Break out your ’60s pearls for this vintage mid-century hauntRestaurant Review Thursday, March 10th, 2011
In San Diego, our neighborhoods are all very unique. Probably so much so, that we tend to never leave them.
I often talk to people who live in North Park that never venture to Little Italy. Some Hillcrest residents stay within the triangle of Bankers Hill, University Heights and Mission Hills. Even La Jolla sometimes feels like another state away and I have friends who literally have not been there for years.
For this review, I felt like I needed to venture out of our traditional comfort zones and explore something different. Point Loma seems to be one of those places we as a community never venture to – unless, of course, it is Sunday and we make it to The Hole. In the midst of military housing, million dollar estates and yacht parking, there is a little hotel that could tempt you to venture a little further afield.
The Pearl is one of those cheeky places that is a throwback to an era that is known for strong gin martinis, key parties and shag carpeting. Interesting enough, all three of those things still seem to exist in this time machine of a restaurant, bar and hotel. Throughout the country I have often seen many places try and capture the style of a certain decade. Some do it very well, others do too much, while there are some that don’t do quite enough. Here it is done exceptionally.
In the new craze of mid-century design, The Pearl has done well to recreate the best vintage from the time. The outside of the building on Rosecrans looks like a million other hotels that we have scattered around. What makes this one different is the world they created inside. With the front desk to your left and a happening bar on the right, immediately your eye goes to the design and the shag carpeting.
Dark teak woods make the tables which are all high bar tops. The chrome and white leather stools offer a modern touch. A bar is reminiscent of what you’d find in the living room of an affluent ’50s suburban household. Large sliding glass doors open up to a large kidney shaped pool. You can just imagine ladies in daisy bikinis floating in the center of the pool, as hunky men in white swim trunks stand on the rim drinking their scotch and sodas.
The mid-century feel continues to flow through in the menu. Chef Aaron Lamot embraces the theme, but offers a more healthy view of modern times. Oysters on the Half Shell ($13) are served on a retro oyster plate and offer a fresh, tasty, variety that is different every time.
Bacon-Wrapped Tiger Shrimp ($12) might be one of the only items that give no consideration to your heart and cholesterol level. Drenched in bacon grease and then topped with a triple crème fraiche, the crispy house made bacon delectably wraps a large tiger shrimp. Disappointing on one visit, the shrimp was very overcooked and had a rubbery texture. Yet, on the next visit, they literally melted in your mouth.
The mains, as they are listed, have great variety. This definitely is one of my favorite aspects of any restaurant, and chef Lamot has done a great job putting together the entrée list. There is something for everyone.
Being able to cook duck and scallops perfectly are two simple tests that show up the talents of a young chef. Chef Lamot passed with flying colors on both. Oven Roasted Duck Breast ($22) served a perfect medium rare was the ideal match for the rosemary gratin. The Burgundy reduction combined with the juices from the duck left me wanting more bread to sop it all up.
The Meyer Ranch Boneless Short Rib ($18) keeps with the trend of everyone having a version on their menu and this one I have seen a million times. I wish chef had chosen to do something more original and thematic with this dish. I am exhausted by the overdone style of polenta and braising greens.
The Jumbo Diver Scallops ($25) is a dish that really showcases chef’s talent. Seared with just the right amount of caramelization, chef keeps the dish simple with a sweet corn risotto together with a beautifully done Meyer lemon vinaigrette. I loved the mix of luscious scallops, sweet corn and the tangy sauce. This to me won hands down as the best dish on the menu.
Keeping the theme going all the way, the drink menu is one of my favorites in town. Where else can you go and get an iconic Old Fashioned or a Rob Roy that you actually want to drink? Even the detail of the garnish is reminiscent of the time period.
The Pearl’s mantra is “Down to earth and up with style” and I couldn’t agree more. “Vintage retro meets modern boutique” is definitely the flavor of the ambiance. Matched with good food, crazy fun cocktails and a “dive in” poolside theater get out of your comfort zone and step back into time, all the way to Point Loma.
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