Pearl Cantonese Cuisine Gem

After Indonesian, Jakarta probably has more restaurants serving Chinese cuisine than any other kind. Amongst the thousands of Chinese restaurants in the city, however, only a handful of establishments can be considered truly high-end in terms of cuisine, setting and service. Pearl Chinese Restaurant is one of these elite few. Located on the 2nd Floor of JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta, the restaurant’s expansive main dining room, featuring an elegant green and light earth tone colour scheme, offers up excellent views of the Mega Kuningan business district though its floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as spectacular dishes to match the setting.

Pearl has earned a strong reputation among the city’s Chinese community for serving up authentic Cantonese dishes with modern flair. The person heading up the restaurant’s kitchen is Executive Chinese Chef John Chu, who hails from Malaysia and has been working at top Chinese restaurants throughout the region for most of his career. During that time, Chu has won many prestigious awards, including MLA Black Box Culinary Challenge and The World Golden Chef Competition.

Pearl offers up an extensive list of ala carte items and set menus. Both consist mainly of Cantonese dishes, but Chu is not afraid of tweaking the recipes or using other styles to make his dishes more appealing to local tastes. Specialties of the house include barbecued items such as Beijing duck and delicacies such as abalone and bird nest. And like any Chinese restaurant of this calibre, there is also an extensive live seafood selection including fresh fish, lobsters, crabs and clams cooked in a wide variety of styles.

The best way to experience everything Pearl has to offer is by ordering one of the restaurant’s sumptuous set menus. On our latest visit we tried the seven-course Pearl Signature Set Menu 1. The first dish in the set is the Deluxe Combination Platter, an appetiser highlighting Chu’s skills with both seafood and presentation. It consists of two separate dishes on a single plate. The first is a lively combination of scallop, crab and yellow peach salad with flying fish roe, which balances the savoury flavour of the seafood with the gentle sweetness of the fruit and the saltiness of the roe. The second dish is a unique specialty of the house, eel with Szechuan chilli bean sauce and sesame seeds. The eel is fried to form addictively crisp, chewy nuggets that pair perfectly with the spicy sauce.

The second dish is a green asparagus soup with dried scallop and crab meat, a gentle course to calm the stomach after the intense flavours of the first appetiser. The third dish in the set is steamed prawns with glass noodles and garlic sauce. This dish did not disappoint at all as the prawn and the glass noodles were cooked perfectly, the huge prawns tasting remarkably fresh and sweet. The glass noodles are imported from Korea because Chu said they have the ideal texture and flavour to match the dish.

For the fourth dish, diners get to tuck into fried fish fillet with mango and plum sauce. Consisting of boneless dory fillets, the fish is carefully fried so that it’s crispy on the outside yet tender and flaky on the inside. The fried dory is topped with a fantastic sweet and sour sauce made using fresh mango and plums.

Although we were already starting to feel full, there was no way we could resist the next dish – homemade seaweed bean curd with mushroom and vegetables. Chu said the homemade bean curd is one of the most popular items at Pearl and it’s easy to understand why – the silken tofu is incredibly smooth and practically melts in your mouth. Its subtle flavour is a great match for the richly sauced seaweed and vegetables. It is a humble dish with many delicate layers of flavour.

In Chinese set menus, rice is often saved for the last savoury dish to ensure guests are completely full before the end of the menu. The set menu we tried featured fried rice with chicken, salted fish and bean sprout, a simple dish elevated with great technique and ingredients.

Finally, our wonderful feast was finished with a dessert of chilled fresh mango pudding with milk cream. The pudding wasn’t too sweet and the milk cream not too heavy, creating a refreshingly light finish to the meal. Chu used mangoes from Australia to do this dish justice, since local mangoes weren’t in season and he refuses to compromise on the quality of the ingredients for his guests.

Pearl has four elegant private dining rooms as well as an extensive collection of wines, including Chinese wine to pair with your meal. If you are looking for a Chinese feast that is sure to impress your guests, Pearl is one of your best bets in Jakarta.

Yam Cha Buffet

Yam Cha is the popular Chinese tradition of eating a variety of small dishes and washing them down with lots of hot tea. Pearl at JW Marriott has a very popular Yam Cha Buffet, which offers a large selection of Cantonese-style dishes and dim sum delights, every Sunday and on public holidays, from 10:00 AM until 2:30 PM.