Birmingham - Red Pearl Restaurant
I've been to the Red Peal Restaurat attached to the Super Oriental Market about 5 times now. I've had the beef with jalapenos (good, better cold actually, especially wrapped in scallion pancakes with more chili garlic), chicken with three spices & basil sauce (ok but boring) the green onion (scallion) pancake multiple times (from freezer section in store, ok but greasy in a mostly good but bad for you way), and pork, baked tofu and bamboo shoots (better than the chicken, not as good as the beef, but still pretty good, especially as I am not a huge tofu guy). When fellow hound gyp and I went, we had a whole fish dish, either the steamed tilapia in brown sauce or the fried tilapia in hot bean sauce (I think this was it?) which was just ok as well. We also had some type of vegetable. I forgot what else. Overall, that meal (excluding company) was overwhelmingly meh. What am I missing? I guess maybe it would help if I went with someone who spoke Mandarin or Cantonese. Help me out hounds, I really want to like this place and so far it has the most potential of all the "Chinese" places I have tried here.
On a side note, if you know of any places in he area (please don't suggest Atlanta) that specialize in more regional/provincial Chinese cuisine, please let me know.
Unfortunately, Red Pearl is about as good as it gets these days for Chinese food in Birmingham. And that's not exactly stellar. Adding insult to injury, Red Pearl periodically gets bad health ratings (they were in the low 80s at last inspection).
Chinese food in Birmingham is unfortunately stuck in the 60s mode of highly Americanized faux Chinese (think vibrant red sweet and sour), or in the el-cheapo mode of Chinese food (also Americanized, but a few good things here and there). We once had a good Hong Kong style place in Hoover, but it was in a bad location and failed to draw enough people to (1) keep the chef, and ultimately (2) stay open. There was another place in West Valley ( a block or two from Red Pearl) that also had very good, authentic Chinese food. It closed suddenly and fans have not been able to run down the chef/owner to see if he's moved somewhere else.
Wish I could be more encouraging. There are a couple of other places, both on 280: Ming's (across from the Target plaza) and Golden City (in the Inverness area) that do credible Chinese food. But the most average place on Buford Highway (whoops, there's an Atlanta referral) beats them.
I'd love to go to any of the above-mentioned places with a Mandarin/Catonese speaker to see if the results are different. At Red Pearl, I've asked what the Chinese people order, and only get referred to items on the menu (like that pork/baked tofu/bamboo shoots dish). Maybe the results would be different in the other two places I mentioned.
One thing I haven't tried is asking for a referral from the people who work at the Asian markets that dot Green Springs Highway and environs. Problem is, one of them specializes in Korean cuisine (and has an attached restaurant) and the other specializes in Vietnamese products. The last one is the Super Oriental Market. Maybe the guy who runs the Asian market at 7th Ave. S and 22nd St. can make a good suggestion.
Hopefully some other Hounds can be more helpful.