Monday, April 18, 2011

Dim Sum at Red Pearl

Occasionally I'll mention here that I love small plates. Variety is the spice of life, and I really enjoy the opportunity to taste many things at one meal. One such meal that really floats my boat is dim sum, a Chinese brunch of sorts.

wu gok - deep fried taro cakes
Although there are tons of Chinese restaurants in the Baltimore area, it's never been a hotbed for dim sum. There used to be a place in Glen Burnie that we'd hit once a year or so, but that was a bit of a haul. Then we started going to places in Wheaton and Gaithersburg, which were even farther away, and while good, not really worth the drive. Finally, Jesse Wong's Hong Kong opened in Columbia, and we were happy to dine there on a regular basis. (The very first post on Minxeats was about dim sum at JWHK.) I always felt the food was just as good as that served at the places requiring an additional 40 minutes of travel time, and maybe even better because it was so much closer to home.

chive dumplings
And then Jesse Wong's closed. Luckily, Asian Court opened up in Ellicott City, shaving a few more minutes off our travel time. After a couple of visits, we determined that Asian Court was even better than Jesse Wong's (which we referred to as "Voldemort" because the restaurant's closure made us too sad to even utter its name) - the dumplings were bigger and juicier, the sticky rice in lotus was stuffed full of goodies like Chinese sausage and pork belly, and the young servers were extremely nice and knowledgeable. After a couple of years of dim sum bliss at Asian Court, Red Pearl opened in Jesse Wong's space, mysteriously with half of Asian Court's staff. After hearing rumors of Asian Court's dim sum decline, we reluctantly started going to Red Pearl.

It's ok. Just ok.

water chestnut cakes
I don't like that the layout of the room, with its many high partitions, makes it difficult for carts to maneuver. If one is seated in a smaller area, the carts are few and far between, so the selection of foods is limited. Such was the case on a recent trip to Red Pearl.

One of my favorite dim sum dishes is cheung fun (very soft, crepe-like noodles filled with fresh shrimp and topped with a sweetened soy). It's an extremely simple dish that tastes about the same everywhere I've tried it, but somehow Red Pearl's version is bland, and a bit too soft.

cheung fun with shrimp
While everything else is fine, the food is missing a certain je ne sais quoi.

shrimp balls with almonds
We did try a few new things at Red Pearl - the water chestnut cakes (photo above), which were shockingly gelatinous, yet pretty good. Savory Jell-O. And the shrimp balls coated in sliced almonds and fried. The flavor was nice, but I think the extra frying made the balls a wee bit tough.

We also ate Chinese broccoli (gai lan) with oyster sauce, sliced pork belly, beef chow fun (wide noodles),

Singapore noodles
Singapore noodles, taro cakes, shrimp-stuffed tofu, and sticky rice in lotus. All were fine. But...
tofu stuffed with shrimp
...I miss Asian Court. I think we will go back there next time, to see if the rumors are true. Can anyone out there report on this?

Red Pearl
10215 Wincopin Circle
Columbia, MD 21044
(410) 715-6530

Red Pearl on Urbanspoon
Posted by theminx on Minxeats.com.