Sungari Pearl will change your mind about Chinese food in Portland. Serving contemporary cuisine that draws from Szechuan and other traditions, Sungari allows fresh ingredients to shine in a tastefully minimal room. Battered, deep-fried foods, so often the downfall of American Chinese restaurants, are like delicate clouds of flavor here. No MSG is used, and even the chili oil is housemade. The ample menu is strong on seafood, poultry and vegetarian entrees, along with a satisfying array of soups and appetizers (try the scallion pancakes, wontons, steamed bean-curd sheets and crispy spring rolls—or select the sampler platter). The austere Crispy Pepper-Skin Duck reveals the meat's tantalizing texture, and the spongy Pei Pa Bean Curd cradles scallops and prawns in a subtle mushroom sauce. Creative house cocktails are definitely worth investigating. Other restaurants may claim more Chinese authenticity or lower prices, but Sungari Pearl's approach makes it a Portland gem. (TLB)