What better way to come back from a year-and-a-half-long blogging hiatus than with a fresh new site design and a review of the sparkling new restaurant by Aaron Silverman, Pineapple & Pearls?
Two weeks ago, for my thirty-first birthday, Kyle (my husband) surprised me with a dinner reservation at Pineapple and Pearls. As a brief background, Pineapple and Pearls is the brand new restaurant by Aaron Silverman, chef and owner of Rose's Luxury in Capitol Hill. It is a tasting menu that consists of a 15-course meal priced at $250 per person. The price is steep, but unlike most other tasting menu or prix fixe restaurants in DC and elsewhere, it includes alcohol, tax, and tip, which makes it relatively affordable by comparison (see e.g., Minibar). Booking for each week opens up the month before and you pay for the meal online (half gets charged to you a few days before the reservation, half afterwards), so when you finish dinner you can just leave the restaurant. It's brilliant.
We only do meals like this on special occasions, but over the past few years we have been lucky enough to try out a few of these types of restaurants and they generally fall into one of two categories - meals that leave you filled (e.g. Komi in DC or Blue Hill in NYC), and meals that are more about the food's execution than about leaving you over full. P&P falls into the latter category - the visual presentation and the food's execution are impeccable.
P&P only opened in April and has received rave reviews thus far, including from Tom Sietsema, who recently declared Pineapple and Pearls to be an "astounding" dining experience. Sietsema listed P&P as the number one new restaurant in DC, so to say I had high expectations for this dinner is an understatement. In fact, I was so excited about the dinner that I started to get worried that I could only be left disappointed. Thankfully, my worries were entirely unfounded - P&P lived up to the hype and then some.
The entire dining experience was perfection. From the moment we walked in the door, the servers were attentive and the mood festive. You enter through the front of the Pineapple and Pearls coffee shop - which is a functioning coffee shop and sandwich shop by day - and are greeted by the hostess and immediately offered a cocktail while you wait to be seated. The night we went, one of the cocktail options was P&P's take on an Aperol Spritz, which immediately won me over (Aperol Spritzes are my favorite).
The dining room is a small but intimate space with seating for roughly twenty people. The room's design has been thought out to the last detail - it is warm and welcoming with a distinct 70s vibe, including gold accents, wood tones, and chic retro green tiles near the kitchen. At the end of the room is a wide marble chef's counter that overlooks a bright, white kitchen that is bustling with activity. It felt like there were as many chefs in the kitchen as there were people in the dining room, and each one seemed to be engaged in preparing the food the precision of an alchemist.
The precision pays off in incredible and inventive food. Sietsema's review called the food playful, and he dared his readers "not to smile" when encountering some of the courses. I thought his description was a little much when I read it (Sietsema, you ham), but it is shockingly accurate. There is a light-heartedness to the presentation of the meal that carries into the taste of the food itself. From the very first course, we knew we were in for a treat.
The first course was a Fennel and Absinthe Bonbon, pictured above, with yogurt, fennel, and absinthe inside. The bonbon was delicately balanced on a glass of absinthe, cucumber, and herbs. It was a whimsical start to an impressive 15-course run. Each of the courses is masterfully executed and, while each plate's description sounds incredibly complex - full of different ingredients and multiple methods of preparation - the food is not heavy or burdened by technique. Instead, despite the intricate preparation and the often impressive presentation (the egg drop soup was prepared table side over a flame), the food has a simplicity to it and a brightness of flavor which was surprising and delightful.
I won't list all of the courses, but a few favorites were the Roasted Potato Ice Cream with Caviar that we both agreed we could have eaten a pint of, the Ramp Tempura with Ponzu Sauce and Ramp Vinegar, and the aforementioned Egg Drop Soup with Parmesan Consomme and Foraged Spring Greens. They served one family-style course, a Mole Smoked Beef Rib with garlic crema and stinging nettle barbecue sauce that was so satisfying we had seconds (I mean, the server offered . . . ). The alcohol pairings also perfectly complemented each course.
The meal started at 8:45 and we finished around midnight. After the last courses were completed (and we had eaten some birthday cake), we got up - no check needed - and made our way to the door. The hostess saw us out with two to-go bags that contained the menu for the night and pistachio shortbread and cold brew coffee for the morning. Ultimately, while the meal, and its price, are definitely an extravagance, I could not recommend Pineapple and Pearls more highly. If you're considering splurging on dinner, P&P should be on the top of your list.