The Collegian
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

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UR Hungry: Pearl's Raw Bar

Family weekend is one of the best weekends of the year for all of us foodies. Parents from all parts of the country come to see their dear children they miss so much. And since they miss us so much they are willing to spend some dough. Family weekend is a great opportunity to try all of the restaurants in Richmond you have always wanted to try but cannot afford on a college budget. I made my family reservations at Pearl's Raw Bar Friday night.

I chose Pearl's for a few reasons: It has a great raw bar with lots of seafood caught locally on the coast of Virginia or from the Chesapeake Bay. Also, it has a Southern twist on certain dishes but still has plenty of light options and it is reasonably priced (this was only the first night of dinner, after all). Dinner entrees are between $10-$20, a great price for the quality and quantity you are getting here.

Pearl's is located on Main Street in the Fan district, so there is a nice vibrant feeling in the area. The atmosphere in the restaurant is very cool--the front room feels like a clean, chic bar while the back room is actually an old garage with clear glass garage doors that open up to the sidewalk of a quiet road off of Main Street. The restaurant has a great vibe with all of the tables being filled with conversation and laughter.

The service at Pearl's was also great. They were very flexible with making and changing around our reservation, and our seating accommodations were spacious yet close enough to encourage privacy and intimacy for each table. The staff was young, fun, knowledgeable and very helpful when we were choosing among the 50 things we wanted from the menu.

They also had a nice wine and cocktail list. They serve bloody marys all day and night and have five or six variations to choose from. So many bloodys, so little time. They also have plenty of unique, homemade cocktails to satisfy the more adventurous type while still keeping the classic staples for the traditionalists. The wine list had a few different bottles of Pinot Gris (my favorite white wine), which is not always easy to find.

Now to the food: All of it was awesome. To start, we ordered a local oyster sampler, which was amazing, and it was so interesting to see how different oysters could be in taste and appearance, even when they are caught just a few miles apart.

We also ordered their fresh cut boardwalk fries--so thin and crispy, we could not get enough. Then we ordered the avocado terrine, a very cool take on guacamole. It is served in pyramid form. The bottom layer is smashed avocado, on top of that is a black bean and corn salsa, on top of that is roasted tomatoes and then they drizzle on a cilantro-jalapeno vinaigrette and serve it with corn tortillas. To wrap up our appetizers, we ordered a house salad with simple and fresh ingredients that were delicious.

For the main course, we ordered a variety of dishes. My mom ordered the salmon, which was paired with coconut pearl couscous and wakame salad (a mild seaweed) and glazed with a lime and sweet chili sauce. The whole dish worked perfectly. Then, my friend ordered the black bean tacos that our waitress recommended. It was a great vegetarian dish--I could have eaten those alone and felt like I wasn't missing out on anything. They were served with black bean and corn salsa, slaw, avocado, chipotle aioli and cilantro vinaigrette.

The tuna my friend's mom ordered was very good. It came with edamame, corn, peppers, bacon and lobster butter. Lobster. Butter. My dad and I decided to split a few things: the oysters Rockefeller, buffalo fried oysters and blackened ahi tuna sliders (just can't get enough of those oysters!). The oysters Rockefeller were delicious. They were served with sauteed spinach, melted gruyere and applewood smoked bacon. But the buffalo oysters ... I felt a little bit bad about those, but they were so worth it. Buffalo sauce on anything is good, but a homemade buffalo sauce brought these to the next level. They were served with blue cheese dressing and picked celery, which offset the buffalo sauce perfectly. The tuna sliders each had a thick piece of tuna and were topped with avocado and chipotle aioli. They almost felt hearty until I remembered that I was eating fish. It was a pleasant surprise.

After all of this food and a couple bottles of wine, we still managed to make room for dessert and ordered a classic vanilla creme brulee. The top was warm and the custard was cold, so we knew the sugars on top were caramelized just for us by hand.

I have also had brunch at Pearl's and really enjoyed it, but that's a story for another time.

I would highly recommend Pearl's to everyone--it is not just seafood, so there is something on the menu for all types of eaters. It is not expensive and you leave feeling like you have treated yourself to something fantastic, because you have.

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Contact food critic Sarah Stewart at sarah.stewart@richmond.edu

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