Pearl is a new Chinese restaurant in Circular Quay's Quay Quarter by the Lotus Dining Group. There's dim sum available all day and night as well as a menu full of Cantonese classics and a banquet menu. Have a look and see what the food is like and find out what "cocktail" you have to order ahead of time and why!
Mr NQN and I are sitting at Pearl, early on a spring evening. It's early days for the Chinese restaurant and whilst it's a Wednesday night the restaurant will quickly fill up. At Pearl there's an outdoor section with views of the Harbour Bridge which would be superb for warmer, less windy conditions but tonight we are sitting indoors.
We've just ordered the Pearl, the restaurant's signature cocktail. "It will take about 20-25 minutes," says our waiter. I'm intrigued by any cocktail that takes that long but I'm into it whatever it is.
Tonight we are having a dumpling fest. I love dim sum and I bemoan how it's usually only available at lunchtime when I often feel like eating it for dinner. At Pearl there is a whole dim sum or dumpling menu available day and night and we take our waitress's recommendations for the dumpling selection. Service is really lovely and helpful from all of the staff.
The king prawn toast arrives first with two toasts topped with whole split prawns and some wasabi mayonnaise on the side. It's so crunchy with the perfect ratio of prawn to crunchy, golden toast. The wasabi mayonnaise is a good alternative to the usual sweet and sour sauce. Mr NQN points out that the prawn head and tail might be a challenge for some people that don't eat them but I love the flavoursome head and tail.
We love a classic har gow or prawn dumpling and this one is pleasingly plump and very tasty with a black streak flourish that is from squid ink.
The mixed mushroom and truffle dumpling is quite a large dumpling. It has a hint of truffle and the bright green dumpling is naturally coloured via spinach.
My favourite dumpling of all is the xiao long bao and Pearl's version is filled with mud crab from Darwin and pork mince. Pair it with some of that ginger vinegar and you have one of the most deliciously satisfying mouthfuls. The dumpling skins are perfectly thin - to eat, nip the skin with your teeth and then drink the soup out of it and then enjoy the rest of the dumpling. Heaven.
The prawn dumpling is an open dumpling with prawns on the bottom and a layer of white egg white cloud and topped with flying fish roe. This is really good dipped in the XO sauce provided on the table. This orange colour in this vividly coloured dumpling is from carrots.
"Guess which dumpling I like the most?" says Mr NQN and I go through each one with him shaking his head until I reach the pan fried wagyu dumpling. Normally Mr NQN isn't a beef or fried dumpling sort of person but these are so juicy, crispy and delicious that he adores these proving that a leopard can change its spots if given a tasty dumpling to eat.
The last dumpling to arrive are the radish puffs, piping hot from the oven and filled with dried shrimp and shallots. Our lovely waitress suggests a glass of Riesling to go with it that actually works perfectly to cut through the oil in this dumpling.
Then it is time for our cocktails. The Pearl arrives sitting on a large shell and the cocktail is in the form of a "pearl" capsule filled with Mautai (a popular Chinese spirit), pineapple, orgeat (almond syrup) and lime. They explain that they freeze the cocktail mixture in a ball mold and then use an alginate solution to form a membrane. When someone orders it they defrost it at room temperature for 20-25 minutes so that it reaches the right consistency. You are to pop the whole thing in your mouth, much like an oyster where it releases the cocktail. It's very fun and delicious although over quite quickly so it's more like a shot than a sipping cocktail.
The Michelle Yeoh is made with Grey Goose vodka, Absinthe, green Chartreuse, lemon, ginger, lemongrass and Szechuan pepper. It arrives at the table as a yellow cocktail but they pour some butterfly pea tea into it to make it purple. It's a very light and lovely cocktail that is easy to drink.
What's dinner, even a dim sum dinner without dessert? Desserts aren't usually a big deal in Chinese restaurants beyond a fruit plate but Pearl has three options on their dessert menu. I wanted to try their version of the fried milk toast which I have usually found to be a bit bland yet comforting. Pearl's version has more flavour as the milk custard has vanilla bean in it and it is served with a vanilla ice cream and cookie crumbs.
The dessert that we both love, especially after a big meal is the sago with mango, pomelo flesh and a sago crunch. It has the perfect level of sweetness and fresh fruit and a scoop of creamy mango ice cream in the centre underneath some fried rice crisps. And not a morsel goes back to the kitchen as Mr NQN scrapes the bowl clean.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever just crave dim sum for dinner? Would you eat crunchy prawn heads and tails?
Entry on Young St, Quay Quarter Tower, R1013/50 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: +61 (02) 7227 6293
Lunch Tuesday to Friday 12pm - 2.30pm
Dinner Tuesday to Saturday 5.30pm - 9pm