by David Chester
It was either luck or fate, but our night
spent dining at the lustrous and seductive Pearl, a California
fusion eatery in Kita-Aoyama that opened last August, was
close to perfect. Caught in a downpour and a little fuzzy
on the exact location, we finally arrived, dressed to the
nines and soaked to the skin. Slipping past the front door,
we found ourselves in a long, candlelit hallway. We werent
sure if we were heading into a maze or a séance, but
a strangely enchanting tone had already been set.
After winding our way up two flights of stairs, we entered
what looked like the living room of a very rich, romantic
designer. The brilliant flower arrangement, chandelier and
faux marble columns aside, if the sensual color scheme had
been a perfume, it might have been called White Shoulders
meets Red Door. With a warm greeting, the model-beautiful
staff escorted us to the non-smoking section, where we sank
into a huge marshmallow-white banquette.
From the healthy wine list, which covered the essentials from
Sauvignon Blanc (¥4,500) to Dom Perignon (¥56,000),
we opted for a fresh fruit champagne (¥1,200) and a glass
(or at least a quarter of a glass) of Pinot Noir (¥800).
We toasted our fortune at finding this truly romantic spot
and opened our pearl-white menus to find a relatively limited
number of (mostly) inspired creations by former Spago star,
We began with blue fin tuna galette with
guacamole and tomato fondue (¥1,100) and home-smoked salmon
in buckwheat crepes with caviar and dill sour cream (¥1,000).
The names alone made our mouths water; the real things, served
on aqua-hued glass plates, were exactly what appetizers should
be: tempting and tantalizing. The galette was soft and delicate,
though the fondue part escaped us. With only three bites,
the crepes were a bit skimpy, but the flavors were wedded
so beautifully we didnt care.
The fresh bread (¥300), butter and dipping oils, meant
to tide us over till the next course, were so good we forgot
we had ordered the soup of the day (¥1,500), a summery
cold asparagus and shrimp mousse, decorated with fresh chives,
and a pumpkin soup (¥700) so sinfully creamy we thought
they had brought us dessert.
After more bread and liberal servings of Acqua Panna mineral
water (which, we later discovered, was not gratis), our entrees
arrived. The duck breast with foie gras and daikon in a red
wine stew (¥1,600) was lovely to look at, but a tad tough.
The clever pairing of roasted baby lamb with a balsamic sauce
and braised vegetables (¥1,800) fared better, with the
meat having just the right degree of pinkness to be moist
and tasty, complemented by the tang of the sauce.
When it came time for desserts, we didnt hesitate to
indulge. The fromage blanc cake with mixed berry coulis and
cherry mousse with cassis sauce (both ¥800) were again
stellar in presentation, and the rich mix of flavors and textures
awakened something sensual in us, but left us wanting more.
Ultimately, this is perhaps Pearls best attribute. Like
a great first date filled with the promise of a dreamy romance
to follow, Pearl enticed us just enough to want to come back
Open daily 11:30am-2:30pm, 6-10:30pm,
closed Sunday lunch. 2F Loge Aoyama, 1-4-5 Kita-Aoyama. Tel:
03-5785-9240. Nearest stn: Aoyama-itchome.
Photos courtesy of Pearl