In the July issue of Washingtonian magazine, East Pearl is called the “gleaming new addition to Rockville’s thriving Chinese-restaurant scene” and although it’s been open for only a few months, they’re tempted to call it the “best Chinese restaurant around”. That’s high praise so I checked it out myself a few weeks ago, and I have to say, it’s a significant step up from the others. I was struck first by the interior decor because it didn’t have the usual cliches of red vinyl booths, lanterns, and pictures of China on the wall. If you were dropped at the front door and didn’t notice the display of barbequed ducks in the back corner, you would have assumed it was nice modern restaurant serving Caesar salads with grilled chicken for lunch and crab soup and ribeye steaks for dinner.
The menu is extensive and you’ll see many of the usual dishes but also many that will be new. Some are definitely suited to Chinese tastes that might make Westerners squeamish, such as squid or intestine with sour cabbage. I hate to stereotype, but it seems that the Chinese love chewy textures. Most dishes will be intriguing because of their unusual combinations or preparation, such as steak mignon Cantonese style, Szechuan eggplant with ground pork in a casserole, or pan-fried stuffed triple delight. I tried the latter, which is minced meat (probably pork) sandwiched between slices of eggplant, bell pepper, or tofu, battered and fried, and then covered with a light black bean sauce and sprinkled with chopped green onions. Wow! I also had a side dish of barbeque pork (cha sui) and spicy shrimp dumplings Hong Kong style, while my wife had hot and sour soup. We found them all to be outstanding–well prepared, freshly made, delicious, and nicely presented. I haven’t had a chance to visit again, but I’ve recommended it to neighbors and they’ve come back happy as well.
East Pearl Restaurant is located at 838-B Rockville Pike in Rockville, north of Edmonston in the midst of the string of shops on the east side of the Pike adjacent to the railroad (between YoCake and the MoCo liquor store). Parking is tight and limited. I’ve heard there’s usually a line at dinner, so arrive early or plan to hunt for a parking space and wait for a table. By the way, the Vietnamese restaurant nearby is also a great place to try!