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Pearl Oyster Bar -- Review

So, after many years wanting to try it and never getting my butt down to that part of town, I finally managed to eat at Pearl. I was desparately craving a lobster roll, and had it narrowed down to Mary's, Tides, Mermaid Inn and, of course, Pearl. It was a Saturday, so I would have to brave the Saturday night crowds, and after reading many hounds reviews, raves and/or criticisms and weighing to pros and cons, I decided on Pearl.

I knew that I wanted to fried oysters and mussels to start, and that I would not be satisfied without the lobster roll, but was somewhat frightened by some of the reviews indicating poor service. On the subway down I issued my SO a warning: although the food should rock, the service probably would not. Boy was I mistaken.

We arrived about 10 minutes prior to opening to see a line of 20 or so Pearl fans, eager to get one of the first tables. By pure luck, we (a twosome) were happy to receive the very last table in the house. We ordered the Sancerre, and although they were out the server very gratiously recommended another white with hints of Peach in the finish. To my surprise, her recommended choice was nearly ten dollars cheaper than my first choice, and we were very happy with the pairing.

The apps arrived (fried oysters and mussels) and we were in heaven. Light crisp breading on the oysters crunched in our mouths and gave way to a creamy FRESH FRESH taste of the sea. The oyster itself was cradled in the shell and resting on the best homemade tartar sauce --- a perfect accompaniment. The mussels were also to die for, fresh plump and juicy, in a light cream sauce that we happily shoveled into our mouths with the bread that the servers not only supplied, but resupplied us with.

Then came the main course: for me, a lobster roll with those great shoestring fries and malt vinegar and for my SO, the boulliabaise, which came with more mussels (which we were not tired of, especially because they were complimented by two very different sauces), two cherrystone clams, a large and perfectly grilled scallop, what we believe was a piece of red snapper, a large shrimp and a half lobster tail. We alternated bites between the lobster roll and the boulliabaise, and probably weirded out our neighbors with our very audible oohs and aahs. Absolutely NO complaints. The lobster roll -- as documented in the past by fellow hounds -- came in a perfectly delicious and fresh buttered roll: soft and a little crisp at the same time, and the butter was an ideal compliment to the MORE than gracious portion of lobster. I had read that Pearl uses too much mayo, but did not find that to be the case. Instead, my roll had more lobster than anything else, which suited me just fine. And the fries, well -- I would go back just for the fries. We also had their house specialty apple crumble and coffee (both equally delicious), and were never once rushed by the servers. In fact, we were checked on (not to rush us, but to see if we were interested in more bread, refills on wine, more coffee, etc...) by not only our server, but the host and, most impressively, Rebecca Charles herself. I thought it was so refreshing to hear her expediting in the kitchen throughout the course of the evening. It was a great feeling to know that she was the one doing quality control.

All in all, we were extremely pleased with every aspect of our first Pearl Oyster Bar experience. If any of you are craving some great fresh seafood in this cold off season, head to Pearl Oyster Bar and you will be transported both time and place to your beach house -- wherever that may be.

Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia Street
NY, NY 10014
(212) 692-8211

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  1. I agree with your assessment and would like to recommend to fans of lobster rolls that they also try the ones at the fish market in the Chelsea Market, which are nicely seasoned and more reasonably priced. True, you sit at a table and down it quickly, but we're always happy with that lobster roll and their chowder (which you spoon out of a big pot).

    1. I'm so glad you liked Pearl. As a native new yorker and complete food addict it continues to be one of my favorite restaurants and not really for the lobster roll, but more for her fried oysters, amazing mussels/fries and daily special fish. I have NEVER had a bad meal there....ever.

      1. Yep!!! Still my favorite place to get lobster rolls. I absolutely abhor Mary's (for the service and attitude) and I think Mermaid's roll is good but not yummy like Pearl's.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JoLi

          I find service middling at both, but have usually felt awfully cramped at Pearl's, more so than Mary's--which is saying something.

        2. I love both Pearl and Mary's, neither for the service, but for the food, which has never failed me.

          Glad to hear you had a good time after waiting so long.

          - Sean

          1. I can never get past the mixed seafood cocktail-used to be maybe $12-14 for an icecream sundae glass filled to the top with clams,oysters, shrimp and lobster. I order two and I'm done for the night.

            4 Replies
            1. re: guttergourmet

              Well I still couldn't pass up the combination cocktail (shrimp, clams, oysters and lobster) but its now $16 so instead of ordering two I said what the hey and finally tried the lobster roll. I managed to pick it up and eat it with my hands. An orgasmically good mess. I'm converted.

              1. re: guttergourmet

                Wow - I'm impressed that you could eat it with your hands. I've somehow never noticed that combination cocktail - I always start with the fried oysters. How much was the lobster roll, by the way?

                1. re: MMRuth

                  $27. But I now compare all restaurant prices to my regular sushi omakase experience which usually exceeds $200 just for me. So $16 for the seafood cocktail plus $27 for the lobster roll + $5 for a perfectly drawn pint of guinness= bargain. I will try the fried oysters next time. Love a good po boy.Had some good ones at Barfry around the block but they're gone.

                  1. re: guttergourmet

                    I agree! And that's quite a bit cheaper than the lobster roll at Mary's.