The Pearl
 Columbus, Ohio        Date of Visit  08/30/14  

Looking for fun dining with friends, Jegunda recommended we try The Pearl. A Cameron Mitchell restaurant. He’s got a pile of them. I dined at two different ones, years ago in Pittsburgh and remember them fondly. For some reason, we have not tried others. Well, we are in Cbus, we have a trusted recommendation, adventurous friends, and the waddle is finally subsiding from the many dogs at Dirty Franks. To The Pearl we go. The restaurant is super trendy…and super relaxed. The staff are all sharp and the diners are mostly in old Buckeyes gear and shorts.



Some Of Cameron Mitchell's Joints

We are shown to our seats, past the oyster bar and find a busy restaurant humming with excitement.

Our server's name was Jordan. I want to make a special point of this. We are at nearly 500 restaurant experiences to date. We may be a little jaded. The Pearl shook us from our standard expectations. Two bold statements follow:

1: The food is some thing I would expect from the New American Genius Charlie Palmer.

2: The service is akin to the late and great Charlie Trotter.

There. Take that. Jordan and the rest of the team, including the sous chef we spoke with were extraordinary. Fun. Effortlessly efficient. Incredibly generous. Nearly faultless, but quick and enthusiastic in recovery. It was a wonder to watch and experience. What a great night.


Jordan informed us of their “No Risk” policy. He encouraged us to order outside of our comfort zone (not a problem) but stressed the restaurant's commitment to diners’ happiness, proven by their guarantee to find something you would love. We loved it all.

We ordered two snacks and two appetizers. Those are different? The snacks were devils on horseback and crispy fried cheese curds. The devils on horseback were good, stuffed date, wrapped in bacon, theirs are topped with a mignonette of some kinds and were tasty. I would still stay Fahrenheit and Green House Tavern did them better, but they were really good. If the theory was the snacks differ from the appetizers in size, the curds were the exception proving the rule. A pile of battered and fried cheesy lumps were served with a cup of deep and rich gravy. Poutine without the fries. We made short work of them.


Devils On Horseback

Incredible Gravy With The Fried Curds


P.S. Sorry the pix are so yellow. Yellow florescent lights right over our table. Trust me, the chow looked way better to the naked eye.

The appetizers included a thick but ungloopy clam chowder with oyster crackers and a chorizo dust. Rich, clamy, great vegetable notes, delicious. The last of the four was probably my favorite.

The Jalapeño Corn Spoon Bread  with whipped butter and  local honey was sublime. Not too sweet, not too spicy. There was just enough honey to bring life to the spread of butter. The corn bread was full of texture and unsweetened (except for naturally) corn and they had treated the peppers to emphasize the fruity aspects of the jalapeno and kept just a hint of spice.

An excellent adaptation of a classic.

Rich But Not Ridiculous Chowder


With Extra Wow On The Side

The first entrée bite I had was a piece of fish from the Great Lakes Fish n Chips with Malt Vinegar Fries. It was also the something that would be a continuing theme. Exceptional seasoning. The fish was fresh, piping hot and delicious, but the crust was the star. Bright and lively, perfect saltiness and then dusted with big irregular crystals of finishing salt which exploded between your teeth. Not in a salty kind of way, but drawing out the other flavors in the fish and batter. The fries were perfect. Thin crisp crust as evidence of a second or third frying in screaming hot oil; with a fluffy and tatery interior from a more patient initial dunk. The slaw was savory and rich. It seems the Pearl only gets sweet when it’s called for. I’m a fan. All fish batter should bear some semblance to this dish.

I ordered the shrimp and grits. Grits, gouda cheese grits. Hit me. Some of the shrimp had carried over to just rubbery but they were stacked on top of poblano peppers and a sick (good way) short rib kielbasa. Nice pepper, oozing fatty goodness, succulent glory. Add the well-seasoned shrimp, rich grits, add 20 degrees and 40% humidity and a cup of sweet tea you might be on the bayou. A classy part of the bayou.

Excellent Fish & Chips

Savory Shrimp & Grits

The braised short rib fell apart like Steph watching a schlocky movie. If you pressed it with your fork it shuddered and devolved into a wet delicious mess. Set atop beautiful horseradish mash and topped with glazed root vegetable and a darkly wonderful ale reduction, the whole dish is comfort food on illegal steroids from a 1980’s Eastern Block country you’ve never heard of, makes your heart race but warms your soul.

The fourth dish was more of a surprise than a straight out hit. The Southern Fried Chicken. It came with cider braised greens and something else. What was it? Oh yeah, a cinnamon sticky bun. No kidding. In a full out assault on all things Roscoe’s (and anyone else making a living on chicken and waffles) this was served with an iced cinnamon bun. A sticky one. Take heed wafflers…you’ve been challenged, and found wanting. Steph was not only a convert, she has repeatedly talked of proselytizing. More people need to know the truth and glory of the cinnamon bun and fried chicken convergence! The chicken is topped with the same finishing salt and coated in a crust with 16 spices, many warm fall ones, including cinnamon, echoing the sweet, sticky bun. Sweet and savory. Marriage. Long term successful marriage.

Serious Comfort Food

And Large Gobblets Of Comfort Juice. Large & Incredible Moscow Mule

Great Chicken & Doubters Beware

Waffles Are In Trouble

I tried the greens. They were good. I don’t think anyone else took a bite. We were getting stuffed anyways. Jordan noticed the uneaten veg and insisted we try the mashed potatoes. We didn’t ask…he noticed…he insisted…he delivered. We have had the world renowned mash from Joel Robuchon. Didn’t care for them. All butter. No potato. One of my favorite dishes of all time are the mash from our first Top Secret location. These crushed Robuchon and approached the latter. Perfectly creamy, smooth, milled balance of starchy root and sweet butter. One of our companions made me jealous when he said “I’m going for some potato on potato action” and proceeded to dip a beautiful fry into the glorious mash. I was surprised a vortex didn’t open to another time. Thanks again, Jordan. Well, there’s another thanks coming.

When we first sat, we asked about the pies. Jordan was excited about them. It was contagious. Barely able to breath, we contemplated pie at the end of the meal. Jordan joked, “he’ll buy us two and we can buy the other two and have all four”. Go the full monty. Have all they have to give. Surely it was a joke, no server would pick up half of their table's dessert. Well, the joke was on us. He picked up all four.

There was a key lime margarita cheesecake round. Nice flavor, but whatever it was set with made the consistency less than appealing. There was a butterscotch pie which had upsides and downsides. A crust akin to layers of crispy phyllo dough was loaded with a layer of butterscotch, one of chocolate and whipped cream. The chocolate outweighed the butterscotch. It was delicious but there wasn’t much in the way of butterscotch.

The Key Lime Was Alright

As Was The Butterscotch

Thin But Loaded Brown Sugar Butter Pie

Awesome Cobbler

There was a brown sugar butter pie, described to us as a pecan pie, sans pecans. It was a good description. Sticky and rich and sweet, pie is good. Even without nuts. Thinking about it, it might be better with the nuts but I wouldn’t turn it down for the lack of them. The last arrived with a candle burning in the center. Whose birthday is it? Jordan told us it was to commemorate our first visit to the Pearl. Cast iron held a wonderful apple blackberry cobbler topped with an expertly seasoned topping. I could barely walk out the door. If you’ve ever wanted to put on a Tshirt and cutoffs to be treated like royalty. Fat, overstuffed royalty. Try The Pearl.




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