I spend roughly 3% of my time at home looking for my glasses. Last time after an intense search I found them hanging on a shirt I was wearing. I spend more time looking for a particular item in the pantry or fridge. Half of the time I forget what the item was at some point, and sometimes the act is prompted by something totally unrelated. Like when I’m about to head out to rake the leaves, but open the fridge instead. You might as well take the eggs out and make a Shakshuka while you at it. “Why are you making Shakshuka, we just ate, and I asked you to rake the leaves”… “Remember when we talked about being more spontaneous?”.
Anywho, I didnt have to spend much time looking for the House of the Red Pearl because I knew exactly where it is. But unless you cheat, you can have an especially frustrating scavenger hunt looking for it in the new Tin Building by Jean-Georges. Since no one can pronounce or spell his last name, we simply refer to him as Jean-Georges, or JG. For the same reason it is easy to forget that Cedric of EWZ fave Wayan and Perry St. is JG’s son.
There used to be a time when a food hall would open in NYC, people paid attention. Nowadays, with more than 30 halls and food courts scattered all over town (Source: EWZ Research) you forget about it the day after opening. But Tin Building in South Street Seaport is worthy of a detour. I used to visit SSS when I was younger, but for the past 20 years or so, it has become a place we regrettably have to pass while biking to another place. But with the rejuvenated Pier 17, the openings of Momofuku Ssam, The Fulton (also by JG) and other notables, you may want to include SSS on your Brooklyn Bridge or Staten Island Ferry day. I wont go into detail describing Tin Building, except to say that the percentage of items I wanted to taste or purchase here is quite high. Its an elegant, and extremely thoughtful food hall.
If you thought that entering a Minetta Tavern takes you back to the Gilded Age, wait until you open the curtains of House of the Red Pearl. An old fashioned, yet modern Cantonese speakeasy. A movie set really, with some comparing to something you may see in a Bond flick, though for some reason Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came to mind. No reservations can be made yet, and I hope it stays that way. The building just started opening on Wednesdays after a soft opening so closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for now.
Much of the motivation behind the menu came from Jean-George’s time spent in Hong Kong. Wontons or Dumplings in Chinese restaurants rarely excite (unless of the soup variety). The Pork & Shrimp Wontons here did. Perfectly balanced, with just enough heat. Eggplant, cooked down to the consistency of Enoki Mushrooms, with beautiful scallion-garlic notes to match. Currently not on the menu but most definitely should be. Flavors reminiscent of Danji’s sick tofu. On a return visit there was zero question whether I’ll order the Bacon Fried Rice again. In fact it was the main reason for the return visit. One of the more complex fried rice dishes you’ll find in the city.
The hope is that they dont dumb down the menu over time as it gets its share of tourists. And that the larger dishes improve just enough to be on par with the small. The Stir Fried Lamb, seasoned well, but not quite the best Cumin Lamb version in NYC as Eater’s Sietsema states. Not enough cowbell. Mala Chicken, the spiciest item on the menu, wont exactly “Mala” your mouth and will probably get some heat for that from the die-hards, but its agreeable nonetheless and I would still order it again. The roasted monkfish was perfectly fried, though the accompanied sauce was a bit too pungent for the fish. We devoured it of course.
The mains will satisfy most, but not as flawless as the smaller dishes, and one particular dessert. Mango Sago Pudding is an especially proper finisher, and quite the looker as well to match the space. The House of the Red Pearl is unique, fun, and features an ingredient driven menu full of hits. Go!
House of the Red Pearl
96 South St, South Street Seaport
Recommended Dishes: Wontons, Fried Rice, Eggplant, Mala Chicken, Mango Sago Pudding