Restaurant Reviews

Treat Yourself to Something Different: Zilin Restaurant

Looking for something different for lunch or dinner? Then Zilin in Old Pasadena should be your destination

Published: Thursday, March 20, 2014 | 10:06 AM

Chef Kyle, Manager Ivy and Chef Jon

Zilin offers a menu that’s familiar, yet not. Chef Kyle and Jon’s dishes are a fusion of Asian Pacific Islands with notes of Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, and an emphasis on the Philippine Islands. Many of the dishes are piquant instead of sweet with the traditional Philippines’ emphasis on vinegar.

Fillipino Scotch Egg

I was looking forward to tasting Zilin’s Fillipino Scotch Eggs, so that is where I started. For those unfamiliar with Scotch Eggs they are hard-cooked eggs wrapped in sausage, dipped in bread crumbs and then fried. Chefs Kyle and Jon’s take on this dish is to cook the egg just a bit under hard-cooked so that the yolk is still a little soft,  marinate the egg in adobo (a traditional Philippine marinade made of vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic) and wrap it in house-made longanisa (garlic) sausage. The result is a creamy egg with a bite of adobo and a crunchy sausage layer. It is served with Chef Jon’s atchara slaw which is a sweet-sour combination of green papaya, carrot, and bell pepper. There’s a lot of flavor going on in this dish and it’s an obvious favorite with patrons of the restaurant, it was a favorite of mine too.

Stuffed Shishito Peppers

I love shishito peppers and Zilin’s version of Stuffed Shishito peppers was divine. Stuffed with feta and mozzarella cheeses, wrapped in a wonton wrapper and fried until a golden brown, the peppers were mild and flavorful.

I’m not a fan of Brussels Sprouts, as a kid I would swallow them whole, hide them in a

Brussels and Belly

baked potato skin or spit them into my napkin. When the Brussels and Belly dish came to my table it was with resignation that I took my first bite and delight when the taste hit my tongue. These Brussels Sprouts were good. Fried until golden and crunchy on the outside with a tender bite, they did not resemble my childhood nemesis.  Combined with roasted pork belly, house-made kimchi and crème fraiche this dish was a happy surprise.

Ginger Noodles

The Ginger Noodles had tender ramen noodles spiked with ginger, topped with hoisin, pork, fried Brussels, and an egg. Again, loved those sprouts and when combined with the heat of the ginger, sweet hoisin and rich pork they took on a whole different persona.

Thin slices of beef short ribs, marinaded in a sweet sauce and barbecued to smoky perfection dominated the next dish. Accompanied by potato salad kicked-up a notch by Asian pears and sweet balsamic-honey slaw the plate had me thinking backyard BBQ, but in Japan as the flavors where definitely not southern.

Vietnamese Coffee

An homage to Vietnamese Coffee in a cake was my chosen dessert. A cake of condensed milk served in a coffee mug with a coffee semifreddo was delicious even though the cake was on the dry side.

During my dinner I tried one of Zilin’s Soju cocktails named the Fujisimo which combined Tyku Soju, Fuji Apple Sake, cranberry juice and mint into a refreshing drink. Since Zilin has only a beer and wine license they make the most of it with a good-sized beer and wine list (they even have Hello Kitty Chardonnay) and creative Soju cocktails.

Zilin is located in Old Pasadena at 34 S. Raymond Avenue. Their hours are Tuesday – Thursday and Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. For reservations or more information call (626) 535-9700 or visit

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