From a tucked-away kitchen in Clintonville, Kirin's dim sum and noodle offerings already impress, with more on the way.
Kirin Noodle Bar can be difficult to find. The restaurant (in the same Clintonville shopping center as Hot Chicken Takeover and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams) presents itself to High Street passersby as Chatime, a franchise of the Taiwan-based bubble tea chain.
Aside from a monitor showcasing images of Kirin’s dim sum and noodle-based menu and a few paper menus at the register, there are few clues that a full-fledged restaurant kitchen (hidden behind a curtain) coexists with the bubble tea shop. But that is all going to change. As the bubble tea scene in Columbus has expanded exponentially, owner Ryan Lu (who also owns Ramen on High, 2060 N. High St.) plans to retire Chatime and make Kirin a full-service restaurant, complete with a liquor license and an expanded menu. It was a change Lu originally planned for March before the pandemic hit.
Kirin currently offers dine-in, takeout and delivery through Grubhub, Seamless, DoorDash and others. The menu features a blend of Chinese and Japanese comfort foods (crafted by a Japanese chef), and Kirin makes it simple to host an at-home dim sum feast.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
On the dumpling side of the menu, the fried pork dumplings ($4.50 for six) should not be missed. Featuring a crisp outer edge, they’re topped with sesame seeds and green onions, and they travel well for carryout. The pork xiaolongbao soup dumplings ($5) may congeal in transit, but the meat inside the handmade purses is delightfully sweet, making them a must-have. If you’re going for a trifecta, the delicate, crystal shrimp dumplings ($5 for four) can round out the order.
Other dim sum offerings include four thin scallion pancakes ($4) that add brightness to the array of otherwise meat- and dough-heavy dishes. And the steamed, sweetly fragrant and fluffy char siu pork buns ($4.50 for two) are filling but worth it.
The steamed broccoli with braised pork sauce ($5) brings a crisp green to the mix, without abandoning the pork theme. An order will bring balance and a feeling of a healthy accomplishment to the meal.
Two noodle dishes rise to the top of Kirin’s offerings. The dan dan noodles ($10), topped with fried pork and al dente carrots, resemble a Sichuan spaghetti. While the dish usually includes peanuts or peanut butter, this version is nut-free, a nice accommodation for those with allergies.
And the sweet-and-sour pork rib noodle soup ($12) is my favorite offering on the menu. Tender, sweet, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs join a few pieces of bok choy over a pile of fresh noodles. The broth is more sweet than sour and packed with umami. It truly makes the dish. (Of note, the broth is served in a separate container, preventing sogginess and making it simple to divide the contents of the soup at home for sharing.)
While Kirin is already a delight, it’s exciting to think about the restaurant’s potential. When Kirin’s doors reopen after a few weeks of renovation in December, customers will find much more variety, including more noodle dishes, soups, rice bowls and a whole lot more magic happening behind that curtain.