Friday, March 2, 2018

Little Pearl

Little Pearl occupies the former carriage house of the Old Naval Hospital, the Civil War-era property that was transformed six years ago into the Hill Center, an arts, cultural and education facility. From the team responsible for the Michelin-starred Pineapple and Pearls and Rose's Luxury, Little Pearl offers pastries, sandwiches and gelati by day in its coffee shop, and snacks that pair with boutique wine when it transforms to a swanky wine bar at night.  Closest Metro is Eastern Market.

With online reservations opening last week, we were able to snag a table to check out the wine bar side of James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Aaron Silverman's all-day eatery.  The entrance was a bit confusing - there is no real hostess stand so we thought we were walking into a private party, as a bunch of people were just standing around the bar (no one was sitting at it).  But we were waved in and told they were waiting for a few tables to clear in the conservatory before they could seat us.  As we walked towards the back, the glass conservatory room was dimly lit and incredibly loud with chatter and pumping music in the background.  This was not the vibe I expected at all. It was like some pretentious club, rather than a chill neighborhood wine bar that I had envisioned.  Nevertheless, the service was familiar to the Rose's team and soon set me at ease.

I started with a glass of pinot gris from Oregon that was light and crisp.  It paired well with our first snack of Angel Eggs.  Traditional filling and flavors on a light meringue instead of hard boiled egg white created a unique texture experience.  The bite was slightly sweet and fun, but at $1.50 a piece you'd have to order many to fill up, so I suggest just getting one or two to try as an amuse and then move on.

Keith really wanted cheese to go with his glass of French Malbec, but the closest snack available was an odd Cheese “Whiz” & Biscuit Crackers for $7.  Cheddar cheese was spread on a thin cracker and topped with saffron, apple, thyme, and jalapeno.  We cut it like a mini pizza to eat in small pieces.  The cheese had a weird grainy texture and the thyme was quite overpowering.  This was my least favorite snack of the night.

The Crispy Potato came in four pieces for $6 topped with a spicy cod roe hollandaise.  This was the first warm snack we had, and was a bit oily and had very subtle roe flavor.  I squeezed the lemon on top for much needed acid that brightened the bite.

For my next glass of wine, I tried the 2015 Omero Cellars, Pinot Gris, from Willamette Valley, Oregon.  This orange wine was cloudy, funky, and strong.  It is not something you see on every menu, so I appreciated the uniqueness and am happy to have tried it.  Keith switched to another red wine blend from Chile that was heavy with smoke on the nose, but light on the palate.

Lastly, Keith ate the Corned Beef Lengua Tacos.  Two come in the order for $9 and were cold with lots of horseradish, mustard, and lettuce.  They were underwhelming, and I even overheard the table next to us who ordered the same thing express the same disappointment.

Contrarily, I loved the Classic Moules Marinieres (Sailor Style). PEI mussels were steamed in an intoxicating sauce of saffron, cream, dill and herb oil, served with two lovely pieces of toasted, garlic-buttered baguette.  For $16, this larger dish (compared to the other snacks) was delicious, but not the best bowl I've had nor the most generous for the price.

As far as the ambience goes, I am guessing the packed room and boisterous patrons are due to anticipated buzz of the new P&P off shoot.  I did feel a little rushed out and did not like how people stood right by my table, waiting like hawks.  I hope it will die down soon, so that I can come back and truly enjoy that neighborhood wine bar experience that I'm yearning for. I also suspect that as soon as the weather warms up, the patio seating will be more enjoyable for both the coffee and wine lovers.

Total Rating: 3.65
Food: 4, Price: 2.5, Service: 4, Ambience: 3, Accessibility: 5

Little Pearl Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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