Bham - Red Pearl Dec 2011 Chowdown
If you are interested in joining some local chowhounders for a family-style dinner (possibly 12/8/11), please join the Birmingham Chowhounds Google Group and comment.
Per Chowhound guidlines, we are not supposed to discuss/organize chowdowns on the actual boards.
This was a fabulous night of chow for the Hounds at Red Pearl. Seven of us showed and we feasted in two basic courses.
We started with two soups and an appetizer. The winter melon and clam soup was mild, with a very nice ginger taste and plentiful clams. We also has a soup that was not on the printed menu, but is on the photo "menu" on a wall in the restaurant. Hot and Spicy Fish Filet Soup was one of the hits of the night: spicy, rich soup with plump pieces of flounder.
An old Red Pearl favorite is the Cold Spicy Beef "Tender," actually tendons dressed in hot pepper oil, sesame oil, peanuts and cilantro. The tendons are slightly chewy with a nice beefy flavor. The fish filet soup and beef tendon eaten together left many mouths pleasantly ma la numb.
Five dishes followed. I need to admit that my fortune cookie ("Your judgment is a little off at this time") was correct, because I suggested the Salted Crispy Blue Crab that we ordered. They had live crabs for sale at the seafood counter in the market, so I figured we couldn't go wrong. It was a lot of work for little reward (what little crab I extracted was sweet and very good).Many decided it was too much work for the reward.
Egglant Pork and Basil in Hot Pot came out sizzling in a heated metal bowl, with deep flavors from the eggplant and what seemed like oyster sauce. It was gone pretty quickly. Ground Pork with Chili and Bean wasn't very spicy, but was savory.
The two biggest hits of the night were Roasted Duck (listed as a chef's special, and an item also sold in the adjoining market), and Sauteed Snails (jsut $5.99/lb at the market).
The duck was served cold and chopped into serving pieces. The skin was lacquered a dark brown and both it and the meat were flavored with star anise. The dark meat was not very fatty at all.
I'd be tempted to order the snails at any family style meal at Red Pearl in the future. We got a plate full of tiny black-shelled snails, and toothpicks were distributed all around. The idea was to hook the meat and pull it out of the shell, although some could be sucked out fairly easily. There was the earthiness of snails I have tried in French restaurants. But these also had a crunchy sweetness that reminded me of some clams I've had at the sushi bar, such as geoduck.
Red Pearl has changed chefs within the last year. But the food (even the challenging to eat crab) was all very well prepared.
And since they butcher pigs to sell in the market, have a very diverse seafood stand (bullfrog, anyone?) and offer a wide array of fresh vegetables, items like those are worth seeking out on the Red Pearl menu. Check it out.
re: Big Daddy
Awesome write-up BD. It was good to see the fellow hounds out for an outing with you, GS2000, Mahalan and SalGal all showing up with significant others (and chowpups!).
The duck was actually served warm as it was likely chopped up after being pulled right out of the warmer in which they hang for display. However, they do seem to chill quickly with the subcutaneous fat chilling faster than the meat.