If there’s one thing I love more than crab angels, it’s drive-thru crab angels. That’s right, those delicious little pouches of cream cheese and imitation crab wrapped up in a crunchy wonton handed come into my possession, and I never have to leave my car. All of this is made possible because Northport’s Pearl Garden knows something other Chinese restaurants don’t: At some point or another, we all need our Kung Pao Chicken to go.
Pearl Garden has a drive-thru AND is on my way home from campus, so I stop by for Chicken Fried Rice pretty regularly. Chicken Fried Rice is pretty standard and I’d imagine it’s pretty hard to screw up, though I find I prefer Pearl Garden’s to Swen’s. I always order a small ramekin of what PG calls “Hokkaido’s Shrimp Sauce,” which is fantastic pink sauce you get with your shrimp or chicken at any hibachi grill (I think it costs $1 extra). I’m obsessed with the stuff. I’ve also had their hot and sour soup, which is quite good (sorry egg drop folks–I can’t bring myself to try the stuff, so I can’t report on PG’s). The only thing I’ve ever been disappointed with there is the egg rolls. They’re just blah. I usually just skip that part of the order/meal.
Also, you should know when ordering at PG that the small portions are plenty and the large portions are ridiculous. My roommate and her fiancé share a large order of something when they pick up food from there. I always order a small Chicken Fried Rice, and it completely fills one of those big square Styrofoam to-go boxes.
In order to fairly review the place, I decided to dine in on this particular visit. The service has been good every time I’ve eaten there, and this was no exception. My food was excellent, it was prepared promptly, and my sweet tea glass was never empty (and I can go through some tea). For the sake of variety, I ordered the Princess Chicken this time instead of my usual fried rice. The menu described it as “Diced chicken cooked with onions, green scallions, and red peppers in our special sauce.” What’s not to love, right? Right. The chicken and vegetables tasted exactly like you would expect/want them to, and the sauce complemented them well. The only way I know to describe it would be as a cross between sweet and sour sauce and a red curry. I’m certain that a simple sweet and sour sauce was the base, as this was the same consistency and had the same syrupy sweet flavors, but there was definitely an extra level of spice you don’t get from sweet and sour. This particular dish was labeled as “Hot and Spicy” on the menu (and those who know me know I have a limited tolerance for spiciness), but I tried it anyway and found the hotness well-balanced and far from overwhelming UNLESS you actually eat the red chili peppers, which I don’t recommend, by the way. I had no idea what I was getting into with this dish but was quite pleased with it.
I also ordered, of course, an order of crab angels. In addition to the shrimp sauce, I’m also obsessed with these little star-shaped delicacies, and PG has some of the best in town. I’ve often found at other restaurants that the wonton has gone stale or that the crab tastes overwhelmingly like imitation crab. The wontons at PG are always perfectly crunchy, and while I would be shocked to find out they used real crab, somehow their crab doesn’t take imitation-y. I suspect because they rely more heavily on the cream cheese base than many other restaurants. Whatever they do, it works.
There aren’t a whole heck of a lot of Chinese restaurants in town (a shortage of international cuisines in Tuscaloosa? No!). Swen is the other one I tend to frequent, but when I go there, it’s strictly out of convenience, not the longing desire for delicious crab angels that drew me into Pearl Garden tonight. I knew I couldn’t (or shouldn’t, rather) make a dinner out of six crab angels, so I ordered an entrée as well with intention of taking a to-go box home for lunch tomorrow—a lunch I’m very much looking forward to.
Pearl Garden is located at 2719 Lurleen B. Wallace Blvd in Northport, just south of the intersection with McFarland/Hwy 82.
Lunch: 11am-2pm everyday
Dinner: Monday-Saturday 4pm-9:30pm; 4pm-9pm on Sundays