When Kirin Restaurant announced that it was closing last year after decades in Moiliili, a part of me felt like I was saying goodbye to my childhood. Growing up, we had many family celebrations and Sunday dim sum lunches there, and Kirin's delectable Szechuan cuisine was a go-to for our potlucks.
So you can imagine my delight when I learned that they were reopening at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. The owners are new, but fans of Kirin will be happy to hear that executive chef Zhang Long is still heading the kitchen, and beloved classics such as the Taishan style Dungeness crab and Wu Xi style spare ribs are still on the menu. Pretty much everything else on the menu is new! Here are my faves at the new Kirin.
Still Kirin's number one most distinguishing menu offering, the signature Taishan sauce features a wonderful combination of minced pork and black bean. Whether served with Dungeness crab, Maine lobster or simply a bowl of hot rice, the Taishan flavoring is something you must try. Fair warning, though: it's pretty addicting! I love the Taishan sauce with the Dungeness crab. The hint of sweetness from the black bean sauce highlights the juiciness of the crab, and the minced pork provides a nice complementing texture.
I’m happy to report that the Wu Xi style spare ribs are still so broke-da-mouth good, you'll have none left to spare! Coated in honey, the ribs offer the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. They're sautéed with the right amount of sauce so that each bite leaves you craving more. And the meat nearly melts in your mouth.
With the move to Waikiki, Kirin has updated its menu with new items like salt and pepper deep fried calamari, spicy mapo tofu, fresh fish filet in hot chili oil and beef broccoli Hong Kong style noodle.
Featuring a batter as light as air, this calamari doesn't disappoint. Deep-fried calamari is a dish that I often seek out on the menus of Chinese restaurants. Having tried numerous versions, I'm happy to report that Kirin has one of the best. It's tossed with minced garlic and a light sauce, and the balance of batter and seasoning make for a flavorful mouthful with each bite.
I love dishes with a kick, and the new mapo tofu at Kirin has earned a spot on my list of favorites. It's a bit spicier than the average mapo tofu, but the perfect ratio of tofu to minced pork balances the spices well. As many mapo tofu lovers know, the firmness of the tofu is often difficult to get just right, but Kirin achieves the perfect firmness and flavor. This is now one of my favorite dishes at the restaurant.
Don’t let the spicy appearance fool you. Though soaked in red chili oil, the delicate steamed fish is not overpowered by it. The dish is surprisingly light and a nice way to round out a heavy meal of fried foods, starches and gravy-topped dishes.
It's tradition to finish with noodles, and this is a great choice. The tender beef and slightly al dente broccoli complement the crunchy pan-fried egg noodles, which add a unique dimension to a popular Chinese dish.
Now that we've been there more than a few times, Kirin is back on my family's dining rotation. Phew! Chi hao he hao, eat well and drink well!
2424 Kalakaua Ave.
Daily 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 5 – 10 p.m.
$3.00 self-parking in Hyatt Regency parking lot with validation