Sherman's Food Adventures: Chinese New Year Dinner at Kirin Downtown (with The Macallan Whiskey Pairing)

Chinese New Year Dinner at Kirin Downtown (with The Macallan Whiskey Pairing)

I'll be frank here - I'm not much of a whiskey drinker.  The only time I even touch the stuff is when there is a Chinese banquet and there is a bottle of Johnny Walker on the table.  So when I got an invite to try the good stuff by Macallan paired with a Chinese New Year dinner at Kirin, I took the opportunity to educate myself as well as dining on good food.  Arriving early, I was happy to see some familiar faces in Dee, Amy, James and Mr. (from Vanfoodies).

Similar to many multi-course Chinese dinners, we started with the Kirin Special Platter consisting of Smoked Salmon, Jellied Pork Hock, Sliced Beef Shank, Jellyfish and Roast Suckling Pig.  Almost everything on the plate met expectations where the pork hock had a firm rebound texture while the roast pig was fatty and soft with a light and crunchy crackling.  As for the beef, it was a bit too dry for my liking, but it did taste good though.  This was paired with the Firecracker cocktail consisting of tangerine wedges, rhubarb bitters, ginger beer and The Macallan Gold where the light and sweet flavour didn't overpower any of the meats.  I did think it went better with the pork and salmon better than the beef due to the fruitiness.

Next, we were presented with a classic CNY dish being the Braised Whole Dried Scallops & Dried Oysters with garlic and black moss.  This was a decadent dish due to the enormous dried scallops which were rehydrated nicely by a slow braise.  Hence, the meat was tender, aromatic and seafoody with only the lightest of chew.  The same could be said about the oysters except the flavour was predictably more pungent.  One thing I didn't like was the fat choy as it was far too soft and overdone.  This was paired with The Macallan Gold where hints of orange peel and the spiciness of ginger came through.  I thought this was a good pairing as the dish was sturdy enough to go toe-to-toe with this strong drink.

Continuing on with the "appies" we had the Geoduck, Prawn and Chicken sauteed with pine mushroom. This was a well-prepared dish with expertly cooked seafood.  However, I wished there was more geoduck because after it was portioned, I only got one piece.  Yet, that one piece was buttery and had that appealing chew while being naturally sweet.  There wasn't a whole lot of seasoning going on, but that was fine with the ingredients involved.  As an in-between, we were served Siu Mai topped with fat choy.  I'm not convinced fat choy belongs on top of siu mai, but the dumpling itself was good.  There was a good mix of rebound-textured pork and shrimp where the natural flavours came through.

Interestingly, not everyone knew what the Bird's Nest Soup with fish maw and Chinese ham entailed.  I guess I should've kept that knowledge to myself or said it afterwards because there was some left on the table...  Should've left the bird "spit" part of the discussion?  Anyways, it was beautifully prepared with a silky and mildly rich broth.  It was the right consistency (not too thick nor thin) with loads of bird's nest.   There was also an equal amount of well-prepared good quality fish maw.  It was soft without being completely melted while maintaining a bite.

When we got to the Roasted Squab, it was paired with The Macallan Amber (more fruity and floral) which was strong enough to stand up to the meatiness of the bird.  Sporting crispy and well-rendered skin as well as a beautiful golden brown hue, the squab was mostly moist and tender except for some portions of the breast.  The meat was mild-tasting with only a bit of saltiness. The Abalone with Chinese Mushroom & Goose Webs was something I wanted to dig into immediately.  Alas, I had to wait for the staff to individually plate them.  The texture of the abalone was consistent with what to expect from a canned product.  Semi-firm with a silky chewiness, I really didn't mind where the abalone was from because I got a whole one for myself.  As for the goose webs, the skin was soft while the cartilage underneath was tender.

Now a CNY dinner would not be complete without lobster and fish right?  As such, we were served a large Live Lobster in Consomme Sauce with ginger & green onion.  I liked the fact there wasn't any residual sauce on the place.  Hence, the flavours were concentrated and adhered to each piece of well-prepared lobster.  They didn't overuse salt, hence, the natural sweetness of the lobster was evident.  This was paired with The Macallan Sienna which was smoother than the other 2 whiskeys.  I really noticed the hints of vanilla in the aftertaste.  Next, we were presented with not one, but 2 Steamed Live Rock CodIn typical fashion, the fish were dressed with cilantro and green onion as well as sweetened soy and hot oil.  I found the fish to be buttery and flaky while being very fresh.

As with any Chinese "banquet-type" menu, the carbs arrived last.  We were presented with the Special Fried Rice wrapped in lotus leaf as well as the Stewed E-Fu Noodle with flowering chives in abalone sauce.  Possibly a bit too dry, the rice was aromatic and full of ingredients.  The initial bites were good, but the lack of moisture made it hard to finish.  No problems with the yee mein though as it was chewy while completely cooked through being hot and well-seasoned.  There was enough wok heat which ensured caramelized flavours.

Prior to the desserts, we were served The Macallan Rare Cask (the priciest of the 4) where I immediately noticed how smooth it went down.  Not as spicy nor complex-tasting, I enjoyed this one very much.  This was a good lead into dessert as the Kirin Special Sweetened Soup was stingingly sweet.  I did enjoy the black sesame rice flour balls though.  There was also a plate of cookies and taro pudding.  Overall, this dinner helped me gain an appreciation for Scotch and yes, I liked the most expensive bottle (figures).  It further reinforces my belief that beer and hard liquor go way better with Cantonese cuisine than wine.  As for the food, it was pretty good (with the benefit of expensive ingredients).

*All food, drinks and gratuities were complimentary*

The Good:
- Above-average eats
- At least for this meal, the ingredients were of good quality

The Bad:
- Although above-average, I believe there are better choices
Kirin Mandarin Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato