Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First Takes On Red Pearl's Dim Sum

Red Pearl opened this summer with regular Chinese food and a separate Sichuan menu on the lakefront in Columbia.  In August, they brought back dim sum, which echoes the past when Jesse Wong's Hong Kong served the Chinese brunch dishes in the same space.

I plan on trying it out, but Kyle provided an early report about the dim sum offerings.  He says it joins his rotation with Hollywood East in Wheaton and Asian Court in Ellicott City.

When the family does dim sum, we used to always go to Wheaton, usually Hollywood East. After reading Howchow and trying Asian Court, we put it in the rotation. We had tried Jesse Wong's Hong Kong for dim sum way back when but found it to be overpriced and mediocre at best. It never made the rotation and disappeared before I gave it another chance.

After quality and service, I tend to rate dim sum places by how crowded they get and the percentage of Asian faces. I figure the more of these two, the more authentic the place. Finally I consider the space. Most dim sum places have too many tables and tend to be dark and closed in. But half the fun is watching the carts maneuver and people navigating the maze to try to get somewhere.
Having held out for a couple of weeks, I tried Red Pearl on Sunday. I had been by there the week they premiered dim sum. I noticed the metal dim sum steaming dishes on the tables but ended up next door at Sushi Sono.
Red Pearl dim sum worked on all levels. The definitely Hong-Kong-style dim sum was above average in quality and fairly priced.
We were early but the place got very crowded by noon. Our table was one of the very few that had all non-Asian faces. The place was bustling, and the cart/people entanglements were fun to watch.  Where we were seated, the tables were so close you're practically eating at the same table.  The cart coverage was good and asking for things not on a cart was easy. Though the place was dark, the high ceilings and modern decor gave it a pleasant airy feel.
The quality of the steamed dumplings, baked pastries, and fried items was above average. The dumplings noodles were thin with good texture,  the pastries nicely flaky, the fried items not greasy and the fillings were descent. Not feeling adventurous, we passed on the chicken feet, tripe and everything on the jellied savory cakes cart (haven't seen one of those before on it own cart), soft sweet tofu (don't have a clue what this is but it was pasted in English on the pot) cart, and the porridge congee cart.  We didn't try any but there were lots of extra larger dishes like the head-on shrimp, clams, and noodles. The only disappointment was the eggy and tasteless custard pastry filling. The pineapple bun was excellent.
The cart service was excellent especially since most of the operators spoke English. The wait staff was spread way to thin.  Our water glasses were empty most of the time, and checkout was a wait. For a place that just started serving dim sum, I was impressed. Red Pearl is in the dim sum rotation now and the closest one too.
Anyone else have a report?  Any special items?  Anything that you particularly recommend? 


Ian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ian said...

Dimsum available weekdays too, but you order off a menu. Some items (like the sticky rice) take longer to come out.

Anonymous said...

No chicken feet, tripe, soft sweet tofu? Not even the porridge? Kyle passed on all the real dim sum experience! One might say that's like going to a steakhouse and not having steak.... by the way, the chicken feet & tripe were quite good.

dzoey said...

We just got back from trying the dim sum and we really enjoyed ourselves. Along with good food they had a troop act out a story with masks, dragon costumes, drums, and symbols as they paraded through the restaurant. I don't know what the occasion for the parade was, but it was fun. The food was very enjoyable.

Now for the food. My daughter says that their spare ribs (the kind with small pieces in a bowl) are better than Oriental East on Rt 40. They have the usual dim sum selection, though even something like the dumpling with chive and shrimp are better at Red Pearl because they finished it on a hot plate on the cart at the table. I couldn't convince myself to try it, but the cow stomach soup smelled really good for the more adventurous. I had a chicken and shrimp dumpling in a sticky rice teardrop shape which was fun to eat and had a nice hint of sweetness that went well with soy sauce. The pork buns and custard buns were good and fresh tasting. The sticky rice in tea leaf was as good as the one on Rt. 40. The selection is larger at Red Pearl than the other dim sum places I've been to and at 1:15 - 2:00, everything still tasted fresh.

The staff was friendly, and all spoke English, though some had limited proficiency. Our water glasses were kept filled and there were plenty of smiles.

We will be going back.

Kat said...

We dropped by for the first time this past weekend, and it was such a pleasant surprise. The standards (shrimp dumpling, rice noodle rolls, tripe) were well-executed, and there were nice added details on a few classics (lots of mushrooms in the siu mai, a delightfully crisp shredded taro coating for the shrimp patty).

The only disappointment was the radish cakes, which were weirdly bland even though they got a fresh sear on either side before they were served.

The service was very attentive and the prices were reasonable. I'm really happy to find such a quality dim sum place so close to home; we generally drive out to Oriental East in Silver Spring or Good Fortune in Wheaton. This place is just as good, and emptier too -- less waiting! Better go before the word gets around.

Wendy said...

wow - so happy to have stumbled upon this blog. I usually go to Oriental East but my parents are in hoco and we used to go to jesse wong's. I'm not sure they've heard about this place. btw - the soft tofu stuff is my fave dessert/comfort food. Very very soft - almost dissolves in your mouth soft tofu with a sweet and gingery syrup on top. It's the best.