There are elements at play here that don’t quite jibe. The food at Pearl & Ash is bold, striking, but the concept comes off a bit flawed and infringes on the quality of what’s on the plate.
Most of them leave you wanting more, forced down to tapas-sized servings when they’d be so much more fulfilling as individual orders. It’s a clumsy process sharing a paper-thin layer of beef tartar, however well prepared, or a few strips of squab plated like perhaps the chef forgot to include the main portion.
This isn’t to say the food isn’t great. There is punch, as small plates must deliver. One of the table favorites: octopus tentacles, covered in dark smoky layers with a hint of chili, served arching on top of a tahini-like sauce. The diver scallops were high on my list, oozing an unexpected coat of jalapeno-like spice that doesn’t kick in until the end.
Plates like those show the skill and creativity this place is capable of — wide ranging flavors, a cornucopia of ingredients, a melding of cross-border inspirations, an array of textures. The talent just seems curtailed by the restaurant’s format.
Amplified versions, of say, the poached egg and salad entree would have been a fantastic brunch dish. Or the cod with coconut and lemongrass broth — a nicely refined take on Thai cuisine — would have been a hit as a full-sized serving.
A Casa Mono-type place is still probably best for tapas if you’re looking to try a variety of plates. So unless you’re willing double up on orders, consider this a pre-dinner pit stop.