Gaslamp: Red Pearl Kitchen's woks go cold

Hollywood-style Chinese eatery closes just before Chinese New Year

Heading by the Mardi Gras party downtown. Folks are rattling around with a ton of beads round their necks. Russian girls on their pedicabs are doing great business.

But, like, $50 to get in? Gimme a break.

Me, I'm thinking of another celebration. Chinese New Year, aka the Spring Festival. And yes I know it was officially the 10th this year, Sunday. But from what I hear it runs through to the “Lantern Festival” on the 15th. So we should still be in the zone.

That's why I'm here near Chinatown. Looking for Red Pearl Kitchen (440 J Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues, 619-231-1100).

Great riff on Chinese food and atmos, run by a caucasian cook, so I hear. Heard they had a great happy hour. So I come up Fourth (Fifth's blocked off) to the corner where The Oceanaire Restaurant is, turn right and head for the red and yellow sign.

But uh oh: sign on the door…

So I go next door to Oceanaire, up the stairs (it’s on the second floor), and ask the Maitre d’ there. “Yes, closed two weeks ago. Think they just didn’t get enough business,” he says.

Dang. Had my eye on that for a while. Bit expensive, yes, but I liked how they’d set out to capture a sort of Thirties Hollywood image of, say, exotic, spy-filled Shanghai, with irresistible gals in cheongsams, opium dens, and the US Navy in town. I know. My imagination’s gone to town. Whatever, it seemed like the first time anybody who wasn’t actually Chinese dared take this on.

But I’d hesitated to go try basically because, well, appetizers around $10, entrées $15-$20.

Then I heard about their happy hour with dishes for like $5-ish.

But penny short and a day late: The door says it’s temporary, everybody around here says it’s for keeps.

Is this closure a coincidence? Because turns out there’s a Red Pearl Kitchen in LA too, and it has also recently closed its doors.

Anything to do with Chinese New Years? That’s when I hear Chinese tradition is to clean house, sweep away any ill-fortune and make way for good incoming luck.

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