Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

Happy New Year!  On New Year's Day, we decided to take advantage of the slower holiday crowds and go to a restaurant that is normally packed to the gills.  We walked into Pearl Dive Oyster Palace for an early dinner and were seated right away.

Pearl Dive is the newest of the Black Restaurant Group places and the first in Downtown (it's on 14th Street Restaurant Row in the Logan Circle neighborhood).  We've written about B's love for Black's and our meal at BlackSalt.  Pearl Dive has a more casual feel than Black's with about the same noise level and bustling bar scene as the boisterous BlackSalt. 

Since Pearl Dive has "oyster" in the name, we had to start with an oyster dish.  The waiter recommended the Tchoupitoulas hot oysters: a sinfully rich blend of oyster confit, blue crab, Tasso ham and roasted corn.  If you don't like oysters, try this dish.  It's a great foray into the oyster world and doesn't taste slimy in the least.  I also like the name Tchoupitoulas.  A few years ago, I went to New Orleans about a dozen times for work.  The local guys I worked with (all Louisiana railroad men) taught me how to pronounce the name of Tchoupitoulas Street so I wouldn't sound like such a tourist (it's sort of like chop-it-too-luhs). They also swore that the locals call it "T-Chop" for short.
Pearl Dive gets a round of applause for their fantastic bread basket.  I loathe when restaurants put out crappy bread baskets, so I want to make sure I point out the awesomeness of their Addie's Rolls and cornbread muffins (first basket is free and they'll charge for the second, third, fourth...)

I took another waiter recommendation for my entree and ordered the "Que Sueno de los Gatos" which translates loosely to "what cats dream of."  I'm not a cat person so I don't claim to know what they dream about, but I know I've been dreaming of this dish since I had it.  This seafood stew with shrimp, redfish, squid, mussels and saffron milk was simply outstanding. To be honest, I usually order seafood stews and mussel dishes so that I can sop up the sauce with the bread.  The seafood portion, for me, is the afterthought.  This dish showed me that the seafood can be the star.  Each piece was perfectly cooked and delicious.  That doesn't mean I didn't use every last bit of that bread to sop up the saffron milk broth. We may have even asked for extra bread....

The waiter told B that this wood grilled Gulf Coast redfish with sage-native pecan butter and stone grits is the most popular dish on the menu.  After one bite, we could see why.  Jeff Black and his team know how to grill a fish like nobody's business.  The pecan butter added a rich and silky finish that knocked it out of the park.

I pretended to look at the dessert menu but B knew that when I heard "peanut butter and chocolate" we were going to be having the Peanut Butter Black Bottom Pie.  Dark chocolate ganache, pretzels, peanuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter mousse, caramel glaze.  Did someone invade my dreams and create my perfect pie?

Pearl Dive set such a high bar for meals in 2013, I'm a little worried we're in for a let-down from here on out.  Good thing it's a short trip over to 14th Street when I need my seafood fix.

Second Thoughts From B

Before I sat down to write this post I went back and read what I wrote about Pearl Dive's sister restaurants.  I now have the problem of having nothing new to say.

I'll be the first to admit that my vocabulary (even when counting the words I make up) is not particularly impressive.  And having to describe the consistent excellence of Jeff Black's dishes is becoming more than a little challenging.  How many times can I say that his seafood creations are perfectly cooked, mouth-wateringly seasoned, delicate yet bold, balanced and thoughtful?

Ordering a dud for once might actually be refreshing.  What can't this guy do?  Next you're going to tell me that he's ruggedly handsome, married to a supermodel, is a scratch golfer and is solving the country's debt problem in his spare time.  Is it possible to have a crush on a chef?  I think I need an intervention.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Mr. Cheap Eats said...

Love Pear Dive! Ms. Classy and I went for our New Years Eve dinner. We got the Que Sueno de los Gatos “What Cats Dream Of” and the Blue Crab Cakes. I tell you - eating those crab cakes was like a religious experience for me.