The LimsterExtravaganzaTour made a stop tonight for a convivial Cantonese meal at Kirin, a gem of a restaurant serving some of the best home style Cantonese food in the city. The inimitable Ms. Wong outdid herself in selecting and guiding us through a spectacular tasting of 10 Rieslings, each more complex and satisfying than the last. She even shared with us three wines that she personally carried back from Germany, one a special gift from the winemaker for this event, one treasure from her cellar that she brought back 5 years earlier, and a superb Eiswein that she had to talk the winemaker into selling to her early. Ciaohound Bob will be providing a description of the wines. As the last one to arrive at the restaurant, I was assigned the pleasant task of recording the food. In my riesling-addled euphoria, I will attempt to do it justice.
We began with the Rainbow Fish Salad, an intriguing mix of tastes and textures. Soft strips of shad, sour-sweet slices of pickled shallots, fresh cilantro, and crunchy noodles dressed in a vinegary sesame oil dressing.
Next came dried oyster in lettuce cups. The finely chopped dried oysters had a smoky richness which was offset by the addition of crunchy chopped water chestnut or maybe it was bamboo shoot. We heaped the mixture into lettuce leaf cups, added a little fried vermicelli and a dollop of hoisin sauce. The resulting packages were a pleasant contrast of cool iceberg lettuce and the warm filling.
Dried scallop with egg-white soup - too often, this type of soup is a sad cornstarchy mystery, but this one was fragrant and subtle, with lots of rich scallop shreds.
Chicken stuffed with sticky rice, a perennial fixture at chowhound events. A whole deboned chicken stuffed with seasoned sticky rice. Limster and I laughed that this was a zongzi made with a chicken wrapper. The chicken skin was fried to a crisp without a trace of grease, but I felt that the rice was a touch on the bland side and dried out.
Scallop and squid with vegetables. Fresh slices of seafood stir-fried with bright green sugar snaps, straw mushrooms, and some intensely fragrant gow wong (yellow chinese chives - these are grown in the dark so that they never develop chlorophyll, and are sweeter and more fragrant than the regular green kind).
Stir-fried pea shoots with garlic. These were nice and tender, but I felt they lacked that particular pea fragrance and were a touch too salty. The leaves were very small, so perhaps they hadn't had time to develop a strong taste.
"Steak cubes with tender green" - the "cubes" were actually tenderized slices of skirt or flank steak in a sweet vinegared brown sauce on a bed of baby choi sum.
Crab with ginger and scallion. Despite it being so late in the season, the crab was sweet and meltingly tender. More than one of us was delinquent of not passing the wine around at this point, as our hands and faces were covered in crab sauce and we were too busy sucking the meat out of the legs to look up.
Steamed whole fish - a black bass simply steamed then topped with shreds of ginger and scallion, wilted in hot oil. I noticed that the fish swimming in the live tanks in the back of the restaurant were nice and healthy and were actually swimming.
There was also a dish of fatty bacon braised with taro, but while I was paying attention to something else for a few seconds, the pork was all taken, so I'm assuming it was good.
Melanie's selection of Rieslings matched the dishes beautifully, enhancing the freshness and the sweetness of the seafood. Each time we were tempted to declare a favorite, she would unveil yet another treasure and introduce us to a whole new level of complexity. As I am typing, I'm eyeing the quarter-full bottles of 1996 Strub and 1996 Kruger-Rumpf that we got to take home... no I'll go to bed now and continue the enjoyment tomorrow.
Thank you again and again to Melanie for organizing such a wonderful meal, and to Limster for inspiring it.
6135 Geary Blvd @ 25th