Cheap Eats 2011: Red Pearl

Not everything at this lakefront charmer, a top destination for Chinese cooking in the area, falls within the Cheap Eats budget–you’ll have to steer clear of the pepper-salted lobster, among other delicacies. But there are loads of affordable examples of chef/owner David Wong’s wok work, beginning with cooked-to-order dim sum: The shrimp dumplings and golden-hued pork buns are benchmarks for the area. Cantonese hot pots and casseroles are enough for three or four.

A half portion of tea-smoked duck, a showpiece dish, costs $18.95 but makes an ideal share–stuff the slices of crisp-skinned meat into steamed buns for a marvelous sandwich. Wong is equally adept with his Szechuan dishes, imbuing them with both pungency and piquancy–the dry-fried, cumin-spiced lamb and chewy dan-dan noodles in smoky chili oil are textbook perfect.

Also good: Eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste; shrimp in rice-noodle crepes; diced chicken with chilies; fried-flounder casserole with tofu and mushrooms.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.