Food Porn/ Restaurants

Pineapple and Pearls – May 8th, 2018

Centerpiece at our Chef’s Table seat, the bar seating facing the kitchen.

 
I was visiting Washington DC for a couple of nights and chef Aaron Silverman’s two Michelin starred Pineapple and Pearls came highly recommended. The website is a bit mysterious with no sample menu and very few photos. The restaurant offers one 12-course meal with either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic pairing, all inclusive for $325. The general theme was playful elegance. I had invited a friend to join me and was excited to introduce them to cooking at this level.

I came away with mixed feelings. Though individually the courses were quite good, the presentation often striking, and the service very friendly and engaging, I struggled to find Aaron’s voice in the course progressions. I had difficulty linking each course to the next. Instead of the symphonic cohesion I’ve come to expect from cooking at this level, my experience was more of a well constructed mix-tape. And this began to make me feel apologetic to my guest who walked away feeling that his $325 had been misspent.

On reflection later that evening I tried to piece together where things were great and where they missed opportunities to inspire.
   

Foie Gras Nigiri
(foie gras, morita chilies, and vegetable caramel)

 

Foie gras nigiri

 

 

I think the problems with the meal can be summarized by the cook’s introduction to the first course.

Paraphrased: “The chef asked us what kind of dish we wanted to create. I wanted it to involve something new that I’ve been wanting to learn about, sushi. So we started doing research on sushi and ended up on this dish.”

[This was emblematic of the first problem. Each course felt disconnected. Interesting in their own way but there seemed to be little vision involved in the course progression and the thematic interconnectedness.]

Continued: “Now notice that this isn’t being prepared like real sushi. I’m using spoons to make the rice.” (balls rice up with spoons like one would ice cream) “Next I’m adding a pepper sauce in place of the wasabi element. And on top a nice piece of seared foie gras.”

[The irony, none of the techniques were incorporated into the course. The thoughtful precision of forming the rice was abandoned. The wasabi was duplicated as a flavor layer but the traditional reasoning and balance of the wasabi was ignored. Little thought was given to the cut/shape of the foie in relation to the rice. And though the course was delicious, the concept of foie gras nigiri could just as easily been improvised by the least experienced sushi eater. So I’m calling bullshit on the months of sushi research and saying this was a fun derivative amuse bouche but no where near the type of thoughtful french/asian fusion you might find at a Robuchon’s L’atalier.]

I did enjoy the table side preparation and interaction with the cook. Though I thought it odd that he trumpeted the decision to use fingers for eating like traditional nigiri but coated the foie gras with a sticky glaze which I needed to scrub off my fingers and coat my napkin in sauce at the first course.
   

Silken Tofu with Hokkaido Uni
(tempura tuile, chili oil, and scallion)

 

 
Uni over creamy tofu with a crisp lacy wafer. The creaminess of the tofu was surprising and quite good paired with the fresh uni. The tempura wafer was a bit stiff and thick like a cracker instead of light and airy like traditional tempura. It was difficult to break through without using too much force, damaging the uni, which was obscured underneath. The tofu and uni were almost too similar in texture; they blended well but I’m not sure either element helped the other stand on its own. Visually interesting but lacking in a bit of thoughtfulness that could take the dish to the next level.
 

Uni over silken tofu.

   

Bone-in Turbot, Carved Tableside
(sunchokes, celery, and sauce grenobloise)

 

Turbot

 
This dish had great plating and the turbot was well cooked, tender with a crisp shell. It was cute to watch the tiny filet be boned tableside. One side of the fish was crisper than the other. I felt a little sad when the more crispy side went to my companion.
 

   

Crispy Turbot Skin
(olive oil and black sesame tahini)

 

Piece of crispy fish skin.

 
The skin of turbot was dehydrated and fried. On the bottom side a smear of black sesame tahini. This was brought out a couple minutes after the turbot was served and called a course but it seemed no more than a sidecar to the fish. This was probably my least favorite course. The skin seemed a bit stale without the firm crunch you might expect and the tahini was bitter and overwhelming. It completely blew my palette and overwhelmed the much more subtle fish. I would have preferred the skin on its own served along side the turbot.
 

Ravioli Doppio
(robiola bosina, nettles, and dates)

 

Ravioli Doppio with Robiola Bosina cheese.

 
This course was quite good overall. The “doppio” is a two channel ravioli, the first pocket with smoked potato and the second with Robiola Bosina cheese. The greens were crisp, the pasta well cooked. The sauce was made with the Robiola rind which created an overall strong foot aroma which I quite enjoyed and a welcome bitter note. I wanted the smoke from the potato to stand out a bit more or to be more assertive. I couldn’t distinguish between the two channels individually which made me question why they went through the trouble to separate them. I would have liked to have another which is always a good sign.
 

Veal Sweetbreads En Croute
(chicken boudin, root vegetables, and cream sherry veloute)

 

Veal sweetbreads en croute with chicken boudin and veloute.

 
On the counter throughout the night I noticed a quite large meat pie. It never seemed to be cut though I saw much smaller slices going out which looked like meat pie. Before the course was served, this pie was brought tableside as a stunt pie to give the impression of a hearty main meal.

Typically one would see a pate en croute in traditional fine french cooking but this one took on an element of an earthy meat pie with veg, sausage, and gravy included.

The slice was ok, but the flavor of the sweetbreads was entirely masked by the preparation. The filling became a yummy if indistinguishable mush along with an ok crust. The brightness of the vegetables to me were better than the pie. All in all I enjoyed this dish but felt that it was difficult to tie it to other courses thus far.
   

Selle de Porc “a la Bocuse”
(pommes Anna, leeks, Anson Mills white rice peas)

 

Selle de porc “a la Bocuse”

 
This course was announced as our main meat course. Described as three preparations of pork, potatoes Anna, and I believe beets (I’m not positive). “Selle de porc” means pork saddle.

The three pork preparations were a pork pate, cooked pork belly, and fried pork skin on top. I am a sucker for pommes Anna and these did not disappoint. Tender inside, crispy outside. And the veg was humorously presented almost as a roasted pear but tasted like roasted beets.

The main difficulties with this dish were presentation. First, both portions were arranged on a single metal tray on which the sauces were spooned. It was too awkward to eat from the dish so we immediately had to replate the elements onto our own plates, attempting to scoop up the sauces with forks which was difficult. A direct plating would have been better, as the dish as I ate it was not that attractive. I also had an issue with the “a la Bocuse” attribution. In comparison the prep and plating was clumsy and lacking the precision to do justice to a Bocuse course. And tossing a chicharr√≥n on top of two fairly simple pork preparations and calling it a third seemed like a stretch.
 

White rice peas.

   

Tete du Moine
(hazelnut praline and perigourd black truffle honey)

 

Tete du Moine

 
All night long I had been watching one cook after another grind out little Tete De Moine cheese flowers on the girolle in front of me. Hoping each new course might be it. Until at long last my little black bowl of cheese heaven arrived. Start with a base of praline, add hastily ground cheese flower, top with truffle honey. Simple and delicious. I recall thinking this was the best dish so far, which you probably don’t want after several complicated meat courses. I tried to eat this as slowly as possible.
 

   

Fennel Sorbet
(labneh and grapefruit)

 

Fennel sorbet.

 
The palette cleanser. This dish was fantastic. Bright herbaceous sorbet, creamy labneh, and tart almost chewy bits of condensed grapefruit. I was very into this. This started an unusual trend for me. I found that the desert courses were better than the savory courses. Generally I’m so stuffed by this point that I can barely make it through the desert courses but I found my spirits rise through each new course.
   

Carrot Cake
(curred lemon and parsley gelato)

 

Carrot cake.

 
The carrot cake station was right in front of my seat and I’d seen several cooks make batches of these. The cake was flavorful and moist, the carrot puree sweet and clean, and the parsley gelato even more herbaceous than the fennel sorbet. The dried carrot chips added a new textural element while staying firmly on theme. I firmly enjoyed this course and all of its elements.
 

   

Chocolates

 

 
Three simple chocolates in a box. I enjoyed the dark chocolate and blue cheese pairing. The bark was good with interesting texture. The truffle, creamy and rich. Decent espresso as well.
 

 

   

Scott Muns (chef de cuisine) and the crew

 
(Thanks Joseph for correction). I liked how calmly the kitchen ran. Everyone seemed to be working on time. The volume was quite low. I saw smiles as courses were being put together. Although the early course progressions seemed to drag a bit.
 

That’s Scott looking over his shoulder.

 

 

   

The Pineapple and Pearl environment

 
I felt the space itself was quite refined. The lighting was well thought through with attention paid both to mood and style. There was a nice balance between modern and traditional. The colors remained muted allowing the food to stand on it’s own but with subtle nice accents through flowers, gold trim, and art. I got a classic french sense but with the bright and minimal styling you might find in Paris today with a dash of pink or blue here and there. Bright whimsical tiles were used for the kitchen floor. One wall was left entirely unfinished in contrast the rest of the space (I didn’t get the story on that). And blue translucent screens over the frosted bathroom windows provided a bit of mood. I was happy to see the fresh linen towels in the bathroom.

Outside there’s no sign. We had to look around a bit. It reminded me a little of Alinea in its external presence.
 

 

 

 

 

 

   

The Pairings

Last but not least the pairing was quite good. I didn’t always like the selections but they were always creative and interesting. The sommelier was friendly and knowledgeable and always there to refill a glass or answer a question.
   

Pairings

Welcome cocktail

Hofgut Falkenstein, Spatlese Riesling, Krettnacher Eucheriusberg, Mosel, GER 2016

Gautheron, Les Fourneaux Chablis 1er Cre, Burgundy, FRA 2016

Paolo Bea, Santa Chiara, Montefalco, Umbria, ITA, 2015

Massimo Clerico, Nebbiolo, Lessona DOC, Piemonte, ITA, 2009

Logsdon, Peche ‘n’ Brett, Hood River, Oregon, USA

Domaine Rousett-Peyraguey, Aither, Sauternes, Bordeaux, FRA, 2010
   

Menu

Foie Gras Nigiri
Foid gras, morita chilies, and vegetable caramel

Silken Tofu with Hokkaido Uni
Tempura tuile, chili oil, and scallion

Bone-in Turbot, Carved Tableside
Sunchokes, celery, and sauce grenobloise

Crispy Turbot Skin
Olive oil and black sesame tahini

Ravioli Doppio
Robiola bosina, nettles, and dates

Veal Sweatbreads En Croute
Chicken boudin, root vegetables, and cream sherry veloute

Selle de Porc “a la Bocuse”
Pommes Anna, leeks, Anson Mills white rice peas

Tete du Moine
Hazelnut praline and perigourd black truffle honey

Fennel Sorbet
Labneh and grapefruit

Carrot Cake
Curred lemon and parsley gelato

Chocolates
   

Welcome Cocktail

While we waited for our seats we were presented with a welcome cocktail that included a recipe for the drink. I always like takeaways. =)
 

 

   

Off menu desert

They also brought us this awesome little desert that said welcome to DC. It was a creamy layer cake coated in chocolate. I almost ate the whole thing by myself.
 

    

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Joseph Fenush (@jfenushIII)
    May 16, 2018 at 4:59 am

    That isn’t not Aaron Silverman looking over his shoulder that is chef de cuisine Scott Muns

    • Reply
      Daniel Callicoat
      May 16, 2018 at 5:45 am

      Thanks Joseph. I mistook the photo of Scott on the website for Aaron. No wonder he looked so different from the other photo I saw online. =). I corrected it.

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