Sea Pearl – Northern Virginia Magazine’s Top 50 Restaurants

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Tinsley’s Take

Sea Pearl ReviewedLocated in the newly revitalized Merrifield Town Center, you’ll find cute boutiques, chic restaurants and a new movie theater. So it was no surprise to find one of Northern Virginia Magazine’s Top 50 Restaurants located in this hip, new town center. I can’t express enough what an amazing job the developers did with the Merrifield Town Center. Sea Pearl, coming in at number 25 on their list, brings a lot of flair to area.

Jason and I have made reservations 3 times to dine at the Sea Pearl. Unfortunately, something always came up and we had to cancel. I was so excited to finally get to check out this restaurant; it was overdue.

First and foremost, the restaurant is huge and is divided into multiple sections to accommodate a diverse range of restaurant goers. The bar is modern and simple; it’s the perfect setting for a ladies happy hour or a sexy date night. The ‘fish bowl’ has large tables, lots of space and a glass partition that  separates this area from the bar and main dining area, making for a nice noise buffer. This area is perfect for large parties or families with kids. The main dining area is very sleek, featuring table tops for 2-4, which are perfect for a quiet dinner or double date. I loved the serene atmosphere of the Sea Pearl, but I found the size to be a double edged sword. I personally enjoy the warm charm of a rustic farm-to-table style restaurant and you won’t find that at Sea Pearl. The size brings forth the notion of cold, with servers and staff constantly rushing and buzzing around. I found it difficult to relax with that level of traffic.

Let’s talk about the food. I ordered the pickled beet salad with the grilled jumbo shrimp. The beet salad was perfectly pared with dates, toasted almond and feta. With every taste you got a little bit of creamy, tangy and sweet. The pomegranate vinaigrette was delicious and played well with each ingredient. The only thing the salad lacked was seasoning, for which we had to wait nearly 20 minutes to get. My question is, why wasn’t salt and pepper included as set up on the table? Apparently, the server didn’t even know where to even find it. Really? I mean come on. I understand that some chefs feel that their food is executed in such perfection that no extra salt and pepper is needed. In my opinion, if that’s the case, you better deliver on that promise. In this instance, Sea Pearl did not.

The jumbo shrimp was awesome and had an interesting Asian twist. The dish was paired with a hash of sweet potato, carrot, edamame and toasted peanuts. The Asian inspiration showed through on the finishing component of a ginger miso lime glaze. I could have lick the plate clean; it was that good. I would have never thought to add this flavor combo and applaud Chef Liao for this creation.

Overall, I enjoyed our evening. It was a fun atmosphere, we had great food and I had a hot date (wink wink). Am I dying to go back? No, and I wouldn’t put this on my top 5 list. However, if anyone ever suggested the Sea Pearl for dinner, I wouldn’t turn them down. I give them 3 out of 5.


Jason’s Judgement

As Tinsley mentioned, we had been wanting to try Sea Pearl for a couple of years. I wish I could say it was worth the wait. The restaurant itself was attractive, with interesting features throughout. However, the overall size was off-putting. To me, the restaurant felt as if it was large enough for two restaurants. The size coupled with the frantic staff who zipped about left me yearning a more relaxed, intimate environment.

My citrus salad was over juiced; lip pucking and then some. Good flavors, but I didn’t need an overdose of vitamin C. My panko pan fried crab cake was properly cooked and delicious, but came with an odd paring – Asian slaw. The slaw came overdressed and lacked excitement; I left it to bathe in it’s puddle of shame. Our apple tart dessert was undercooked and very bland. Even our server said, “It didn’t look quite right to me, not like it normally does.” Then why did you serve it?

Between the whirlwind staff, the poor service and lackluster food, I could never recommend Sea Pearl. I wouldn’t make another date night there with wifey, but I might consider joining a group if that’s where everyone else wanted to eat (and if my pleas to go elsewhere failed). Tinsley’s rating left me scratching my head, especially since she’s a good service stickler. I give #25 on Northern Virginia Magazine’s Top 50 a 2 out of 5.



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