For those of us who have come to accept the low-budget decor of our favorite Chinese eateries along Rockville Pike, the interior of the East Pearl will come as something of a shock. The 86-seat dining room, with its calming sherbet-orange hues, exudes the industrial, open-air-duct opulence of restaurants in far tonier neighborhoods.
The dishware dares to venture beyond the merely functional as well: elegant white soup bowls (with saucers), square plates with shallow hollows for entrees and modern silver teapots shaped like flower pots. Even the Dutch-themed service plates provide a welcome splash of color at the table, not to mention cultural dissonance. Someone here is clearly aiming to raise the expectations for Chinese restaurants in Rockville.
That someone would be owner Sue Li, who was last seen overseeing the sprawling China Chef eatery in Wheaton before she sold the property in 2006 and devoted the next few years to her family. Li returned to restaurants in February with East Pearl, a Hong Kong-style establishment that features two separate menus, one of them devoted mostly to noodle soups, congee and roast duck and chicken. Li’s devotion to her twin-menu concept is so complete that she has built separate kitchens for each.