A fusion of Chinese, South Texas, and Southeast Asian flavors will be on the menu at a new restaurant planned for the Pearl.
It is the creation of chefs Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin and Quealy Watson, owners of Tenko Ramen, a counter-service restaurant in the Pearl’s food hall, and was originally conceived of by Dobbertin, chef Anne Ng, and ceramic artist Jennifer Ling Datchuk.
The three women bonded over similar types of food they enjoyed as children in Asian American households.
“Growing up as a third-culture kid [a term used to refer to children raised in a culture other than their parents’], you’re always in this search for where you belong,” Dobbertin said. “Lucky enough to grow up in a bicultural city like San Antonio, I didn’t experience being ‘the other’ until I left for college.”
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In a quest to claim her identity, Dobbertin moved to Asia and later discovered that what connects people is sharing food and experiences, she said.
The name for the new restaurant was inspired by The Joy Luck Club, a 1993 film based on a book of the same name. Over a sink full of dirty dishes after a New Year’s Eve dinner, a Chinese American daughter cries, “No matter what you hope for, I’ll never be more than I am.” And the mother reassures her, saying she sees that the girl has the “best quality heart.”
Best Quality Daughter’s menu of new Asian American cuisine represents a balance between dishes Dobbertin discovered during her travels and the comfort food of her youth as a first-generation Chinese American.
The menu includes Thai curry baba ganoush, crispy fried pig ears, and twice-baked bananas; “rolled” items such as chorizo, egg, and cheese potstickers; noodles and rice including mochi gnocchi with sauce Mornay and Chinese sausage, and phat kaphrao pork fried rice as well as family-style meals such as salt ‘n‘ pepper king crab and red-cooked beef short ribs.
Dobbertin co-developed the menu with Watson, a partner of hers at The Monterey, Hot Joy, Tenko Ramen, and various pop-up dinners.
The bar program, overseen by local beverage consultant Elisabeth Forsythe, includes handcrafted cocktails, boozy boba, and a curated selection of wine and beer.
The restaurant, with both indoor and patio seating, will offer dine-in, carry-out, and delivery service.
The owners commissioned Datchuk to create a unique host stand for the entrance of the restaurant. Made from mirrored Plexiglas and colored porcelain prize ribbons, the host stand celebrates girls as “beautiful and winners in every shade,” said a statement released by the Pearl.
Datchuk also serves as art curator for the restaurant’s gallery which will feature work by Asian-American women artists.
Lake Flato architects Vicki Yuan and Grace Boudewyns are leading the interior design team for the new restaurant, which is based on the Chinese concept of four symbols and four auspicious beasts that appear in Chinese constellations, while the Dado Group is overseeing the project design.
“Pearl is honored and thrilled to welcome Best Quality Daughter,” said Elizabeth Fauerso, chief marketing officer at the Pearl. “Chefs Jenn and Quealy have been wonderful partners with Tenko and we knew their inventiveness, commitment to excellence, and experience would add depth and visibility to San Antonio’s culinary landscape.”
The Pearl’s announcement said an exact opening date for Best Quality Daughter will be announced soon.
Also coming soon to the Pearl is Chilaquil, a Mexican street food concept created by Orlando and Susana Aguirre. Chilaquil, which began as a food truck located on Broadway Street, will open its first brick-and-mortar location in the Pearl’s Bottling Department in October.