Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pearlz, Redux

Y'all remember when I wrote about Pearlz Oyster Bar a couple of months ago?  No?  Well, you can read about it here.  Or maybe you shouldn't.  It wasn't the most complimentary post in the world.  At that time, the food was good, but our service was beyond awful.  I hate when something so basic ruins what would have been an otherwise good experience.  It turns out that Paul, one of the owners of Pearlz in Columbia, saw the post and wasn't too happy that his restaurant had left such a bad taste in my mouth (pun absolutely, 100% intended).  Paul emailed me to apologize for the bad experience and to invite me back so that they could make it up to me.  Of course I accepted - remember, it wasn't the food that was bad.  I totally understand that people have an "off" day, so I was happy to try Pearlz again.  I'm not exactly one to turn down a meal when it's offered.

I am super glad I was willing to give them another shot.  I met L at Pearlz after work.  I got there first, and from the minute I walked in the door, I knew the experience was going to be better than last time.  Kara, who ended up being both our server and hostess, started chatting with me as soon as I walked in the door.  Eventually L got there and Kara led us to our table.  We opted to sit inside this time, to check out a different aspect of the restaurant. We ordered a couple of beers and took our time trying to decide what it was that we were going to order.  Kara was a huge help.  After detailing all of the daily specials, she went through nearly the entire menu with us, explaining how things were prepared and what her favorites were.  She went into so much detail, it was just like she was the chef, detailing her creation.

We finally decided to order the Steamed Blue Mussels.  Basically a gigantic bowl of mussels in white wine, garlic (and I mean actual garlic pieces!), and some fabulous combination of herbs and spices.  We tried to figure out exactly what the spices were, but we weren't totally sure.  We asked the omniscient Kara, and even she wasn't positive.  She did tell us that the chef on duty that night was from Colombia, so he always adds a little South American spice to every dish he makes.  It was a good addition.  The mussels were perfect.  And huge.  And the broth?  Well....I asked L if she thought it would ruin my street cred if I took the straw from my water glass and tried to drink the remaining broth from the bowl.  Unfortunately, she said yes.  *sigh*  I did, however, used the excellent French bread provided to sop up as much of the broth as I could.  Heads up - make sure you order extra bread.  Trust me, you'll want it.  The super fabulous Kara brought us extra without us asking, so we very much appreciated that.
That bowl is deeper than it looks.  So many mussels, we were almost too full for dinner.
After much deliberation of the menu, and taking into consideration the emphatic suggestions from Kara, L and I finally decided on our meals.  We almost didn't get actual meals since we were so full from the mussels, but we threw any thoughts of our surely soon-to-be-expanding waistlines to the wind and ordered dinner.

L decided to get the daily dinner special.  On this occasion it was grilled barrel fish (imagine if swordfish and grouper had a love child.  This would be it) with roasted potatoes and garlic infused broccoli, with a thyme infused lemon gastrique.  It was a delicious as it sounds.  The fish was tender and fell apart every time L tried to get a bit.  The potatoes seemed to have the same spice profile as the broth for the mussels (amazing!), and the broccoli was COVERED in little bits of minced garlic.  L really liked it, and I definitely liked the bits I tasted.  The gastrique was very sweet, almost like it was made with a bit of honey.  It was superb on the fish.

Good looking piece of fish.  And check out the color on that broccoli!
Taking Kara's advice, I decided on the Fresh Catch.  The fresh catch has several options for choice of fish, preparation method, and accompanying sauce.  On this night, the choices fish choices were barrel fish, scallops, salmon, and rainbow trout.  Scallops are one of my favorite foods (and Kara had been raving about how good the pan-seared scallops were), so that's what I chose.  I got them pan-seared (as opposed to blackened, grilled, or fried) with the Thai Chili Lime Aioli and Tartar Sauce.  Not your typical tartar sauce - this one is probably delicious with fried fish, as it resembles the spicy sauce they serve with the Bloomin' Onion at Outback.  The aioli was nicely balanced with citrus and spice.  I was a huge fan.  The scallops were absolutely perfectly cooked.  Cutting into them was like cutting into butter (which, as a side note, I've always thought was a bizarre expression because if you keep your butter in the fridge, it's hard as a rock, but I digress).  Fresh catch comes with Charleston red rice (red beans & rice, minus the beans) and grilled asparagus.  I really wanted the garlic infused broccoli, so I got that instead of the asparagus.  It was a good choice.  The broccoli, like I said before, was covered in garlic, but it was also crunchy.  It drives me crazy when vegetables are overcooked and mushy, so I was super excited about the broccoli.  It wasn't raw, it was just lightly sauteed and taken out of the pan before it lost it's color and crunch.

I don't know what has the better color here: the scallops or the broccoli.
 At this point, we were totally stuffed.  We debated whether or not we could afford to rent a forklift to lift us out of seats and transport us to our cars, but it ended up being a little impractical.  Both L & I had that glazed over, fat and happy look on our faces.  We were done.  I didn't even have enough room for another beer.  Until Samantha, restaurant manager, swung by our table and told us about the homemade White Chocolate Razz Cake that was available for dessert that night.  Did I mention that it had been made that day?  And that it was chocolate cake with raspberry filling and white chocolate icing?  How do you say no to that?  Especially when you're told that you can get a glass of milk with it too.  So we said yes.  And while we each only had about three bites of the cake, it was a fantastic decision on our part.  The cake was moist and rich and flavorful.  Like I said, it was homemade.  One of the cooks at Pearlz helps his mother run a local bakery and that's where the cake came from.  The bakery in question is Lil' Bits Cupcakes, and I'm strongly recommending that you try them.  Rumor has it (and by rumor, I mean Kara) that Lil' Bits has the best red velvet cake in Columbia.
Did I mention that this was the biggest piece of cake I've ever seen?
Bottom line?  I'm so glad that Paul reached out to me and asked for a second chance.  L & I had a wonderful time.  The food was incredible, the service was outstanding, and the atmosphere was great.  Huge thanks to our absolutely incredible (can you tell I'm running out of appropriate adjectives to describe her?) server Kara.  We'll be asking for you the next time we come in.  I would suggest that you do too.  She knows the menu like the back of her hand, doesn't hesitate to offer recommendations or to take the time to go through it with you.  She's quick, efficient, super friendly, and funny.  One of the best servers I've ever encountered.  Big thanks also to Mike and Samantha who took the time to come over and personally ensure that L & I were having a good time.  I really also appreciate the feedback they gave me on this blog.  It's good to know that someone other than my mom reads it and appreciates it.  Y'all get yourselves to Pearlz sometime soon.  I think you'll enjoy it.

(New) Final Rating

You can find Pearlz Oyster bar on Facebook or the web

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