Buffalo, like most cities in America, has its share of take out fast food Chinese restaurants. But those restaurants, serving dishes created by Chinese immigrants to America, bear little resemblance to food that is served in China. Somewhat surprisingly, Buffalo has enough of a Chinese population that there are both groceries and restaurants with traditional Chinese food. Kenmore seems to be a melting pot for such things.
Jinlan is one of these restaurants. A quick look at the reviews online reveals that people love it or hate it. You can put me in the love it category.
Soups and appetizers
While Jinlan has all the usual soups and appetizers, such as egg drop soup and crab ragoon, you can also get some less common fare. My companions stuck with the hot and sour and egg drop soup, I choose the House Soup. The base was very similar to egg drop soup, but it was packed with fish and vegetables. The fish included shrimp and crab (most likely imitation) while the vegetables included water chestnuts and carrots. It was quite good. The dish is intended for two, so I ended up most of it home
For appetizers, we ordered egg rolls and pan fried dumplings. The eggs rolls were fresh, the came out still hot, and crispy. The dumplings were akin to the Japanese dish gyoza, only much larger. Like the egg rolls they were freshly made and quite tasty.
For our entees, we ordered sweet and sour chicken, pork with garlic sauce, and a house speciality called Lover’s Nest. The sweet and sour chicken was served with large chunks of chicken. The sauce was lighter than most Chinese restaurants, but sweeter than what you would find in China. The pork with garlic sauce is my friend’s favorite dish, due to the intense flavor of the sauce which is quite unique.
The Lover’s Nest is a mix of meat and vegetables served in a fried basket, woven from potato strands. I was expecting 8 different kinds of meat, as the Chinese name of the dish started with the number 8 (八). But I was only able to count 7: beef, pork, crab, scallops, shrimp, and Peking duck. I suspect there was one more that I missed. It was a nice mix of meats and the sauce was flavorful (quite different from the garlic sauce). The quality of the meats did vary, as some tasted old.
Jinlan has a fantastic ambience. Low lighting sets the mood and Chinese art tastefully decorates the entire restaurant. Parts of the restaurant have large circular tables, set up for serving food family style. Teas was also served in the traditional way.
Unlike some of the reviews, we found the wait staff very courteous and friendly. However, English was obviously her second language and sometimes communication was an issue.
If you want traditional Chinese food, or American Chinese done well, Jinlan is the place to go. My friends consider it the best Chinesse restaurant in Buffalo. I wouldn’t rate it quite so high, but I would put it up there.