Precious Gem (Pearl Oyster Bar -- Oakland, CA)
The most difficult thing about going to Pearl is resisting the temptation to go to Oliveto, which is right across the street. Using our superhuman strength, Jon and I managed to turn our backs on that saucy temptress, and boy, were we glad we did.
I had made a reservation for Pearl because we were going to be seeing a play in the east bay later in the evening. I made it for the ass early time of 5:30 so we'd have time to get to the show without feeling rushed at dinner. When we parked around 5:15, we noticed a line was already forming outside the still locked gate to the restaurant. Good sign.
Once we got in, we decided to give our table up so we could sit at the bar. I wanted to watch them make the raw dishes. The space is really well designed; They manage to use all possible seating areas without it feeling cramped (it's a relatively small space).
Ordering was difficult because everything looked so damn good. We went first with the easy choice -- a dozen oysters. Which we ate in a dozen milliseconds. Even the bartender was surprised. Oh, honey, you don't know what you are dealing with here. The oyster selection was great, and they present them on a little bed of stones. The mignonette was clean and perfect and I daresay that they were the best shucked oysters I've ever had; no shell, no grit, perfectly detached. There's nothing worse than a bad shuck. So I was pleased to see that we had one great mother shucker.
A little Gruner Vetliner from Austria for me, a little mojito (soju style) for Jon. Wine was great but Jon says skip the cocktails. Pearl is looking to get a full liquor license but it seems a neighbor has blocked it. So go now before they get real drinks because once they do, there will be no moving around at all in there.
Then we had the tuna poke. The tuna cubes sit on top of cucumber cubes. Not a bad combo. And the tuna was gloriously pink and gorgeous. It just melted in our mouths. The cucumber was a nice complement but the cubes were too large, making the texture balance a bit off. The tuna, however, just melted as soon as it hit my tongue. I again used my superhuman strength to prevent myself from sticking my face into the lovely martini glass that it came in.
Next was the sashimi. We were trying to choose between that and the ceviche and the tartare. The bartender sold us on the sashimi, which was incredible. The fish that was feautured that night was tombo (I know, more tuna). We watched the chef cut beautiful little slices and drizzle them with shiso. Yummy.
We then had the crabcakes. Unlike the crabcake at Cortez, Pearl's crabcakes were something to write home about. These are stuffed to max with some tasty crabmeat, and there is more than one crabcake so sharing isn't an Olympic sport. The sides of the plate have sauces you can drag your bites through. One of these sauces is Siracha, our condiment of choice. Mmmmm...Siracha...
We also thought we'd give two of their sides a try. First, their spicy fries, because if you haven't changed the channel, you know I can't pass up french fries. We also had the corn with chili lime butter.
Both were excellent. The fries were barbeque-ish and I could find no faults. The corn was fresh, and still on the cob, and since I finally got over my corn coma from 2004, I was able to enjoy it (Corn was so good and abundant in 2004 that you couldn't go to a restaurant without encountering it at some point in your meal. This pushed me over the edge, where I did not fully recover until recently). The only issue with the corn was that there was not enough chili in the chili lime butter. Otherwise, it was great.
Jon was still hungry, but I was pretty satisfied. We both wanted dessert, Jon had picked out two, I one. Jon was having trouble giving up one of his choices, since I wouldn't budge on my choice. The bartender suggested we get all three. Riiiiight. No thanks, I like not having diabetes. The bartender was knowledgeable and helpful, but he wasn't good enough to get me to buy three desserts.
So Jon settled. He got a mixed berry trifle, and I got bourbon butter pecan gelato with caramel sauce and toasted oat cookie. Now you tell me, which would you choose?
Jon's trifle was very good. The berries were fresh and juicy, the cake-y bits were delish and the whipped cream was a force to be reckoned with. But mine, oh sweet Jesus, mine was the most enjoyable dessert I've had all year. Cross my heart and swear to James Beard.
First, though, don't call it gelato. It's not gelato, it's fucking ice cream. Since when did it become considered common to have ice cream on your menu? Come clean, bitches! It's good ice cream so just call it ice cream.
OK. So this ice cream of mine, was fucking phenomenal. The buttery taste mixed with the roasted pecans was perfect enough, but the caramel added a depth that brought tears to my eyes. I am not kidding. The flavors worked perfectly. I then stood on the bar and did a little dance. Plus, there was whipped cream, and whipped cream on anything just adds to the sexiness. The major coup in this was that Jon, who had fought so diligently to NOT have this dessert, liked it better than his own and was very contrite that he had almost prevented us from ordering.
We finished with coffee so that we wouldn't pass out at our three-hour-play, and when we left, we were lamenting the fact that we weren't able to try more items due to our gastrointestinal limits (damn you, stomach!). Everything we saw looked so good that we spent a lot of the meal torn between what we had ordered and the other things we saw passing by us (such as the tartare trio that looked like piles of little crystals).
So what are you waiting for, bitches? Go fish.
"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."