Pink Pearl Chinese RestaurantPosted: 10/02/2012
The Pink Pearl has been an establishment in Vancouver for as long as I remember (which is about 18 years or so), but I’m certain it’s been around way longer than that. Now, whether it’s been open for all 18 of those years is another issue, as the last time I remember going was when I still watched The Magic School Bus. After multiple fires and accidents, the restaurant remained closed for quite some time, depriving my family of a place to go for dim sum.
Well, that certainly isn’t the case anymore. The Pink Pearl opened up again earlier this year (correct me if I’m wrong), and though we really wanted to visit, we weren’t able to make the trip out til this summer, when my aunts and grandma were in town visiting. We decided to go there after church for a late-ish lunch, and ended up bringing the whole family along (all 17 of us).
I was worried that there wouldn’t be any tables, since we were arriving just when all the other churches in the area let out– usually places along East Hastings are packed, but it turns out there was one lone 17-person table available. Score! We sat down and quickly put in our orders, as we were all quite hungry.
While we were waiting for the order-form food to show up, none other than a dim sum push cart ambled by! Where do you even SEE these anymore?! I was uber excited, both because there was food to be had, and also because I wanted to be a push-cart lady when I was younger. Others wanted to be princesses, I wanted to push food around… I had high aspirations, I really did. Anyways, we asked for two orders of the Pan-Fried Shrimp and Veggie Dumplings, which looked interesting enough. Since the dumplings were pushed around on an open cart (as opposed to a warming cart), these were a little cold. The skins were adequately thin, and the shrimp had a pleasant snap to them, while the veggies were only so-so, as they were a tad mushy. Too bad, really, as these would have been great if not for that (and the coldness).
As many of you know, food doesn’t come when you expect it to at most dim sum places– case in point, the Egg Tarts arrived next, but since we were hungry, this was a welcome addition to the table. These egg tarts had fabulously flaky crusts (look at all those layers of pastry!). The filling was just right, being not too sweet. We actually ordered 5 plates total, 2 at the beginning and 3 at the end, so that we could all get one.
Next up were three different plates of rice rolls– Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls, Beef Rice Noodle Rolls, and Chinese Donut Rice Noodle Rolls. All the rolls exhibited good chewiness– they weren’t too thick and didn’t disintegrate while you tried to pick them up with your chopsticks (God knows how often that happens to me, but I think it’s just because I’m a bit of a failure when it comes to chopstick technique). The Shrimp, like in the dumplings above, were snappy and tasted fresh. I also liked that these were deveined properly, as I’ve been to some restaurants where they weren’t, and it was not a pretty sight. I don’t actually like the Beef Ball-mix that’s served at Chinese restaurants (there’s a weird taste to them that I just can’t put my finger on), but all my relatives had good things to say about it– the beef was bouncy and not crumbly, and the water chestnuts didn’t distract too much from the plate. The Chinese Donut Rolls were a bit disappointing, though, as the donut didn’t taste very fresh. Granted it’s wrapped up in a rice wrapper, so the moisture from the roll would naturally make the donut less crispy, but it was the fact that it was overly chewy and oil-logged that made us dislike it.
This is terribly unhealthy, but I always order the Deep Fried Salt and Pepper Squid and Deep Fried Tofu when I go for dim sum. This time though, I had an excuse because all the cousins wanted it as well. The pieces of squid had a thin layer of batter covering them, and weren’t too difficult to eat (usually my cousins have a hard time chewing the squid). There was a ton of garlic, jalapeno peppers, green onions and red pepper was well, which made this bursting with a variety of flavours, so it was both spicy and salty. It was too bad that this dish was too oily, or else it would have been fantastic. The tofu wasn’t nearly as oily, and was very crisp and hot. I liked the little bits of deep fried garlic as it again gave a little more flavour to the dish.
The next dishes that came up were all a little…adventurous. The Fish Maw with Shrimp Mousse was prepared well, with the fish stomach being spongey and not-too-fishy. The shrimp mousse was bouncy and worked well with the maw. My aunt really likes this dish, so we generally order it when we go out, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. The Phoenix Talons (or Chicken Feet) were kind of blah– too oily for our tastes, and it didn’t have much in the way of spices or flavour. My grandma usually loves this (even though we need to swish it in water to get rid of some of the salt and oil), but she really didn’t approve of these. The Pig Stomach with Veggies was a hit though– we loved the peppery soup that came with it, as well as the variety of veggies (napa cabbage, celery and cabbage) and the bean curd sheets. The pig stomach didn’t smell or taste unpleasant, and was tender without being too fatty. I haven’t had this dish in a while since my mom isn’t too confident about the cleaning and stewing process, so this was a real treat.
And at long last, the staples of the Chinese dim sum menu: Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings) and Siu Mai (Pork and Shrimp Dumplings). We appreciated that they came fresh from the kitchen, so that they were very hot, but felt that they fell short. The har gow’s skin was too gummy, and didn’t hold up well even under pro chopstick skills (so I really had no chance… there were shrimp bits everywhere). As evidenced by the shrimp bits on the table, the shrimp itself was diced up too much and wasn’t held together properly. The dumplings were pretty bland as well– none of the usual hits of sesame oil. I didn’t feel like the siu mai was anything too special; there was actually too much pork in it (you can kind of see the pork spilling out of the wrapping), albeit well-prepared pork that was bouncy and not hard to chew.
And onto the obligatory meat dishes, we had the Steamed Beef Balls and Black Bean Spareribs. As I said before, I don’t eat the beef balls, but my aunts and uncles all enjoyed it, saying pretty much what they did with the rice rolls. The Black Bean Spareribs were a little blah. I felt like there could have been more sauce and flavour. The ribs themselves were quite tender though.
But wait– there’s more! By virtue of having 15 people eating (including several uncles with big appetites and little cousins who had uncle-sized appetites), we ordered even more food– and it’s not like we only ordered one of each of the above dishes either. To get a little fuller, we ordered some Egg Yolk Custard Buns, Stir-Fried Glutinous Rice, and two orders of Rice in Soup (called Pow Fan in Chinese, but I can’t quite figure out what it’s called in English). The Custard Buns were actually some of the better ones I’ve had, as the bun was soft while still holding up to the thick but slightly runny ingredients. The egg yolk custard wasn’t too salty or sweet, but wasn’t bland either. Stir-Fried Glutinous Rice is one of my favourite dishes, despite the heavy amounts of oil used to cook it. The rice grains in this were slightly chewy without being hard, and was full of Chinese sausage, egg, dried shrimp and green onion. I loved eating this, but staring at the pool of oil on the empty plate afterwards was not too appetizing. The Pow Fan was quite a bit healthier than the glutinous rice. Basically, this dish is 30% steamed rice with 70% soup and ingredients, and so naturally the rice would break down a bit, rendering it into something like congee. We ordered one seafood mix with wintermelon, and one mini oyster and wintermelon. Both were a little heavy on the MSG, but the ingredients in each were quite good– there was a good mix of clams, shrimp and conch in the seafood bowl, and there was also a good amount of oysters in the oyster bowl. I don’t know if I’d order these again, though, as I didn’t really feel like they were worth it (I’d prefer a fried rice).
I had a good time at the Pink Pearl, even though some of their dishes could’ve been improved a bit. I think I liked my experience more for the memories it brought back (they open up a dance floor on certain weekends and my friends and I used to dance around when we were little) and for the chance to hang out with the whole family, which is difficult to do now that my grandma is back in Hong Kong. It was a little on the expensive side, though, as it came to about $17 a person, and I’m used to paying something around $12 for dim sum. This would be a good place to go if you’re with a big group, or if you’d like to see one of the older dim sum restaurants in Vancouver that isn’t part of a big chain.
Thanks for reading through, everyone! I know this was a long one…
Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant
1132 East Hastings Street