Went to Oriental Pearl to try one of the last two remaining dim sum places i haven't tried in Manhattan in order to try to not have to go to Flushing (the other place i haven't tried being Chathan Sq Restaurant; the new place, not the old hop shing). It's kind of an interesting place, its a fairly large banquet hall although not nearly as big as a jing fong and there are literally no non-chinese people there and its mainly an old cantonese crowd with their relatives. English is not their forte and i even had some problems with communications with mandarin, but u can get by with english, so don't be afraid of trying the place (honestly i don't think that mandarin was anymore useful than english).
Anyhow, on to the food, i went at around 11:30 and it was packed. It is a cart place, but id say everything was reasonably fresh and hot. They don't have a ton of carts, which i think is kind of a good thing b/c they constantly re-fill, so everything tends to stay reasonably fresh. Some of the food was pretty decent and some was kind of mediocre.
- ha gow (shrimp dumplings) - the filling was fine, but the wrapper was a little too thick and glutinous, so i thought they were passable, but nothing special (other places do a better job)
- siu mai / xiao mai (pork dumplings) - the wrapper was fine, the meat had reasonably good flavor, but the meat itself was not diced finely enough so it was too chunky (chunky enough to change my opinion of it), so again passable, but not amazing
- cheung fan (rice crepes) - these were pretty good, there is a guy with a cart who doesn't move (i.e. you have to go to him), he serves steamed cha siu / cha shao bao (pork buns), lo bat go / luo buo gao (fried turnip cake) and cheung fan. The cheung fan is the kind with dried shrimp and scallions sprinkled on it with a plum sauce on the side. These were pretty good, he cooks them fresh and brings them to you when he's done. They had good flavor, tasted fresh and i thought these were a winner
- pai gu / pai guat (spare ribs) - these were also good, they were served in a clear sauce with green chilies, they meat was tasty and overall just a flavorful dish. these were also winners
- cha siu / cha shao bao (pork buns) - not up to my mei lai wah standard, but pretty good. Fresh and not dried out, the filling was pretty decent with no "stops" (i.e. stuff u cant bite through). pretty standard, but did the job
- green rice dough things w/ black sesame paste - i dont know what these are called, but i ordered them b/c i saw the table next to me order them so i had the lady give me some. they are lightly fried balls of some of type of gelatinous rice dough that are filled with black sesame paste. My gf didn't like them, but i thought they were pretty good, i think she doesn't really like black sesame paste. They were lightly crispy on the outside, the dough was oily, but not overally oil and i love black sesame paste, so that was pretty good as well.
Overall, it wasn't bad, but wasn't great either, that said it was much better than the other recent dim sum experiences i've had in manhattan (oriental garden, jing fong, harmony palace, golden unicorn, golden bridge) and i think some things were better and some worse than dim sum go go. I would've liked to have ordered more food, but it was just my gf and i, so we could only order so much. I think it's definitely worth trying if you're going to have dim sum in manhattan. Also it was cheap, it was $15 for two people.
Fyi, its directly across the street from Harmony Palace.