Friday, September 13, 2013

Restaurant Review: Asian Pearl (dim sum)

Asian Pearl - lunch on August 25, 2013 (I linked to the yelp review which gives the link to the main Asian Pearl restaurant group website which in turn gives the direct link to this particular Asian Pearl Restaurant but when I tried going there, the security settings on my browser classified the site as "suspicious" so I'm not providing a direct link like I normally do)

Asian Pearl Seafood Restaurant
Pacific Commons Shopping Center
43635 Boscell Rd
Fremont, CA 94538
Partial shot of the inside which is even bigger than this shows
I don't go to dim sum that often. My family had a favorite dim sum place to go to for Sunday lunch when I was younger but it closed and we fell out of the habit of going for dim sum after church because there weren't that many places where my parents lived that served it.  It's usually best to go with a large group so you can get a variety of plates but it's also best to go early, like mid-morning, which is when most places open or you might have a hard time being seated with a large party. Most dim sum places open at 10 am and I have to admit, that feels a little early for me to eat savory dim sum. And if we go on Sunday, we don't get out of church until 11 and by then, dim sum places are packed since they've been open for an hour by then.
One of the dim sum carts
However, we did manage one Sunday to go to a new-to-me dim sum restaurant called Asian Pearl. There were only 3 of us and we were lucky to get a table as soon as we got there but the restaurant was packed and by the time we left, people crowded the foyer and spilled outside, waiting for tables to free up.
Baked Pork Buns
If you've ever been to dim sum, you know how it works.  You wait at your table and dim sum carts come rolling past, typically pushed by Chinese ladies who tout the wares on their cart. If there's something on the cart you want, you speak or gesture (or ask questions) when they come to your table.  Once you've selected something, the cart lady will place it on your table and stamp the dim sum card left on your table by the host who seated you.  Depending on what you chose, it'll be classified as a small, medium or large dim sum dish and billed accordingly once you've finished eating.
Fried Fish
Most dim sum dishes (with some exceptions like the fish above and other dishes classified as "large") typically come in servings of 3 or 4 pieces.  If the pieces are large, the cart lady will cut them after she lays the plate on your table. Sauces that are meant to go with your dim sum selection are also placed by her before she stamps your card and rolls over for the next table. You can also order from the menu if you want something instead of or in addition to dim sum.
Deep Fried Shrimp Balls - one of my favorites
Now, I don't speak Chinese but I do speak dim sum, if you will.  There are certain things we (or I) always have to get and I've learned either what they're called so I can ask for them specifically if I don't see them roll by on the dim sum cart or I can gesture with the best of them when I do see them on the cart.
Something steamed with shrimp and veggies inside
Regular family favorites:
- Cha Siu Bao (pork buns, I prefer the baked kind over the steamed)
- Siu Mai (steamed pork dumplings)
- Deep fried shrimp balls (no idea what their Chinese name is but I know what they look like)
-Har Gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) - we didn't get these this time around because by the time they had them, we were already stuffed.
- Pork cocktail buns - these are rectangular, flaky pastries filled with barbecue pork and sprinkled with sesame seeds on top.  I have no idea what they're called but again, I know what to look for on the rolling carts. Not to be confused with pork buns.
For this particular visit, we also got the shrimp wrapped in long, flat rice noodles with a light soy sauce (or something like soy sauce).
Siu Mai
My dad picked up the tab so I couldn't tell you what the plates cost :) but I thought Asian Pearl served a pretty good dim sum.  The only dish we tried that none of us liked was the fried fish.  It tasted just a little too "fishy" to be good and one of the breaded fried fish "sticks" turned out not to be fish but seemingly part of a very large fish bone - almost like the thickest part of the spinal cord on a big dish. The Siu Mai, however, was particularly good as were the baked pork buns.  I didn't care for the very sticky glaze on the pork buns but the buns themselves were good.
 BBQ Pork flaky turnover thingies
The main drawbacks of Asian Pearl were how crowded it was (but that's typical of most good dim sum places on a weekend morning) and that there were very few dim sum carts rolling around, especially considering the size of the room and the crowded restaurant. I think I only saw 3-4 different carts and they moved slowly because they had a lot of tables to service.  To alleviate that issue, there were dim sum servers walking around with a tray of one particular dim sum, offering them at tables throughout the room.  The advantage is there were more of them walking around and you didn't have to wait for a rare cart to come by.  The disadvantage is they only carried one type of dim sum and if that wasn't what you wanted, you still had to wait for the next offering to come by.  Still, Asian Pearl is a good dim sum option to go to and I'm glad there's one in the neighborhood.

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