8191 Strawberry Lane, Suite 2
Falls Church, VA 22042
PRICE $$ ($13-$20)
HOURS Open for lunch and dinner daily, late-night dining, Friday and Saturday, brunch Sunday.
NVM AWARDS Best Restaurant 2009
Best New Restaurant 2009
Best Restaurant 2010
Best Restaurant 2011
Best Restaurant 2012
NEARBY METRO Orange(Dunn Loring-Merrifield)
SPECIAL FEATURESAccepts Credit Cards
By Warren Rojas
Food: 8.6 Ambiance: 8.1 Service: 7.9
Marine life amplified by Asian-American accents clearly remains Sea Pearl’s forte.
But chef Sly Liao appears to be having great fun experimenting with farm dwellers as well these days.
Staff—including Liao’s gracious wife and partner, Ly Lai—make it easy to settle in courtesy of their warm smiles, cool drinks and encyclopedic knowledge of Liao’s culinary savvy. One server’s animated synopsis of the menu was as intoxicating as a poetry slam cribbed from “Larousse Gastronomique.”
A “salad” of chicken Paillard summoned thinly pounded bird, fried in a crunch-magnifying blend of panko and pulverized Italian buckwheat, escorted by arugula, asparagus, red onions and grape tomatoes.
Seared foie gras couldn’t save an overpriced banh mi mash up (buttery liver was good; anchoring shaved ham, less so), but found a formidable ally in the mightily dressed Akaushi burger (Wagyu by way of Texas).(November 2009)
By Warren Rojas
Food: 8.3 Ambiance: 8.1 Service: 8
Though the surrounding neighborhood remains in various states of construction, Merrifield’s Sea Pearl is reeling in a semi-steady stream of regulars with some pretty far-reaching cuisine.
Chef/owner Sly Liao seems much more comfortable with seafood—his seasonally inspired menu typically includes over half a dozen dedicated marine offerings, and seafood creeps into at least half the pasta dishes—than poultry or game (sporadic chicken dishes, a few steak options).
But, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Adventurous eaters will be handsomely rewarded by the grilled pacu ribs (kin to the Amazonian piranha). The girthy fish mimics grilled pork incredibly well (hearty meat holds sauce like a champ; network of translucent spines keeps fire-kissed flesh intact), while the doctored tamarind glaze imparts equal shots of sweet and sour.
Garam masala-infused lamb swaddled in freshly baked naan receives a blast of freshness from dewy cucumber slaw (entire meal brings Indian street food home).
Pesto-smeared flatbread (its oil-absorbing prowess keenly exploited) is decorated with curry shrimp, tangy parmesan and vibrant tomato chutney in an expression of Indo-Mediterranean ingenuity.(May 2009)
By Warren Rojas
Agreeing to anchor an entirely new retail/housing complex while the rest of the area undergoes municipally ordained radical reconstruction is daunting enough. But vying against relatives—particularly when your competition is the regionally revered Four Sisters—for hospitality traffic is truly audacious.
Confidence is high chef/owner Sly Liao and wife Ly (nee Lai) are up to the challenge.
The spacious main dining room whispers its marine theme (net-like placemats, shimmering strings of mother or pearl seashells), while the low-lying couches in the lobby-like lounge and airy bar setup speak volumes to veteran cocktail hounds.
“The menu is short, but everything on it is delicious,” one friendly young server suggests.
Sadly, an Asian-style barbecue sandwich stumbles, bearing bunk pork (over-sauced, underdeveloped) and lackluster support (gluey bun, dim relish).
The kitchen redeems itself with roasted sea bass basking in a double helping of heat via a miso-jalapeno medley (piquant rings cling to the sticky soybean shellac), while baby bok choy and jasmine rice offer moral support. Filet mignon is showered in phenomenally zesty Szechuan chilies, cracked pepper pods and lush soy sauce (silky texture, volatile spice), and arrives flanked by a savory hash of shiitake mushrooms and steamed vegetables.