Mining at Pearl
I once asked chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame to explain his small-portion, intense-flavor concept. “The law of diminishing returns is important to us,” he said. “We don’t want to give someone so much of something that they get palate fatigue. The key is to give someone just enough that the flavor is profound.” Gorge on even the most delicious item and you get to a point when you say “enough.” But have the experience end just as you think “I could eat this forever,” and you’re left with a craving that can turn obsessive.
A recent food experience I shared with a friend got me thinking about this. After a couple of glasses of wine at the bar at Pearl in Rockridge, we were peckish and each ordered a small plate, plus one to share: the walnut leaf wrapped Tuscan pecorino with truffled anchovies, marinated olives and toasted walnuts ($9). We glanced at one another disappointed when it arrived, thinking it rather unassuming compared to the grand Thai ceviche and some of the other stylish presentations.
But we set to work on our percorino plate. I took a small forkful and so did she—and we were instantly stunned into silence. As we devoured it in tiny tastes not wanting the experience to end—the unmistakable pungent deliciousness of the truffle infusing the cheese, the olives, the anchovies, the walnuts—our conversation became a series of appreciative m-m-m-ms.
Next day she got us each a bottle of truffle oil from Ferrari Foods, and we both tried to recreate the dish at home. Maybe our pecorino, bought from Trader Joe’s, was from the wrong part of Tuscany. Maybe we used the wrong olives, or, perhaps, there is a unique way to truffle anchovies. Ours was good—but Pearl’s sublime pecorino plate has become our monthly excuse for a date.
Pearl, 5634 College Ave., (510) 654-5426, is open 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.