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Restaurants & Bars 5

Oriental Pearl

Stan | Jan 7, 2004 08:59 PM

I went to Oriental Pearl (621 W. Main St., Alhambra, cross street Atlantic, (626) 281-1898). It is a real Szechuan place, but larger and fancier than Chung King or the restaurant formerly known as Hua's Garden. I only got a few items so I can't really assess the place, but I can tell you what I got. Like those other places Oriental Pearl has a stand with appetizers that you can order one, two, or three to a small plate. I got the seaweed, thinly sliced chicken, and cabbage. All were spicy, but they all had quite distinct flavors. The cabbage was the most interesting of the three. I haven't been to the other places recently enough to compare for sure, but I think that Oriental Pearl's appetizers were better than the others.

The menu comes with chilis for the spice level of each dish, zero to three. Remarkably few dishes have three chilis, just the hot pots and the qing chong spicy chicken. The latter dish to be honest is more a proof of manhood than a meal, so I got the roast chicken hot pot. This is a dish that I have had before at Chung King or Hua's Garden or both, and it was quite similar here. Basically they take some of the less edible corners of a chicken, cleavered hunks of bone and joint with meat hanging off of them, and boil them in oil with a few mushrooms, some yellow telescope-like vegetable whose name I don't know, and a heckuva lot of dried red chilis, until the oil turns deep red. I'm immune to spicy food so I can't tell you how hot it is, but if you're not Chinese then it's always good for a compliment from the chef. It's mighty impressive, though it's wildly unhealthy and not really that much food for your thirteen bucks. Maybe the experts can eat the stuff without getting red oil all over the place, but I end up having to eat the chicken with my hands. Here, though, the meat could be eaten off the bone without surgical implements, making the dish more satisfying than I remember it from the competition. It's also full of peppercorns, leaving a sensation that I understand from the San Francisco board is known as "ma la". So altogether it was worthwhile and I would definitely try it again.

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