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East Pearl (六鼎記), Cantonese near Route 355 and 28 in Rockville - Owner Sue Li Also Owned Wheaton's China Chef


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East Pearl has been open only two weeks, but I've already been three times. The menu is huge, and since every dish I've had has been a hit, I am drawn to keep returning.

No website, and too lazy to scan the takeout menu. In fact, as I look at it, I realize that a good chunk of the "chinese" part of the menu isn't even on the takeout menu. In the restaurant, there's not a separate Chinese menu, though there is an add-on page of specials that they have brought each time, so there's no non-Chinese bias. In fact, as soon as I start pointing to the "chinese" side of the menu, they smile and start recommending dishes.

Some things I have had, in no particular order:

Shrimp wonton noodle soup - nearly paper-thin wonton wrappers that hold large diced shrimp inside, nicely chewy noodles that are impossibly long, and a broth that some might call salty but I can't get enough of.

Cured bacon with chinese broccoli - nicely bitter greens, a rich brown sauce, and not only pork belly but also chinese sausage.

Deep fried spicy pork chop - not that spicy by my standards, but well fried and juicy

Assorted meats & seafood w bean curd in casserole - nothing fancy, but tons of shrimp, scallops, squid, cuttlefish, pork, chicken in a rich sauce.

Pig skin & turnips - I was thinking this might be crispy, but it was braised and oh so good.

There are entire sections of the menu for noodle soups, "rice on xxx", casseroles, noodles (chow foon, rice noodles, e-fu, young chow, pan fried, etc.), BBQ, and that's not even counting 2 pages of "chef's specialties" which include all kind of organ meats, frog, lobster and clams, etc. All of the food on the other tables looks great, and I'm the only non-Chinese person I've seen in the restaurant after 3 visits.

Portions are generous, and prices are low. Three of us were hungry tonight, polished off 3 dishes plus a noodle soup, and the total was still well under $20pp after tax and tip.

Definitely a $20 Tuesday candidate.

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In the same disjointed strip that has the MoCo liquor store, Pho Nom Nom (formerly Ba Le).

And adjacent to the worst mashup of stupid trends ever - Yocake. That's right, a crappy cupcake, wrapper taken off, placed in a cup, and bad tart frozen yogurt on top.

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Yocake. That's freakin' priceless! Does it have a PR agent? Is a TopChef alum behind it? Is there an associated yocake truck--maybe called "yocake gocake"?! Go now before the lines are around the block and prices rise!!! :D:lol:

East Pearl sounds pretty fab. As a long-time Full Kee fan, I'll be trying that. Do they have the big Hong-Kong style noodle soups like Full Kee does?

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Went last night. The shrimp dumpling soup and the soy sauce chicken rocketed this place to the top of my Cantonese list. Why did I then order a Sichuan dish at a purely Cantonese place? Ma Po Tofu dull from overly wet tofu. The other tables seemes much happier with Walnut Shrimp, Steak Cantonese and various casseroles. Will be back.

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Beancurd casserole with seafood was very good if in need of a tiny bit of salt {provided by generous helping of hot chile oil}

Shrimp Dumplings with Sichuan hot sauce was the same outstanding dumplings as the soup with a sticky sweet black soy. I doused themin chile oil, but inthe future will stick with the soup version.

Not as good as the first visit, but still quite good. My go to non Sichuan for right now.

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Banquet for 8 today revealed more treasures on the menu:

  • Congee with sliced beef (not a congee expert, but liked this a lot)
  • BBQ duck, pork, chicken (all 3 very good)
  • Marinated cuttlefish (tender, not chewy)
  • Cold jellyfish (also tender, though I like mine spicier, which was easily fixed with the chile sauce on the table)
  • Fried pig intestines (not as strong an offal taste as you would think - very crispy)
  • Beef brisket with turnips in casserole (had this before, rich and lovely)
  • Seafood bean curd casserole (didn't have the salt problem that Dean encountered, but loads of very well cooked seafood)
  • Beef with chinese broccoli chow foon (very good rendition of this dish)
  • Deep fried frog (huge plate, but so many bones, you don't feel like you get to eat a lot. The batter was good, so other salt&pepper dishes here should be good)
  • Fried sea bass with bean sauce (excellent - the favorite of many at the table)

$20/person plus tax and tip, and we had to be rolled out the door.

Parking is very limited here, and they are packed during peak hours now. They will take reservations. Also, the waitress recommended the Walnut Shrimp, Pan Fried Noodle, Steak Cantonese, and Sauteed Conch. Next time!

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Wish I could say anything good about our meal there last night. Even the service wasn't good. If we had not been 3 times before, we wold never go back. Totally shocked at the evening. We would have sent food back except no one came to our table till we finished the food {it was late, we were starving, and like I say, no one came by}.

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[For suburban strip-mall ethnic restaurants, local publications are often very useful to get basic facts, even though the reviews themselves may not be the most reliable. Thanks to Bernice August at Gazette.net for her March 15th write-up - I wouldn't have known anything at all about the owner, Sue Li (who she is, where she came from, etc).

This question will possibly spur a separate thread in News and Media, but I get basic factual information such as this all the time by spending 5-10 minutes milling around on Google. It would be impossible (or, at least cumbersome to the point of being counter-productive) to point out and thank every single news source out that provides me with basic factual information - are there any guidelines out there? I'm all for giving credit where credit is due, but don't want to bog things down just because I found a little info-nugget to help me with titling a thread.

Take, for example, this post. It's very nice that I have a chance to thank Ms. August and the Gazette, but I wouldn't want to do this every single time for obvious reasons.

And I should add that it looks like Daniel might have been the first person to "discover" this place on the internet. Good work, man! I haven't been yet, but it sounds like you stumbled across a winner.]

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We have had 3 good meals before last night. Right now we don't have any Chinese that is firing on all cylinders right now except Joe's Noodle. Wong Gee and now East Pearl both show flashes of brilliance and some merely good. So we will be back to EP, let them know about our poor exprience and hope that it rises to the standard of the first three and not the WTF of last night.

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We have had 3 good meals before last night. Right now we don't have any Chinese that is firing on all cylinders right now except Joe's Noodle. Wong Gee and now East Pearl both show flashes of brilliance and some merely good. So we will be back to EP, let them know about our poor exprience and hope that it rises to the standard of the first three and not the WTF of last night.

Classic symptoms of "One Great Cook Syndrome."

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Had a mini outing here today after Chinese school. The Chinese characters for this place is: 六鼎記. There is no poetic meaning and it definitely does not translate to East Pearl. But the Chinese characters are definitely related to Hong Kong in the sense that it might be a tribute to an old novella/teledrama, hence cuisine-oriented (and the English is a given, of course).

Between two adults and three children, with one being little man, the following were consumed and enjoyed:

  1. Roast Duck and Pork Platter ($12.95)
  2. E-Fu Noodles ($12.95)
  3. Salted Fish and Tofu Casserole
  4. Crisp Bacon and Broccoli
  5. Salted Roast Chicken

Sorry that I can't recall the prices for the other dishes.

I think this is a solid go-to place and definitely has the feel that Sichuan JinRiver had when it first opened: authentic, good cooking. I actually don't have a detailed report other than, yes, this feel like Hong Kong/Cantonese cuisine; yes, it is very comforting to have some of the foods I can't find elsewhere; and yes, it's nice to have a solid Chinese restaurant that does not feature Hunan/Sichuan cuisine.

There were mostly Chinese families when I went, with one table of six diners from the same Chinese school little man attends.

I did not experience the same service issues Dean reports.

I left thinking: 1. "Gosh, no one makes salted fish like the Cantonese;" 2. "Oooh, they have lapchong AND Cantonese-cured bacon;" and 3. "Wow, this is the best Chicken I've had in a long time," with the latter being, okay, please try this instead of the soy sauce chicken.

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From the takeout menu:

3. Salted Fish and Chicken with Bean Curd in Casserole $12.95

4. Cured Bacon with Chinese Broccoli $11.95

5. Baked Salted Chicken (Half) $11.95

We probably could have gotten away with one less dish had we not somewhat stuffed ourselves, and had one of the 5 not been my 14-year-old son with bottomless appetite. And we did have enough leftovers for my lunch tomorrow!

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On the one hand, East Pearl is a good place to go with a group, because the portions are huge. On the other hand, it's so noisy that it would be an awful place to go with a group, because you wouldn't be able to hear anybody talking. As for the food, my experiences have been mixed. Ma po bean curd was utterly unlike any rendition I've had, and not in the least bit spicy, but delicious. Triple Delight (tofu, eggplant, green pepper) is made with fermented black bean sauce, and everything was perfectly fried. Cured bacon with Chinese broccoli is a winner. Deep fried spicy tofu was just that: deep fried tofu, with a few slices of jalapeño pepper, and therefore boring. Likewise the steamed chicken, although my friend enjoyed it (she likes plain food); in its defense I'll say that the meat was tender and moist.

On one trip we took some friends who are fans of Hong Kong cuisine. They ordered some of their benchmark dishes (wonton noodle soup, roast pork, fried seafood, beef chow foon) and then slammed them (from "boring" to "absolutley awful"), with a promise to take us to Full Kee soon, but they enjoyed the other dishes. I thought they were being harsh. The chow foon were not particularly better or worse than any chow foon I've had anywhere else; same with the roast pork; and though mild in flavor the soup tasted nice, and the noodles were perfectly cooked. Does everything have to be absolutely packed with flavor? Is mild not acceptable anymore?

On another trip I got Kung Pao chicken, because damnit I like Kung Pao chicken, and I don't give a fig if it's an authentic Chinese dish, it can be really good. East Pearl's wasn't, though.

Staff have been friendly and effiecient evvery time. They won my respect and gratitude by finding my expensive sungalsses and saving them for me even though I couldn't get there for two days and figured there was no chance they'd still be around.

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Is mild not acceptable anymore?

From About.com (and I whole-heartedly agree with it)

An emphasis on preserving the natural flavor of the food is the hallmark of Cantonese cuisine. A Cantonese chef would consider it a culinary sin of the highest order to produce a dish that was overcooked or too heavily seasoned.
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I don't think that mild is not acceptable; I think we all thought the ma po tofu was oustanding. (of course, that's a Sichuan dish, not a Hong Kong one.) I do think my partner has imprinted more heavily on some dishes than others; and reacts poorly to deviations. And I'm sympathetic. The overwhelming note in the beef chow foon was ginger, which was jarring, and a lot of the beef was tough. The spicy seafood was very heavily battered and overcooked, the scallops were inedible, and the spicy was missing. The char siu was ... very lean. or perhaps just dry. I can't comment on wonton soup; I apparently am not programmed to appreciate it no matter where it is made. But that ma po! Oh, man. I'd go back just for that.

His parents went for lunch earlier in the week, for some of the same dishes and loved it. I think the answer is the kitchen is mysteriously inconsistant. I'd be happy to go back without the complainer. Of course, I'd probably stick to the ma po.

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Stopped in for a late lunch today.  Seems strange to say it, but I think I've finally decided that the shrimp dumplings at East Pearl are my favorite dumplings of any sort in the area.  I love the snap (almost a full on crunch) of the large chunks of shrimp and slivers of mushroom.

They're great in soup, but today I got them spicy "Hong Kong" style.  Really not spicy at all, but very tasty...and honestly, I think these dumplings are delicate enough that too much fire would do them a great disservice.

I also had a small cup of wonton soup to treat the cold I've had for the last forever.  The broth was excellent today...the flavor seemed a bit more concentrated than when I've had it in the past, and that's even with the deadened taste buds from the congestion.

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Very interesting. Thanks for posting that.

Here is a different take, since I didn't agree with the about.com quote, with one minor exception that I'll get to at the end. Cantonese cuisine is heavy-handed--most Southern Chinese cooking is quite heavy tasting, when compared to its Northern neighbors. This is evident in the baos, buns, and dumplings of the North; very simple combination of ingredients, usually steamed and minimal, whereas Southern dishes are more complex.

Having said that, Kung Pao chicken is decidedly Szechuan in origin; thus, going to try this dish at a predominantly Cantonese place is like asking a Northerner to make good gumbo or collard greens. You'll get a decent version, but it just won't be one considered true to home or authentic.

Now swinging back, current, modern day, higher scale Cantonese food is decidedly lighter, cleaner, and not as heavily seasoned. But you'll have to go to a Michelin-like restaurant to witness that style. Me, I prefer the home style, where it'll be chock-full of flavor.

Btw, Kung Pao Chicken is very much authentic Chinese cuisine. Maybe not the version served in the states, but it is.

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While I have Rockville on the mind, I should give a shout out to East Pearl for another great lunch.  The beef chow foon was really killing it yesterday... acomically large portion perfectly cooked.  Mixed throughout were noodles with just a touch of char, giving the whole dish that "wok hei" that is so often missing.

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Went here with my 4.5 year old daughter for date night after Daniel recommended the roast chicken.  We had half of a soy glazed roast chicken, a bowl of shrimp wonton soup, and beef chow foon.  First off, they were very nice, and amazed at how my daughter ate.  She loved the chicken and couldn't get enough.  The chicken was very moist and flavorful, and when you added a bit of the sauce on the plate it became very special.  The soup was also very good, broth was slightly sweet with a little pepper punch--she loved this as well.  The wontons had what seemed like whole shrimp and bamboo shoots, a nice compliment to the broth.  We didn't need the chow foon, but it was  a good rendition, if a bit greasy.  Will be back again. 

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