Pineapple & Pearls Restaurant Review: Hauter Ever

Suspension

Aaron Silverman has vowed to “crush the ground” of the traditional fine-dining paradigm on his way to reopening the fine dining restaurant Pineapple & Pearls on Capitol Hill in May.

“We’re changing everything about it except the name,” the chef-turned-creative director told me last fall. Transformation means switching slogans, from “informal imagination” to “pleasure is as worth pursuing as perfection.”

When Pineapple & Pearls reopens, Aaron Silverman plans to “smash” the mold for fine dining.

I paid $325 per head in advance to give the reimagined restaurant a whirl in June and walked in with high hopes. Silverman is also behind the imagination of Rose’s Luxury and Little Pearl, after all, and my pre-pandemic reviewers for Pineapple & Pearls, the crown jewel of his empire, were four-star strong, a rare “super” dining experience.

Initial impression of Pineapple & Pearls 2.0, apart from the exorbitant entry price? Deja vu, thanks to a cold rag and a glass of champagne as we entered the foyer. For a brief moment, I thought I might be in my memory for a few hours. Then my companion and I were escorted to our seats in the dining room rethought with countless silver-tipped wooden bars hanging from the ceiling (disco balls of 2022!), and not far from the chef’s table in the back, a fleet of green balloons form what It appears to be clouds by Dr. Seuss. We were handed a book to peruse, and a set of stories and photos explaining parts of the upcoming meal. Currently this the first. So is the arrival of the absinthe fountain and someone serving you a Hemingway-inspired cocktail called Death in the Afternoon.

The printed menu is a surprise, it’s only five courses with two options per course. Anyone tired of tasting menus that stretch for hours is able to encourage a shorter text, although the entertaining “gifts” alternate with the courses. First out of the gate are tall glass bases topped with beggar wallets made of crepe colored beetroot and saffron. The sachets, infused with fresh cream, lemon peel and sparkling caviar, come with instructions on how to take the designer’s sachets: mouth-only, hands-free. Following orders seems a bit obscene, but that’s part of what Silverman had in mind when he was playing around with fine dining. The chef borrowed the idea from New York’s gorgeous Quilted Giraffe, whose chef-owner, Barry Wine, showed up for dinner in the second week of service at the new restaurant, and came back the next night for drinks at the bar. (The fan even gifted Silverman a silk puffy jacket, plates, and other memorabilia from his famous restaurant.)

do not worry. What looks like a gimmick turns out to be luscious, and the first course of either chawanmushi or grilled cob emphasizes a cuisine steeped in classics. Japanese silky first egg custard is placed in a bamboo stalk cavity and infused with a small thicket of mushrooms, hazelnuts and ginger. The second option, a Guinness glazed pretzel and cocoa, calls up one of those restaurants you book months in advance of in France. The elegant appetizer, topped with toasted pine nuts and cocoa nibs, comes with a touch of Boulanger Potatoes: shredded celery root with mousse scape. The kirlicks sauce on the plate appears to be engraved by calligraphy.

It takes a village to maintain a restaurant like Pineapple & Pearls: 35 or so servers, chefs, and more to feed and pamper no more than 24 guests at a time. The owner says he looked for servers that “love hosting”, a detail that was made clear over and over during my visit by an adorable cat named Cosmo. (Looking at a cocktail with a caviar bump on the side, he whispers, “I’m not jealous.”) Silverman gets in on the action, too. The night I dined, the chef was seated at tables with a gift of “everything” joggers, fluffy cheese puffs stuffed with paprika cheese, drizzled with a rack of spices and cut from a stunning Hermès dish. Ha! And more please.

You will dream of pasta long after it has slipped on your tongue. Flour and potatoes rarely defy gravity the way ethereal truffle-covered gnocchi does. Still the finest is Mont Blanc’s pasta, a classic European dessert in which a homemade chestnut oat filling is swelled and arranged with a lovely sage-scented pesto. Mousse Tufts are a fun pile of white chocolate and Parmesan cheese. Try it, you will love it.

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Unlike some high-end dinners, this isn’t like an endurance contest. The evening goes on so that you can marvel at the richness of the grilled lobster, lit with spices including star anise and topped with brown butter; contemplate the wine in your glass (the “luxury” pairing is $195, the “extra fancy” $500 and includes a pre-dinner consultation with a professional sommelier); We wonder how the team dreamed of making Époisses ice cream and Grayson’s cheese – all together on the same plate. “The right kind of stench,” said the waiter upon serving the funky, hot and cold mix, the only thing I left unfinished during what felt like a great dinner party.

Los Angeles tacos have been the inspiration for an innovative and inventive dessert that is infused with pineapple tartare, coconut “snow” and chamois-flavored ice cream, and Mexican spices based on pickled fruit and chili. Creativity is another example of the fun principle in a restaurant at work, and how convenient it is to enjoy it while Sheryl Lynn sings “Got to Be Real”.

Before diners leave, they visit the foyer again, where they are invited to help themselves to a light ice cream machine and an attendant poses for their photos with a Polaroid camera. The gorgeous swirl returns to the table—with amaretto, warmed by a candle—to be enjoyed separately or over ice cream.

Parting gifts are fun, too. The elegant gift bag is filled with elegant postcards, matching embossed with phrases including “always chic / never spoiled / a little rude” and a bonus that can be enjoyed as a midnight snack or lunch the next day. Leave it to Pineapple & Pearls to serve us the wagyu cheeseburger.

Silverman says his team is just getting started. “This is a never-ending journey,” he told me in a phone interview. “We have a lot of good ideas, but we’re running out of time” to implement them all.

Beneficiaries pay for the ultimate fun. The average check is about $525 per person, Silverman says. That’s a lot of dough, especially now, and I can already hear some of my audience complaining about how many groceries they might buy, or what they’d do with the money, as if consumers of fine dining also couldn’t be charitable. It’s funny how rarely these concerns are directed at people who pay comparable sums for Super Bowl, Broadway or other indulgences, or how they fail to consider restaurants as places of business, and that the cost of everything has skyrocketed.

In the end, moving the new Pineapple & Pearls is a unique sensation that I’d be willing to pay for myself – the ultimate test of any restaurant.

715 Eighth Street SE. 202-595-7375. dpearls.com . pineapple. Open: Eat indoors Wednesday through Saturday. Seating times 5-6 p.m. and 8-9 p.m. Price: $325 per person, excluding taxes and 22 percent service and beverage charges. Voice check: 69 dB / Conversation is easy. Accessibility: No barriers to entry; ADA compliant toilets. Pandemic protocols: Masks and vaccinations for employees are encouraged but are optional.

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