Mon-Fri, noon-2:30pm and 6pm-11pm; Sat, 6pm-11pm; Sun, closed
A, B, C, D, E, F, M at W. 4th St.-Washington Sq.
In a neighborhood filled with oyster bars (Mermaid Oyster Bar, Mary’s Fish Camp), Pearl is still thriving ahead of its competition. It’s because it sticks to the basics and doesn’t try to get to fancy: Each item in the all-seafood menu pretty much consists of one ingredient and one ingredient only. The raw and fried oysters are market-driven and super fresh, but you’ll rack up a big bill if you order too many. It’s actually easy to have an affordable meal here, since so many of the “small plates” are actually entrée-sized. The smoked Atlantic salmon with Johnnycakes is a must-order: With crème fraiche and the small cornmeal flatbreads, it tastes like a highbrow version of the classic bagel and lox. Pan-roasted sea scallops and the daily catch of grilled fish are nice and light, but if you’ve endured the usual 45-minute wait at Pearl and squeezed into one of the small wooden chairs, you need to order the famous lobster roll. Know your facts first: It can definitely feed two, and -– don’t be afraid –- but it’s heavy on the mayo. The roll comes on a classic toasted hot dog bun, and gets paired with skinny shoestring fries. But don’t stop there: Pearl’s hot-fudge sundae will make you feel nostalgic and comforted, and when it’s in season, there’s excellent blueberry-crumble pie with vanilla ice cream. There’s a sign hanging with a quote from Mario Batali saying it’s one of his favorite restaurants in the city -– so small that you’d barely notice it. That’s Pearl’s style: It’s by no means a low-key restaurant (why else would the sign be there to begin with?), but it’s relaxed enough that you feel like you could be in a seafood shack at the beach.
Clam chowder, $8; fried oysters, $13.75; mussels in mustard cream, $13; lobster roll, market price; grilled whole fish, market price