUE! I must say this is 220 well-spent. The king crab, especially the deep-fried one, was spectacular. Thank you to you, Suanne, Christina, ET for making it a great evening.

    Hmmm. . .next. . .we could go for Chinese again (suckling pig, Beggars Chicken?, lately I’m having a craving for Sichuan) or a different cuisine entirely. Wherever, I’m game!

  17. King Crab season is virtually over…the prices are up much higher now. Only had it once this year – $9.99/lb two weeks ago at Empire Chinese on Alexandra Rd in Richmond.

  18. wow, didnt know that kirin offers it at that price. that is quite a steal considering that you went to a downtown location.
    anyway, you might want to try emprial restaurant beside new town in richmond. they are not the best restaurant but their king crab is pretty much the same with what you had at a current price of $9/lb.
    btw, i really enjoy reading your posts!

  19. Hahaha Ben, you always get people with that lemon water joke. True story, when I was new to Vancouver I was invited to a Chinese banquet dinner. The lemon water was served. It was actually tea and lemon. I thought it was a sauce and I dipped my piece of crab in it. Everybody looked at me funny. Geez they should tell people what they are. LOL.

    • Hi Jonnek: Is that a joke or what? LOL! Yeah, maybe I’ll pull that same stunt one day, record the expression of everyone and post it on the blog! Ben

  20. I had a good king crab feast at President (I might be slightly off on that name) on Granville between 64 and 70th (by the Red Star), but have always been reluctant to write about it at Vancouver Slop, mostly because I don’t know what the prices were (major tip: eating with your parents can be good for one’s wallet). If memory serves, the two courses were the same (steamed with garlic and the deep fried version), but there was a third rice with leftover bits of crab as well.

    There’s a good documentary about Spain’s entry in the Bocuse D’Or: “the Chicken, the Fish and the King Crab,” so named because of the featured ingredients that year. There’s a fair bit in the documentary about how king crab is farmed and raised, if anyone’s interested.

    • Haha…I agree with Joe that eating with your parents is good on your wallet. As for president, my parents went for dimsum a couple weeks ago and said that the food was not worth the money and they lacked originality. As for the king crab feast, I had a 3 course meal as well, but instead of rice, i had “yee mein” with the crab juice from the 1st course

      • The dim sum at President ain’t the best, but it ain’t the worst, either. Their sister location out on Grandview and Slocan was a fair bit better.

        I saw “the Chicken, the Fish and the King Crab” at the film festival last year. You can get it on Amazon but only a Region 2 DVD. The trailer is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMtF6kzWbgU. One of the best food movies I’ve ever seen.

  21. Everyone is having King Crab these days because I understand they are in season for a short window. Like you, I think I only ever had them at buffet before (and they didn’t look appetizing and I may have thrown it away) and hopefully get to have a king crab dinner in a couple weeks!

  22. Wow what a feast. I love King Crab except its hard to find enough people to eat with me. I guess it will be easy if I will be the one paying for it. Anyway, I think your price of $82.00 per couple included a generous tip of 20 percent. Otherwise it’s only $67.66 per couple. It is a good price considering you’re eating at Kirin and had King Crab.

  23. Hey Ben,

    (and possibly directed to ET and Christina),

    I’m looking for a venue to host a Chinese banquet dinner. Do you think this Kirin is a good location (i.e. good layout to see everyone, no structural posts, etc.)

    Also, I’m wondering if any of you have a post relating to your experience at any restaurnt having a banquet style dinner.

    Oh, and most importantly, the pics looook very very good.

    • Hi Ryan:
      I think the layout of Kirin downtown is good. However the tables are arranged very tightly. Depending on how many tables you need, they have private rooms or sections.
      Ben

    • Hi Ryan, food-wise and service-wise, I don’t think you’ll have many complaints with Kirin on Alberni.

      However, the space has a pretty closed-in feel. And as Ben mentioned, tables are pretty tightly packed together. But if you don’t mind that – and assuming all your tables are located on the higher level – Kirin on Alberni could be a very decent banquet location.

  24. Wow! Looks like a delicious meal….I use to really like the deep fried “man tao” at Kirin, but they no longer offer it…….

    and yes….you shouldn’t drink the lemon water as its for cleaning the fingers…..

  25. Mmm…I’ve never had king crab before either. It’s great they pre cut the pieces to make it easier to eat. I had whole lobster before at the Keg and by the time we got all the flesh out, it was cold.

    Communal meals like this are always a better deal than individual dishes.

    Oh, I thought the lemon water was for cleaning your fingers. I would not drink it. 😉

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