Walking into The Blue Pearl one might stop for a second and wonder if he or she is dressed for the occasion. Not with a coat and tie, but rather a sense of style. This chic new hot spot in New Haven’s Ninth Square is the closest one can get to New York’s Upper East Side without hopping on the Metro North. Jeff and Kristen Tassiello, who own two other restaurants in New York, opened The Blue Pearl in June and have quickly built up a clientele of Yale students and locals. Even Connecticut celebrities have made The Blue Pearl their haunt; if you want to get yourself on TV, just stop by for Happy Hour and meet with some of the crew from News Channel 8.
The Blue Pearl, located at 130 Court St., is a short walk from central campus. Clients walk into a chic atmosphere including a sleek bar, white sofas with matching stools and single red roses. Paper lamps and soft jazz fill the space with soft color and culling sounds. Further inside, one will find a dining space of modest size that opens up into an outdoor courtyard in the warmer months. The light blue couches that line the wall and white curtains hanging against the walls further soften the atmosphere.
While the well-matched decor of the restaurant seems to melt into the background after a few moments, little splashes of funk can be found throughout the space. In the middle of the dining area there is a vintage white wooden table that looks like it might have been bought at a garage sale. Atop this table sits an odd (I might even say ugly) but fun lamp that seems a bit out of place. However, the true pearl of the restaurant is the bathroom; it is one of the most fun rooms in the joint. At one end of this small room are old fashioned wooden stalls. At the other end is a silver bowl sitting under a large showerhead. I of course felt the overwhelming need to rinse and repeat.
In all fairness, the real prize in this establishment is the cuisine. While the bar boasts a solid selection, the majority of those who frequent The Blue Pearl have something else in mind: a craving for the fine fare of chef Dana Smith Jr. The restaurant touts its “Creative American Cooking,” and Smith’s experience with French cuisine certainly shows through in some of the Pearl’s finest dishes.
During my first visit to the Pearl I stopped in for a quick pot of Artichoke Fondue. A pot of creamy puree with an assortment of breads, vegetables and sliced apples for dipping, definitely made a tasty and fun treat.
Upon my second visit I came more prepared with an empty stomach and a large appetite. While mulling over the menu, I nibbled on some White Bean Dip with Chives, Garlic and Olive Oil. Having already experienced the Artichoke Fondue, I went straight for the main course. Some of the prize dishes on the menu include the Mussels and Fries, and the Lobster Spring Rolls. I ordered the Macaroni and Cheese with Grafton Cheddar and Fontina and my companion ordered the Pecan Crusted Salmon. The Macaroni and Cheese came in a bowl lightly covered with a thin crust. Unfortunately the idea was more exciting than the dish. The cheese was a bit strong for my taste and I found myself wishing that I had gone for the salmon. Meanwhile, my companion – a self-touting seafood connoisseur – said that the Pecan Crusted Salmon, which was covered with a light citrus sauce, was absolutely incredible. In fact, he declared it “the best [he’d] ever had.” I consoled myself with a plate of American Fries and Garlic Mayonnaise – an incredible splash of flavor for a spectacular side dish.
When our dessert came my mouth began to water immediately. The Bittersweet Chocolate Orange Fudge fondue came with all the fixin’s: dried apricots, pineapple, freshly baked banana bread, rice krispies treats, marshmallows and more. This bubbling pot of melted chocolate was the pinnacle of my dining experience, an experience I can’t wait to repeat.
However, if you hope to try it yourself, make sure you call ahead on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s well worth the forethought: light on the wallet, heavy in the stomach and wonderful to the palate.
After all, you can either schlep to Tribeca or you can walk your way over to the Blue Pearl. But I suggest you save the money from the train ride and order yourself an extra pot of fondue.
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