Pearl & Ash is part wine bar, part small-ish plates restaurant, part rollicking seven-nights-a-week industry after-hours party. If you happen to like your grand cru Burgundy with a booming '80s power ballad beat or prefer your grower champagne paired with early Police, it's also the rockingest thing to happen to New York's Bowery since CBGB closed its doors.
Chef Richard Kuo, wine guy Patrick Cappiello and general manager Branden McRill are the power trio behind the place--which has been a hit since it opened in February.
In addition to Cappiello's impeccably curated and personal French-focused wine list, the partners are clear about the need their restaurant addresses.
"There was nothing around here to eat late at night," says Kuo. "This was something we talked about all the time. You'd finish your shift at a restaurant, you're hungry and thirsty, but the food available was just so-so."
Into this void, Kuo shines the bright light of his elevated bar food: pork meatballs under a flurry of bonito flakes; lamb belly with kohlrabi purée; or a deconstructed hangar tartare with harissa, melba shards and minerally lava salt (see more about this dish).
All of this comes without an ounce of pretension. The take away for chefs and restaurateurs everywhere: flavor matters more than presentation (watch the video about the art of plating) and "serious" wine needn't feel like a slog.
"People are finding progressively less interest in the minutiae of fine dining details," Kuo says. "Our service is pretty damned good, but we don't have tablecloths and we don't wear uniforms."
Well, except for Cappiello, that is. He traded the dark sommelier suit he used to wear at Gilt and other uptown NYC spots for his new uniform: a daily rotation of vintage rock T-shirts.
"We spent nearly as much on our sound system as we did on our wine cellar," Cappiello says, proudly. At some point in the night, that system will get around to pumping out The Dead Kennedys' "Holiday In Cambodia," one of his all time favorites.
What to pair with that thrashy little ditty?
"I'd suggest a wine from the Jura," Cappiello says. "Something a little grimy and funky."
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