Atmosphere: Modern, fresh feeling very comfortable and welcome. The service is friendly and attentive. Dress code is casual in the SoHo mood. It is a great spot just for a drink at the long bar at the front, but it is worth trying the flavor-rich dishes on the restaurant’s card.
Food: The chef Richard Kuo is Taiwanese by origin, but he was raised in Australia and later moved to New York so he brings a truly global twist to his menu. His food is much more creative than a slab of meat and a marinade. Bringing unconventional ingredients together is a particularly intriguing skill, but making it all taste very good and not too over-combined is an enviable manoeuvre, that many other adventurous chefs in New York can only dream about. Richard Kuo marries the innovation with taste very well. Further, the mostly small dishes are divided into raw, small, fish, meat, vegetables, sugar and cheese groups, making it easy to navigate and decide on which ingredient you are in the mood for at the given moment.
Starting with the Hearts of artichoke pealed on a plate in a daisy shaped work of art, we slurped the veggie purée with mouthfuls of steely fresh Riesling, preparing ourselves for a discernible feast.
Raw slices of Fluke, tossed with pomegranate seeds, sunchoke in a kaffir lime juice naturally followed the light kick-off. The tender thin fish was fresh and invigorating – perfect to finish our glass of Riesling. The Tea cured salmon with fresh goat cheese, tamarind and seaweed is another raw fish option that delights even those usually wary of raw fish. Salmon is more easy to enjoy raw.
Warm creamy grilled Brussels sprouts with sweet pearl onions were a step up in terms of depth and richness, so it was time to switch wine. Fresh red Pinot Noir from Oregon showed to be the perfect fit balancing the creamy dressing embalming the sizzling hot brussels sprouts.
Bread served unconventionally with chicken butter and maple syrup might sound as a trip to a mad house, but it is revelatory how a chicken butter can taste great with dense and sweet maple sirup. It is not for all, only real food adventurers might find a common ground in this somewhat inconceivable combination.
There are even more exotic flavours in some of the sides. The toasted Potatoes are covered with a porcini mushroom flavoured mayonnaise and chorizo, which not only sounds naughty but it tastes like a devil’s irresistible temptation. The crisp potatoes are not oily, cooked just right and the mayonnaise is so addictive that you might order a number of rounds of this sinful side dish.
The Long beans tossed with chili in a uni cream are neither more grounded. Uni has a particular taste that many Western palates need to become acquired to, yet at Pearl&Ash it is incorporated into the bean and chilli so well that almost anyone can really enjoy its distinct taste. We all simply loved it and did not find it too spicy either.
From the real meat plates the Rabbit sausage proved to taste better than most of rabbit meals that I often find quite boring. The Hanger Steak is a carnivores’ dream come true and pairs well with a richer Cabernets or Zinfandels from California.
Visit: September 2013
Price: Medium level for Manhattan (small dishes around $6-10; bigger meals around $15-20).
Drinks: From more obscure regions such as the French Jura, Brazil or the US Arizona state, to more staple Burgundy and California (old vintages – 1950s, 1980s, … inclusive), the wine list at Pearl & Ash is intriguing and hard to resist despite the original selection from house-made cocktails. Top notch Bordeaux and Burgundy are among the strong muscles of the wine menu, yet better value might be a bottle from the New World. The Laurene Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Dundee Hills fashioned not just the same name as a friend of mine, who selected it, but also this deep purple red was made by a well-known Burgundy house – the Domaine Drouhin, thus a safe bet. The prices are reasonable for a bar and restaurant on Manhattan, since the Pearl&Ash wine director relishes wines and keeps the margins quite low.
Opening hours: Daily for dinner only: 5:30pm-12:00am
Address: 220 Bowery, New York NY (Between Prince St. and Spring St.)
Contact: +1 212 837 2370