Jean-Georges’ House of the Red Pearl in the Tin Building

It goes up, down on South Street.

The latest addition to the much-improved Seaport is Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s sparkling new, landmark-scaled Tin Building, the largest, most copper-chic dining room and market modern New York has ever seen. Spanning 53,000 square feet over three floors in a renovated landmark building, the project is more than a mouthful for even the most dedicated foodie to swallow.

Offering everything from serious dining to gourmet takeaway, the edible extravaganza is just too big and varied to understand right away. But I’m ready to anoint the early breakthrough star of the ambitious project: an extremely cute, classic Chinese-inspired restaurant called the House of the Red Pearl.

Hidden behind a curtain, Red Pearl’s 70 seats on the second floor are destined to become the hottest destination amid a sea of ​​them. The room’s retro-style oriental motifs are likely to tick off “cultural appropriation” grins, which view such things as exploitative. (Wait until they find out the chef’s name is Matthew Rojas.) Judging by the happy faces, many of them Chinese, I’ve seen in the room, most diners seem excited to be here.

Chili Garlic Prawns are just one of 17 dishes on a rotating menu at the House of the Red Pearl, a breakthrough star in Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Tin Building.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post

Built in the early 1900s and for many years an integral part of the Fulton Fish Market, the Tin Building was recently relocated and painstakingly reassembled above the East River, ten meters east of the monument’s original footprint, right next to the increased FDR Drive.

Years in the making, the collective dream of Vongerichten and South Street Seaport operator Howard Hughes Corporation features six sit-down restaurants, just as many grab-and-go spots, several bars and wine bars, plus a countless number of food markets and shops from any culinary streak.

At present, their myriad delights can only be tasted in small bites, as swarms of locals and tourists already do. The Tin Building is currently open in what they call preview mode, Thursday through Sunday from noon to 5pm. It won’t have a full schedule until sometime after Labor Day—and that’s only if Vongerichten manages to hire an additional 300 employees on top of the 300 currently working there. No small task, given the current labor market.

Catch them when they’re open, and you’ll find a meal at the House of the Red Pearl, a tempting appetizer for the rest of the party. Lovingly created by design firm Roman and William, the look is said to be inspired by 1960s James Bond films and the Peacock Room, a famous interior painted by James McNeill Whistler, installed at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The average eater will walk in and think, “old fashioned New York Cantonese restaurant crossed with a speakeasy.” Gold-on-red chinoiserie wall, velvet-lined benches and booths, and ceiling fixtures of clustered, onion-shaped Vietnamese-style lanterns delight anyone with an eye for beauty and a taste for fun.

The Red Pearl has a clandestine vibe, thanks to its secluded location behind an Asian food boutique called Mercantile East, which sells oils, salts and sauces. (All products are labeled ‘Tin Building’, as is everything else for sale in the complex.)

More love seems to have gone into the look than any of the Tin Building’s other attractive eateries, such as the all-Italian Frenchman’s Dough and the truly French T. Brasserie. Perhaps it reflects Vongerichten’s long-standing love affair with Asian flavors that began with his first kitchen job in Bangkok at the age of 23.

The renovated and relocated Tin Building, South Street Seaport.
An integral part of the Fulton Fish Market for most of its life, the 1901 Tin Building has recently been relocated and carefully reassembled, ten feet east of the monument’s original footprint, right next to the elevated FDR Drive.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post
The Mercantile East at the Tin Building.
Look for the Asian-themed East Mercantile store of the Tin Building, then go behind the curtain – that’s where you’ll find the House of the Red Pearl.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post

The menu’s 17 items (which change daily) are divided into appetizers, larger seafood and meat items, and noodle-and-rice dishes. They include the best egg drop tomato soup I’ve ever had, and a sweet, summery corn fried rice with ginger and crispy fried egg, with each kernel and grain making itself known individually. Smooth shrimp and pork wontons arrive in fragrant, drinkable chili oil.

No reservations are accepted. But don’t wait until after Labor Day – what is now a short wait will very soon become an exercise in patience.

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