Red Pearl Kitchen San Diego

I recall a time in my life that the concept of business travel sounded very prestigious and romantic.  It was a long, long time ago, but I do remember it.  J

I travel every few months.  There are some definite benefits to travel so I`m not entirely bitter about the deal.  I`ve had an inspiring week and an exciting time, certainly enjoyed some nicer weather than we had at home and met some great people.

The drawbacks are the obvious ones – time away from those you love, odd sleep patterns, long hours, extra work piling up, cramped travel, dragging bags and so forth.

It`s a tolerable balance.  I`m not anti-business travel it`s just different from I dreamed it would be.  I would fantasize that you would be whisked to a magical city, do your gig and explore a foreign land on endless adventures.  My reality, as I get older, is that the exploration becomes less and less and the appeal of a simple meal and a night of tossing and turning in a comfy bed is more alluring than conquering new worlds.  This holds especially true when I am attending conferences (which I was this week) – my brain is so filled with great information, ideas, plans and excitement that adding more stimuli is just overwhelming.

There are, of course, exceptions.  With 7 days abroad I did manage to take some time to explore San Diego.  It`s a charming city with a central airport and a tonne of great food, drink and entertainment.  I managed one solid night on the town on Saturday and was thrilled with the discovery of Red Pearl Kitchen.

I stumbled on the Red Pearl after seeing a poster for Asian Cuisine that looked more like an ad for a new Grand Theft Auto video game.  It was clear that this was Asian food with a modern flare.  The poster was dominated by a picture of a woman who, at first glance, appeared to be wearing traditional attire but the longer you looked, the quicker you realized she wasn`t.  The nylons were far more modern, the pose more evocative, a tattoo peaked out and so forth.  There was no photo of the restaurant but it was clear what the message was – modern Asian cuisine.  This is the power of design to me.

I was a little sceptical – so many offerings of fusion end up being merely excuses for poor execution of traditional dishes.  The possibility of something spicy was just too exciting to pass up.

As I opened the door it became apparent this was going to be a different experience.  I couldn`t see very far into the restaurant as the entrance gave access to a ramp that wrapped behind an extensive bar and into the restaurant.  The lighting was dim and moody and music was loud.  I had entered a bar as much as I had entered a restaurant.

Red Pearl Kitchen San Diego February

The music stayed loud all night.  It wasn`t uncomfortable – you could easily converse over it but it was loud enough to dim he conversation of others around you.  The music was familiar from my youth and was fun – I remember Jackson 5 in particular.

I grabbed a seat at the bar.  There were 4 taps – all local or Asian (Kirin on tap!). I also noticed a few bottles of Hitachino Nest which I recognized as a fantastic Japanese craft beer.  They also had a great Scotch selection – the place couldn`t be awful!

Red Pearl Kitchen San Diego February

My bartender was fantastic.  Friendly, courteous and knew her stuff.  She gave an honest walk through of her recommendations on the menu and I followed her suggestions to try the Salt and Pepper Shrimp and the Spicy Beef.  Both were fabulous.  When I asked for local reccomendations she gave me a handwritten list of 5 or 6 places to visit for food and drink – these are the types of things that happen so rarely and will be long remembered.

The Salt and Pepper Shrimp were lightly breaded crustaceans paired with fresh chives and a dipping sauce that was refreshingly spicy.  The beef was tender, tasty and plentiful.  The mushrooms stood out in the dish and it was made with an extra kick of hot as I had requested.

Ivanna, my friendly bartender, offered a suggestion for a beverage.  She held up a bottle of Vodka which had hot peppers floating in it – the bar did it`s own infusion.  This was mixed with a combination of their own lemon squash, simple syrup, muddled Thai basil and a slice of green apple .  Easily one of the best cocktails I`ve had in years and bonus points for the unsolicited recommendation.

It was a great place, awesome night and a great balance between very serious food and drink without taking itself too seriously.


  1. […] or mixed into a fabulous Caesar.  I had a Sour Apple Martini made with pepper-infused vodka at Red Pearl Kitchen in San Diego last winter that I still dream of (it did not scorch the […]

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