Pineapple and Pearls

How much weight do you give to the number of Michelin stars a restaurant has? Throughout our culinary journey together, my wife and I have been to restaurants with three stars, two stars, one star and no star. While the Michelin star-system, controversial in some corners of the restaurant world for being biased toward European- and Japanese-oriented fine dining tasting menus, has certainly guided us in choosing where to eat, and yes, the star ratings in some of the places we ended up visiting turned out to be pretty accurate in terms of the worth of the experience, there were many other times where we were like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe this terrible restaurant has a star at all!” Ever since we discovered the awesomeness of Rose’s Luxury in DC after we moved to the DMV area from NYC, I had my eyes set on Pineapple and Pearls, the two-Michelin star establishment from chef Aaron Silverman that opened earlier this year after having been closed during the pandemic. The heightened expectation for P&P was elevated even more when I read a glowing review in the summer from Washington Post’s venerable Tom Sietsema, who declared that the restaurant is a “singular sensation that I’d be willing to pay for myself,” the highest possible compliment from a restaurant critic who gets to check out restaurants for free, especially considering the hefty $325 per person price of admission. With all due respect to Mr. Sietsema, our recent dinner at P&P re-affirmed our view that stars are not everything.

The experience at P&P is in many ways differentiated from what you typically encounter at other fine dining restaurants. It’s almost like you are transported to an ad hoc kitchen training session where you get to see the magic coming out at the sleek counter seating in front of the kitchen. There are elements of intimacy, spontaneity and ingenuity that gave Jun and I very high hope that this restaurant would be something special, like when the first bites of mini crepe-like pouches called “beggar’s purses” (with caviar on top) atop tall glass objects (we were specifically instructed to eat with our mouth only, no hands involved, but the length of the glass objects was quite challenging to achieve that feat). The format of the restaurant was also somewhat unorthodox for a fine-dining restaurant; instead of a uniform list of tasting menu dishes that come out, you get to choose one dish each from two options in the list for two appetizers and entrée. The very best tasting menu restaurants in our experience have always done magnificent jobs with gradually building momentum in the trajectory of the meal. Surprisingly, P&P’s momentum peaked in the middle and then started going downhill. The first appetizers, a beautifully plated Japanese egg custard inside bamboo stalk (with a variety of wild mushrooms inside) and expertly grilled roast squab served with fresh cherries and cocoa sauce, started on the right track.

Our consensus best dish was in the second-appetizer list for pastas which we knew would be special based on our experience at Rose’s Luxury. The Mont Blanc pasta, inspired by the famous Italian dessert and consisted of brown butter, chestnut filling and parmesan-white chocolate sauce that was just pure awesomeness with wonderfully refined flavor (it completely overshadowed the otherwise fairly delicious gnocchi dish that we also ordered) and would certainly be worthy of a spot on the best pasta pantheon for anybody who loves pastas. Our excitement after tasting that delightful pasta, unfortunately, was followed by puzzlement over the underwhelming main dishes. The Surf and Surf dish, a combination of “poor man’s lobster (monkfish)” and “rich man’s lobster (lobster)” served with lobster infusion sauce and lobster butter hollandaise sauce, was rather forgettable and was surprisingly off in the temperature and texture of the seafood. The worst dish of our meal was probably the charcoal grilled tenderloin with artichoke-Comte gratin and a bowl of what the restaurant calls “filthy potatoes,” accompanied by a sauce made from a bottle of bourbon. The meat’s texture was decent enough, but the seasoning was just overwhelmingly strong that Jun had to put down her fork after a couple of bites.

The main desserts (you get to choose two out of three on the menu) were similarly disappointing that our most memorable dessert was a delightful stinky cheese ice cream that arrived after the savory dishes. The hazelnut mousse (modeled after Ferrero Rocher) didn’t quite have the depth we were looking for, and despite the stunning presentation of pineapple carved on sight and accompanied by mango, chamoy and condensed milk, the LA style mezcal pineapple dessert purportedly paying an homage to the taco trucks of Los Angeles was not as refreshing or memorable as we would’ve liked. At the end of the meal, you are led toward the soft serve machine at the front of the restaurant; after you bring a cup of butter popcorn soft serve back to the counter table, you will also have dessert beverage that serves as the night cap. We also got a goodie of hamburger to bring home; we tried the next day and it was quite delicious, even more so than the tenderloin.

The restaurant is one of the hardest restaurants to secure a reservation at the moment. If, despite my mixed review above, you are still inclined to check out P&P, plan way in advance (it seems the restaurant’s reservations on Resy open up three months out). If not for the food, at least the dinner party-like atmosphere of sophistication and extremely attentive service from the friendly staff makes the experience at P&P quite unique. The wine list at P&P is also quite wonderful with surprisingly reasonable price range, making me wonder why the sister restaurant Rose’s Luxury couldn’t come up with a more fun and thoughtful wine list during our visits. I really wished we had enjoyed P&P a lot more. Our mixed experience was further clouded when we were told the restaurant’s menu is not expected to change dramatically over season. If P&P would like to rise to the top of the DC dining pyramid, I think the kitchen needs some work to do other than a few stand-out dishes. As controversial as it may sound, we had much more memorable time at Rose’s Luxury which may be more casual than P&P but offered more wow factors in its ingenious dishes, at a fraction of the price tag.  

KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)

Address: 715 8th St. SE, Washington, DC 20003

Website: https://www.pineappleandpearls.com/

Reservation via Resy

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