pad thai from pearl cafe photo by elizabeth maxson

Review: Pearl Cafe in Florissant

Turning out top Thai food with great specials, affordable drinks and lightning-fast service, Pearl Café shines bright among the businesses and storefronts along North Lindberg Boulevard.

Warm Welcome
Walking into Pearl Café is akin to walking into your grandmother’s house – a warm greeting, great cooking smells and a sudden urge to eat everything in sight. Unlike your grandmother’s (probably), beer bottles line the walls like an oversized drink menu and the scent of coconut, lemongrass and lime float through the cacophony of a lunch rush.

grilled pork with sticky rice at pearl cafe // photo by elizabeth maxson

The Pearls
The grilled pork with sticky rice is so good it will inspire repeat visits. Beautifully charred, the thinly sliced pork arrives on a bed of shredded carrots, glistening with a sweet, sticky coconut marinade. The crisp carrots and springy rice nicely complement the tender pork, creating a truly craveable dish. Though I usually prefer more spice, the sumptuous pad Thai also won me over. A heap of chewy rice noodles is coated but not drenched in the classic sweet, salty and slightly sour sauce, topped with a crunch of crushed peanuts. Honorable mention goes to the Thai dumplings, which are filled with marinated pork, fried until crisp and arrive piping hot, sans grease.

thai chile stir-fried with chicken // photo by elizabeth maxson

Plentiful Specials
Both affordable and plentiful enough to yield leftovers, the lunch specials are served with rice, a fried spring roll, a Thai butterfly (think crab Rangoon) and the soup of the day. This is often rice soup – straightforward but savory, consisting of chicken broth, rice, carrots and green onion. Standouts include the Thai chile stir-fried with chicken – onions, carrots, and green and red peppers stir-fried with chicken and a tasty Thai chile sauce – and the yellow curry packed with sweet potatoes, carrots and onions and your choice of protein (with some unexpected options including duck and a seafood mix of shrimp, squid, mussels and scallops) all in a flavorful, coconut-forward yellow curry sauce. This is comfort food that gets better with every bite. The flavors meld and the heat builds as you eat it, so take your time.

yellow curry with shrimp // photo by elizabeth maxson

Thai Heat
I was disappointed to find that dishes like the Spicy Basil, boasting an ominous chile icon, were not packing the punch they promised. However, on a second visit, I ordered extra spicy and was given a choice on a scale of one to five. Beware: That range apparently starts at pleasant burn and ends at death-by-capsaicin. After being advised that level three is hotter than Tabasco, I tried a level two. It was just the right amount of heat – enhancing flavor without blasting my palate.

The Takeaway
Just as the oyster works tirelessly to turn a grain of sand into a pearl, so Pearl Café has worked to provide quick service and great food for its throngs of lunchtime customers. Pearl Café is one Florissant gem that should not be overlooked.