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China Pearl Dim Sum & Restaurant (Woburn MA)
||288 Mishawum Road,|
Woburn, MA 01801
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2005 Issue: 12(4) page: 24 and 28
Some years ago, twelve of us climbed a flight of stairs in Boston, mouths watering for dim sum. With no notes to help the memory, the experience remains vivid and valued. Looking back, we think it might have been at 9 Tyler Street, the sister restaurant to China Pearl.
Newspapers and magazines tout this sibling in a Boston suburb. We knew it well, not the eatery but the location, because we once lived here. That was long before Route 93, the new and easy way to get to this Pearl. We are told the restaurant now is in a new incarnation and wonder if it can remain a gem. We say that because we visited during the week and it was less than half full.
China Pearl is five years old and it has a commanding and gorgeous exterior. The tiled roof and the building are about sixteen years old, its former occupant was the ppular eatery called Wei Lu. Unfortunately, it is no more.
The restaurant has three hundred seats on three levels, and it is still lovely outside and in. And, it is among the 2004 Top 100 Chinese Restaurants in the United States selected by Chinese Restaurant Business. Wei Lu had a sister restaurant in Saugus, Massachusetts that seated nearly two thousand, we were told. Both went belly-up, or 'broken' as the current manager told us. The bigger one, no relative now, is called the Kowloon Restaurant, and it was a 2004 winner, too. Need to put it on our ‘visit soon' list.
The manager here is from Guangzhou; most of the foods are, too. That city offers one of China’s best cuisines, often with fine fixings. Lovely fixings here include a glass bamboo forest walk into the restaurant. Peek to the left and check out the bar; there are lots of round tables, crowded on week-ends we are told with folk imbibing and waiting for their dinner tables.
The place is designed with customers in mind. All three levels are huge, their tables well spaced. Maybe the staff thinks otherwise as they need to hike to get to the kitchen. Our waitress, from Fuzhou, was young and energetic, she said she minded not.
On weekdays one can order from the menu or wander to the top level for foods from the hot and cold buffet. Many are dim sum or fried items. On week-ends and holidays, wagons truck these dishes around and selection is done from your seat. At lunch there are seventeen featured selections, more served on week-ends. That upper level is not just for the buffet, private parties are often held there. The manager and our waitress said there are times when it is so busy that parties can be everywhere, and at other times when it is empty it is ghost-like.
Aside from the buffet, there are lunchtime specials and foods available from the regular menu. Check out the dozen mouth-watering color photographs, a few shown in the hard copy of this issue. They are a mere fraction of the dozens of appetizers, chicken, beef, seafood, pork, vegetable, fried rice, noodle, and combination entrees; and the chef’s specials.
This restaurant is next door to the Woburn Mall and to local manufacturing places. We came late at the tail of lunchtime and ordered from the menu. The Lake Tung Ting Scallops were jumbo and juicy. They were surrounded by a ring of bright broccoli, and covered with a light egg sauce. Mixed in were some straw mushrooms, water chestnut slices, and a few carrots.
The menu says soups are satisfying, we say their portions are large. West Lake Beef Soup has oodles of scallions and cilantro bits to keep the beef company. They are in an egg-drop-like broth. Watercress and Chicken Soup and Vegetable Bean Curd Chowder need mentioning. Folks we phoned agreed the former is special, the latter not typical New England chowder and though popular, is not their cup of tea; we mean their appreciated bowl of soup. Their Seafood Chowder has scallops, shrimp, crabmeat, and fish minced in; and it is expensive.
Chicken with Black Bean Sauce comes noisily on its large sizzling platter. The aroma tantalizes, the taste fulfills anticipation, the texture does not. Its many red and green pepper pieces and the large onion squares are crisp, the poultry is tough. String beans and black beans are few, the sauce is plentiful.
Bean Curd Roast Pork looks like others eaten in Boston and other cities years ago. The pork is dyed red, dry, and cut in large uneven pieces. Like other dishes here, it is a generous portion. The tofu comes cold and disappointing. We mentioned this to the waitress when she inquires if everything is OK. She whisks it away and returns with one piping hot. In the process, the pork suffers toughness in its second trip to the wok, the tofu is improved.
Many dishes are battered and fried at this Pearl. Orange Flavor Chicken is fried and sweet, as is the Aromatic Beef. It says the sauce is sweet; they kid you not. Peking Duck comes half or whole, but we pass it up figuring it could be finished and fried, too. Triple Delight comes as three protein items: jumbo shrimp, fresh scallops, and beef. It also comes with baby corn, snow peas, water chestnuts, straw mushrooms, and broccoli.
When driving north of Boston, do exit Route 93 and enjoy this spacious eatery. Hope it is not too crowded, yet hope it is because for all who go, they can imagine being in a busy Forbidden City.