I was rather excited to eat at Vietnam’s Pearl. It’d been years since I last visited and it’s received a major makeover, making it barely recognizable with a fresh bright coat of paint and its modern decor.
I met some friends for a late lunch and the first thing I noticed was how the menu now has an entire section dedicated to low carb selections making this an ideal spot for me. My gripe when I eat Vietnamese has always been the overabundance of carbs and here, it allows me to indulge without a carb overload.
We started off with Goi Cuon Tom ($4.50), shrimp spring rolls which are pretty much on par with what you get everywhere. I like how there is no rice vermicelli and only shrimp and vegetables. The hoisin dipping sauce is not bad either.
I wanted to try the Ga Chien Don Voi Rau ($6.75) but didn’t want to eat it with rice. I just wanted the 5-spice chicken with salad and that’s exactly what I got. The chicken is nicely seasoned but not exactly the 5-spice I was accustomed to. It tasted more like a Chinese barbecue (cha siu sauce) brushed over the chicken — good, but not what I was looking for.
If you like salads, definitely order one of the cabbage salads on the menu. I opted for Goi Tom Nuong ($7.75) with beautifully seasoned charbroiled shrimp atop a perfectly dressed cabbage salad. More nuoc mam dressing is provided in a small bowl should you require more.
Com Ga Gung or Ginger Chicken Served with Rice was requested “atomic” by my friend who’s love of spicy food is pretty much on par with my palate. Even though I thought this dish was tasty it had too much hot sauce in it masking the ginger flavors all together. I prefer my heat from chilis instead of chili paste or sauce. Despite being “atomic”, it still wasn’t as spicy as I thought it’d be.
If you prefer to stick with the ubiquitous, there is nothing quite like a bowl of Bun Dac Biet — cold vermicelli noodles with charbroiled pork, egg roll and shrimp. This is always a good choice when the weather’s hot and you can’t stomach anything soupy or piping hot.
I took a taste of another friend’s Com Ga Nuong, Trung Chien ($5.95), a rice plate served with charbroiled chicken and the egg omelette. I asked for a fried egg to be added.
I don’t know about you but for me, an Asian rice plate always tastes better with a runny fried egg. The chicken was so tasty I could’ve eaten it on its own. but in the end I pretty much polished off my entire plate leaving only some rice.
Whenever I don’t feel like driving out to lil Saigon, this place more than suffices to satiate my craving!
1215 Baker Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626