Tucked in Far East Plaza amongst Howlin’ Ray’s, LASA, and Amboy Quality Meats is Pearl River Deli. Chef Johnny Lee’s pop-up turned restaurant offering his take on Cantonese classics and anything that inspires him from Asia. He and his team operate out of his shop with a pretty simple set menu Wednesday - Sunday and specials on weekends.
Chef Lee’s most recent notoriety is based on The Infatuation’s article proclaiming him as the Prince of Poultry. He makes an exemplary version of Hainan chicken rice…where the chicken is magnificently poached and placed atop garlic-fried rice made with chicken fat paired with house pickled vegetables and 3 house made sauces. Since The Infatuation’s write-up, Hainan chicken rice has been featured many weekends to keep up with demand.
But this weekend, Chef Lee and his team took a break and ran some different specials.
Typhoon Shelter Shrimp - This is inspired by Typhoon Shelter Crab, but uses shrimp for ease of eating and sourcing ingredients. Chef gets soft-shelled, head-on shrimp to make this dish. This reminds me of the salt & pepper shrimp I grew up eating but with more garlic and herbs and breadcrumbs. They are wonderful…crispy and succulent shrimp. There is an excellent supply of breadcrumbs leftover that can be used with leftover rice.
Black Bean Clams with Crispy Noodles - I’m an easy get when crispy noodles are on any menu. These noodles have a great crispy texture and maintain a grey chew. The black bean clams and sauce is really well done…savory and umami with perfectly cooked clams offset with bell peppers, onions, scallions and Thai basil. What’s incredible is that there’s a large portion of clams. This is enough to serve 2. The team at PRD knew I was going to wait until the drive home to eat so they thoughtfully packed things separately so the noodles wouldn’t get soggy.
Hakka Pork Belly Bao - Gently steamed pork belly with pickled mustard greens. Chef makes his own bao buns that are light, fluffy, and just a touch sweet. The pork belly is luscious and flavorful and the pickled greens are a night offset. We really enjoyed this one and I forgot to take a photo.
PRD specials and updates can be found via IG. The whole team is fantastic. They are always so kind and warm. In these tough times for restaurants, they are making it work as best as they can. The chef at helm is a thoughtful and skilled technician who can be inspired by so many things. He has a love for Cantonese food, but draws inspiration from Thai, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Malaysian…anywhere from Asia. PRD has become one of my favorites during this pandemic because I’ve been able to have so many reimagined comfort classics.