Monday, August 27, 2007

Restaurant Review: Red Pearl Kitchen, Hollywood

I know, I know- it's my fault for even considering going to a place that seems to be a mish-mash of all Asian cuisines, but a friend was in from out of town, we all craved Chinese food and we were in West Hollywood. Unfortunately, we weren't really close enough to Alhambra, San Gabriel or Monterey Park (or even the second-best China Town, for that matter) and we were hungry for something spicy. Maybe it was our growling tummies that made us choose to go to Red Pearl Kitchen- a hipster, trendy, barely-Chinese restaurant on Melrose. Besides, the gorgeous design would impress my out-of-towner friend, right? Anyway, it was a visit that we all regret and I will never make that mistake again. I really, REALLY should have known better than to dine at a place that has pad thai, spicy tuna on crispy rice, a Kobe beef hot pot (?!) and General Tso's tofu all on one menu.

We drive up to an all-female team of valets, which I thought was pretty cool. Walking into the restaurant, we were impressed by the Asian-fusioned decor. I did get a bit worried, however, when I realized that we were one of only two tables in the entire restaurant, and it was 7:30 PM. Regardless, I told the hostess about my reservation (which I had made on Open Table) and she promptly seated us in the enclosed patio, which again, was quite lovely. Our very cheerful and helpful waitress took our drink orders, we perused the menu, then decided on a few things to share. I'd say we were off to a good start.

First up: Baby Greens with Sesame and Soy. Bland, bland and bland- a pile of mixed greens were barely dressed with anything remotely resembling soy or sesame, but the vegetables were fresh. It just lacked any decipherable flavor. Our veggie spring rolls arrived, looking nice and crisp, but they, too, were bland, and the accompanying red sauce didn't have any flavor either. I detected some five-spice in the actual spring rolls but it just didn't go well with the vegetables inside. Then our Ginger Chicken Pot stickers arrived- nice and golden brown on the bottom- my friend M and I were excited.

That excitement quickly faded, however, after I took my first bite and realized that the filling completely mushy. Luckily, I took a look at the inside of my half-eaten pot stickers and figured out why- the ground chicken was raw. Yup. Raw chicken. Unfortunately, M had already popped one in her mouth. My friend JR quickly returned his offending pot sticker to the serving plate. I called the waitress over, showed her the uncooked poultry and she whisked the plate away, apologizing profusely. When I told her that I didn't want another order, she said she understood but brought another round of drinks, on the house, instead. Smart girl. The meal pretty much didn't recover after that- we were served what is probably the only fried rice dish in memory that I've had to add salt to. Or what I thought was salt- with no salt & pepper on the tables, we had to ask for each. The only salt they claimed they had was mixed with some strong herb, so it wasn't ideal for adding to all of the dishes. Honestly- the shrimp in the fried rice were like little hockey pucks- in both texture and flavor. Who doesn't season shrimp?!?! It didn't contain a single grain of salt, I can tell you that, and were so overcooked that you could probably use them in place of rubber bullets. Our Shao Hsing-Garlic Cashew Chicken was so-so but by that point, we were pretty disgusted with the whole meal. We left most of it and decided to stop by Famima for some real food (*chuckle*).

Look- I realize that it takes more than one visit to a restaurant to truly get the whole picture of what a place is about, but can one really return to a place that unknowingly served them raw poultry??? I'm not a chef but I do realize that after browning the pot sticker, you put some water in the pan, put a lid on it and let it steam long enough for the filling to cook all the way. Judging by how brown the bottoms were, I have a feeling that the cook thought they would burn so he or she took them out too soon. I suppose if any of the other dishes had been good, I'd have some reason to return, but nothing was worth going back for. The menu is a mish mash of Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai cuisine- maybe they should just focus on one thing, although I have a feeling it won't last long enough to do so. They don't even give you fortune cookies with your check, although the valet leaves a gingerbread cookie and an almond cookie in your car. Cute. But I want my fortune cookie.

To add insult to injury, I checked my Open Table account today to see that they didn't credit my Open Table account with the 100 points I should have gotten. I think that pretty much is the nail in the coffin.


foodette said...

Raw chicken? Yikes! There are many ways to prevent this, including using pre-cooked filling, which would be worth it in the restaurant industry.

Sorry you had such a terrible experience. I hate walking away from a restaurant so disappointed.

Jaimey said...

Talk about leaving a bad taste in your mouth! I haven't been back to RPK since my first time, although unlike you, I had quite a pleasant experience. I wrote about it on my blog if anyone wants a second opinion, Food for Thought. I don't know if I'll go back now thanks you :).

On another note, I enjoy your blog so keep eating and sharing your splendors!

- Jaimey

Chubbypanda said...

Ouch! That sounds horrid. Raw chicken is really really dangerous. I'm surprised they didn't comp your meal instead of just giving you free drinks. What if one of you had gotten sick?

Not all pan Asian restaurants are bad, but you're right. In general they're places to enter at your own risk.

Anonymous said...

This place is more for the hipsters than foodies just like its more for caucasians than asian diners. I don't know of a single asian person who thought the food was good. The opinion one forms about this place is a good test to see if a person really knows asian food.

Its always amazed me to read the generally positive reviews this place gets. And, the review mentions how well-priced the place is but I feel its a complete rip-off for mediocre food.