I’ve always been a fan of Eastern Pearl, the casually upscale Chinese restaurant in Altamonte Springs. In fact, I awarded it numerous Foodie Awards for best Chinese while I was the critic at the Orlando Sentinel. And plenty of readers agreed with me. One of the things that impressed me was that there was a window into the kitchen. I usually follow a don’t ask/don’t look policy when it comes to Chinese restaurant kitchens. It was refreshing to see Eastern Pearl’s so spotless.
Of course the food impressed me even more, with a base of authenticity and an air of creativity.
So I was excited to hear that Eastern Pearl had opened a second location, this one in south Orlando near Orlando International Airport.
The new restaurant is tucked into a small group of shops surrounded by hotels. This Eastern Pearl doesn’t appear to be as large as the original, although it has some of the same upscale design elements, such as a wall of cascading water. Tables are big blocks with inlay characters under glass. Overhead, giant drum pendants hang from the ceiling.
My guest and I started with scallion pancakes, little flatbreads that our server told us are usually eaten unadorned, but which Americans like with a sauce. (She was right.) We also had beef-wrapped asparagus spears and taro shrimp, an interesting sort of fritter with a coarse texture.
For our entrees we shared the fried pork, an impressive presentation on a large platter ringed with thinly sliced lemons and tomatoes.
The presentation of shrimp was even more impressive. It featured a hollowed cantaloupe adorned with Chinese carvings, filled with plump shrimp in a creamy sauce with bits of melon.
For dessert there was a sort of pumpkin pie that was more savory than sweet. A flambeed banana dish, set aflame with plenty of alcohol, treats the sweet tooth more.
Service was provided by a capable young woman assisted by the gracious host, who was clearly proud of his new restaurant. He has every reason to be.
Eastern Pearl is at 5749 T. G. Lee Blvd., Orlando. The phone number is 407-373-6888. Visit their Web site for more information.