A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 06, 2004
Lemon Chicken
Chinese "lemon chicken" was the specialty of Manhattan's Pearl's Chinese Restaurant, originally at 148 West 48th Street and then, in 1973, moved to 38 West 48th Street. The 1969 New York Times recipe cannot be printed here in full, but it is on other websites.

Pearl's Chinese Restaurant opened in May 1967, and its chef, Lee Lum, created the recipe for owner Pearl Wong.


25 March 1969, Hartford (CT) Courant, "Inside Fashion" by Eugenia Sheppard, pg. 19, col. 4:
If Scaasi travels laden with luggage, it's because each time he goes he carries cartons of Barbra's favorite lemon chicken and other Chinese treats from Pearl's Restaurant.
(Arnold Scaasi and Barbra Streisand. -- ed.)

14 September 1969, New York (NY) Times, "Oriental Tang" by Craig Claiborne, Magazine sec., pg. 92:
One of the most interesting of the Chinese dishes available in Manhattan is a creation of Lee Lum, the highly skilled chef at Pearl's Chinese Restaurant at 149 West 48th Street. It is called simply Lemon Chicken and consists of boneless chicken breast, coated with water chestnut powder, crisply fried and served over crisp vegetables in a sweet and pungent lemon sauce, whose extraordinary flavor comes from the ounce of lemon extract that is added at the last moment. The recipe is given here for home cooks who would like to duplicate Lee Lum's triumph.

21 December 1969, New York (NY) Times, "Pearl's a Success, Alas, for Owners" by Nan Ickeringill, pg. 29, col. 1:
Pearl's Chinese Restaurant, 149 West 48th Street, opened in May, 1967 and already stockholders have received a return almost equal to their original investment.
(...)
They bring friends and business associates to dine at "their" restaurant and help spread the fame of its lemon chicken and pork pancakes in dining-out circles.

11 January 1970, New York (NY) Times, "The taste of the year" by Craig Claiborne, magazine sec., pg. 92, col. 1:
The three most popular recipes, here reprinted, were Lee Lum's lemon chicken, a recipe of the chef at Pearl's Chinese Restaurant in New York; ...

24 September 1971, New York (NY) Times, pg. 46:
Standards at Pearl's Have Slipped a Bit
By RAYMOND A. SOKOLOV
(...)
The pre-eminent specialty, lemon chicken, is not a native Chinese dish. The strong lemon taste is certainly unusual, and many people admire it, but the strips of chicken themselves, at a recent lunch, were dry.

16 October 1994, New York (NY) Times, pg. LI29:
A Successor to the Original Pearl's
(...)
Could this be the legendary Pearl, who ran her namesake restaurant on West 48th Street in Manhattan? No. We are told that Pearl is 87, retired and living in Chinatown. The ball of fire in Manhasset is Stella Kwan, who took over from Pearl in 1984, eventually moving to the Island in 1991.

21 January 1995, New York (NY) Times, pg. 12:
Pearl Wong, 86,
Restaurant Owner
In Mid-Manhattan
By J. MICHAEL ELLIOTT
(...)
When the restaurant's quarters were razed for an office tower in 1973, it was moved to its current location at 38 West 48th Street, where the architectural firm of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates gave the interior a cool, sophisticated approach.

13 February 2006, The New Yorker, "Serial Monogamy -- Personal History" by Nora Ephron, pp. 90+:
I even cooked an entire Chinese banquet that included Lee Lum's lemon chicken. Lee Lum was the chef at Pearl's, the famous Chinese restaurant where no one could get a table. If you did get a table, you remembered the meal forever because there was so much MSG in the food that you lay awake for years afterward. Lee Lum's recipe for lemon chicken involved dipping strips of chicken breast in water-chestnut flour, deep-frying it, plunging it into a sauce that included canned crushed pineapple, and dousing the entire creation with a one-ounce bottle of lemon extract.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Monday, December 06, 2004 • Permalink