Pearl – April 2007
6.56 - 7.5, 7, 7, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6
The broad strokes, first.
The entree list reflected the American Seafood cuisine that Pearl flaunts, but other choices are presented well also. The crab and lobster Frangelica penne balanced slivers and chunks of crab and lobster; a sauce that was seafoody yet a blend of delicate cream and an emerging sweetness; aptly prepared al dente penne; and a garnish of color at the center of the foot-wide plate. Don and Deb K voted it good to excellent. Deb T's St. Croix Scallops -- poached scallops, rice, and a side of steamed vegetables -- was satisfactory but fell short of Deb's favorite preparation of searing or glazing. Chay tried the special -- the Cioppino, with its usual, perhaps a mite skimpy, mix of seafood, but prepared with a surprising red sauce that Chay preferred to what he was expecting. The cioppino came with more pasta than usual; Chay thought it excellent. Judy experienced the swordfish, topped with flaked crabmeat, and deemed a little overcooked and a little dry.
The other three ordered their pleasure -- beef. After a couple months absence from her menu, a strip steak was Kriss' choice. It was ordered well done, as usual, but the beef came out more medium, and, for the first time in DP8 history, Kriss sent it back for the desired preparation. Back it came, more to Kriss' liking who judged it good. Ken ordered the sirloin steak, medium-well, and deemed it very good. Tim had the filet mignon, served with the obligatory steamed vegetables and a small portion of mashed potato side. The filet was served with an herbed butter topping, something Tim scraped off. The portion, when first delivered, must have looked small because Bill (the waiter) announced a second serving was being prepared. (When it did arrive twenty minutes later, Tim allowed four of us to share it; although good, one ounce was enough for me.) Tim thought the meat very good and the second piece even better, both prepared the medium-rare he ordered. (Krypton got Kriss's doggie bag.)
The appetizer list consisted of about a dozen items, complemented by only two salads but they were sufficient. A Caesar salad, capably prepared, accompanied by a three inch slice of anchovy, each served five. Two houses salads -- mesclun and spring mix, with a couple of cherry tomatoes, topped with shreds of carrot -- kept two more happy; and Tim tried the sculptured shrimp cocktail, with a four oxymoronically large shrimp draped succulently over the edge, with a zesty but not overpowering red sauce, highlighted with a plume of a twisty fried dough concoction rising against a green.
On the other hand, I will talk about nothing. Dessert. A long pause had ensued after the entrees, and we were waiting for a mention of the dessert menu. Bill announced the restaurant had run out of the chocolate mousse the night before, and was devoid of even more choices this night. The remaining list of only four desserts quenched our usual enthusiasm for dessert. So, no dessert, no coffee, and we chatted for a few more minutes. Black mark.
First impressions always matter, and our first impression of Pearl was varied. The greeting area was a little off, a few guys hanging out on the stone patio, leading to a small welcoming area, leading into a very polished, brown wood, classy bar with a view of the street action. This led to the maitre d's podium and a spookily darkened, empty upper bar, with no view of the dining area. But, just around the corner was a stylish, almost-retro room of a wall of banquettes and about ten tables, two of which were joined together for DP8.
We took our places at the white linen tables, with two green napkins displayed in a diamond position, setting off a distinctive geometry. Dark wainscoting topped by cream walls led up to an inner recess border, with a combination of recessed lights and four antique-ish chandeliers -- quintets of gooseneck lamps artfully emitting a soft light. Later, we would comment on the dozen pieces of artwork, somewhat abstract, and as Judy opined, amateurish. The ends of the room were topped with deep blue finish, part of Pearl's color theme. Stylish, yet less than what the Pearl aspires to.
And, then service. Mostly, service was deemed good to excellent. Salad and entree delivery each was a two trip venture with another of the staff helping. Bill appeared at the right intervals to take care of the drink and food orders, as well as timely checking on our convenience. He even endured the ladies' suggestion that he might have to take some clothes off (a story we won't go into). Water glasses were ably filled, and Ken's coffee taken care; all was accomplished with a coolly quiet but efficient and friendly demeanor. Entrees arrived 50 minutes from our entry.
In the meantime, Ken started his coffee consumption early, and Bill proved to be up to the task of keeping Ken's cup filled with excellent coffee, a judgment Ken seldom makes. The pacing was excellent, even a speck fast up through the entrees.
The detail strokes
Our drink order was typical. Two bottles of 2005 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir kept the five red wine drinkers happy, a better wine than usual. A pinot grigio and two diet sodas rounded out the order.
Our initial seating at the tables was followed within minutes by a single basket of thinly sliced long-loaf bread, accompanied by two plates of sculpted butter. A separate butter knife at each setting was a classy touch.
The seating of two ends (Ken and Don), with sides of three, makes for a strain-free evening for hearing. Then, too, the restaurant had only three other tables filled this evening, and we probably made more noise than the three combined.
Of course, there are all the other parts that have become tradition. We had started at 5:15, comfortably settled at the Karnes' kitchen, at April's end, and the green grass of spring finally winning over winter's brown. We picked and stabbed and dipped and played with the veggie tray, a bowl of watermelon chunks, crackers and guacamole dip while checking our busy summer calendars. Future dates necessitated a pair of Sundays because of no unanimous Saturdays. The women checked the theater schedules while the men thought shuffleboard. Spring weather, yard work, a burning car accident on the Bypass, children's life situations, et. al., filled in the three-quarters hour until departure time.
Some of us guess where we are going but, unless the host slips, it is becomingly increasing difficult to venture a good guess. Kriss guessed Albany from the beginning; after the cars drove onto 787, I guessed Troy. After Exit 4 on 787, and a loop in the Jillian's area, Chay and Deb feinted toward Jillian's and Skyline before heading to Pearl at 1 Steuben Place off Broadway.
Our chatter ran the usual gamut -- South Carolina preparation, the shooting of the trooper and the local impact, some school stuff (sorry, non-school people).
And, no matter how hard Kriss pretends to try to keep us on the straight and narrow, we invariably sink for the low humor.
... the Monteverds stole the show this evening. However, it must be noted that Judy... almost got ... first prize.
The stroll back to the car, with a view of the city lights reflecting from the rain dampened streets, was a visual delight. We drove out of the $10 parking lot and through the traffic of the just releasing Barnum and Bailey Circus crowd.
And, on this night, a yen for dessert still beckoned. So, we stopped at Stewart's in Feura Bush on the way home, which six of enjoyed while the Frangelica and Sambuca boys "guarded" the cars. The ice cream server was unexpectedly friendly and served larger portions than we expected.
All in all, the 54th DP8 date was an enjoyable evening with friends, as well as another worthy food experience again (even if Kriss feels the pressure to rate).
- closed Autumn 2008 (liquor law problems)