I really, really, really didn't want to like this restaurant, in the same way that I really, really, really don't like (or trust) "hype" for the next new big restaurant or bar or speakeasy or taco truck or grilled cheese stand or pupusa store, etc. The clip of new restaurants opening here in DC just about keeps pace with how often luxury condos get built, and that's saying something - it's all very hard to keep track of, and frankly, hard to stay excited about.
From the start, I was already annoyed at Pineapple and Pearls (P&P from now on). Owned and operated by the same guy (Aaron Silverman, uber-talented chef, great tattoos, one of Food and Wine's 2016 Best New Chefs) that makes people wait hours for some (albeit DELICIOUS) pork and lychee salad at Rose's Luxury? Check. The hype began when construction had barely started on the restaurant space in Barracks Row, including breathless articles on Eater DC, Washington Post, Washington City Paper, DCist, and so on and so on and so on? Check. And most controversially of all, requiring you to pre-pay for your (very expensive) prix-fix meal in advance through their booking system? Check, I said, as I considered snipping up my credit cards once and for all.
Shortly after arrival, it appeared that my skepticism was warranted. I'd booked two seats at the chef's counter and the party ahead of us - including one tall, very talkative gentleman with an equally jaunty ~*man bun*~ - were running 45 minutes behind and wouldn't vacate their seats, despite the meal already being over. Maybe one of the bad things about not actually having physical bills people have to pay for in your restaurant is that people then feel like the meal is never really over. In any case, the greeting staff at P&P were incredibly gracious and apologetic as I downed my second "welcome cocktail" (complete with a maraschino cherry covered in gold leaf).
Finally, Man Bun and his Man Friends departed and it was our turn to sit down at the chef's counter and my annoyance/skepticism/hangriness strangely evaporated almost immediately. And it might have something to do with the truly incredible food that, especially when expertly paired up with really, really excellent and unexpected wine choices, made this one of the best meals I have ever had in my life.
I'm certain the P&P team will be switching up the menu fairly frequently but here are some of the highlights from a blurry delicious haze of a night after the jump (hover over for captions):
Tom Sietsema called his visit to P&P "astonishing" and I couldn't agree more. Chef Silverman and his team are cooking not only at Michelin-star levels of fine dining from a quality and creativity perspective but there's something else - this is fine dining with proper heart and soul that's simultaneously down to earth (Chef Silverman, who served us several of the courses, explains his approach to certain dishes so simply that you can't help but wonder why you didn't think of things like "White Asparagus Okonomiyaki" yourself) and otherworldly at the same time. I have eaten at two and three star Michelin rated restaurants and now when I look back on those experiences, some of them seem incredibly stuffy in comparison, and just a little bit more hollow.
So here's the part we have to talk about: the wallet damage. It's not cheap, this. In fact, at $250 per person, P&P comes in at what is probably among the most expensive prix-fixe or tasting menu options in the city, falling into the (hyper competitive) category of New York Prices. For what you pay though, it's 13 all-inclusive outstanding courses of incredibly well-plated, thoughtful and above all, tasty food. Combined with nearly spotless service and the incredible hospitality from the wait staff and the chefs themselves, I'm already plotting my return (.....eventually).
One woman's journey to eat all the food. Or at least, most of it.