Monday, 7 July 2008

Resistance is Futile - Pearl Restaurant Richmond

We sauntered into the bar and mess lounge of recreation deck at last. It was welcomed relief after a hard day down at Engineering, recalibration of the antimatter injectors had been, well, downright anti-matter-of-fact! And Chief La Forge breathing down my neck didn’t add to the fun either, that man’s VISOR misses nothing! A quick scan of the room had the effect of calming familiarity plus Guinan wasn’t at the bar, some unrecognised staffer instead. Good, I could do without her well intentioned but often overly baffling philosophising this evening. We were escorted to our banquette edged table for two but couldn’t get comfortable. Surely they could space these tables apart a little further, this was a big goddamn ship after all! Aren’t these supposed to be the intimate seatings? Hmph, only if I’d wanted to sneak a hand across to the neighbour’s and steal a swig of that Aldebaran whiskey that I've never been able to justify the credits on. Maybe I should have, it was a smooth talking Ferengi trying his repertoire of moves on his yet unwary dining companion. Our less than ideal placement was not a big problem however, a simple request was all it took for a change to a larger table towards the middle of the room. No complains from the ever efficient crew here, just a quick flurry of rearranged silverware performed with smart and beaming 24th century efficiency and we were settling back into the comfortable white leather upholstery. This was better, room to stretch and relax. From force of habit I strained my ears for pitch changes that may hint at plasma imbalances in the Warp Core. I should have known better. The room was too well fitted with sound proofing, softly padded wall panels and rubber gridded flooring. Not a distant mechanical hum to be heard, only the murmur of muted conversations in relaxation mode. “Enough!” I chided myself, time to peruse tonight’s menu. We agreed that we deserved something more than usual fare tonight, something decidedly old-school with uncommon heritage ingredients, something genuinely Earthly in origin to bring back memories of less challenging days at the Academy so many light years away. Let’s give the replicators a real challenge!

Well past the risk of revealing myself as a complete nerd, but with its stylised steel-sculptured lights, muted cream colours that contrasted against glistening wall features and ultracool retro-modern fit-out, the imagery that first struck me as I entered
Pearl Restaurant Richmond was that of a set out of Star Trek. Aside from a few dark timber trimmings which spoilt the illusion a little, I probably wouldn’t have blinked twice if its fabulously efficient wait staff had wandered about in body-hugging bi-coloured spandex. Thankfully however, they were simply and more conventionally attired in smart blacks and whites. And yes, at a time when many of us commonly complain about the lack of appropriate service even at fine dining establishments, the staff at Pearl needs to be credited for being great! The team on our visit still worked to the adage of nothing is too much trouble, let’s see if we can help you out with your requests, and all with a smile. These days seemingly rare as a pure seam of crystalline dilithium!

Bread rolls with lemon infused olive oil were a good appetite starter, as were oriental spoonfuls of a tangy shaved cucumber and sesame pickle. Ordered entrée was half a dozen large Smoky Bay Pacific Oysters ($24) shucked to order and served with a limey dressing of Mint and Green Chilli Nam Jim. These were glisteningly plump and fresh enough to convince us that they could have been plucked from the distant ocean, thrown into a transporter and beamed straight into the kitchen. If it doesn’t spoil your meal and you looked closely, you could probably still see their muscles twitching. But you can get two dozen of the same from the markets at that price and they’ll be just as fresh and lively, though I guess that really isn’t the point. We couldn’t really go past Pearl’s famous signatures on a first visit, so it was the Roast Red Duck Curry, Crispy Fried Egg, Shallots, Mint, Sweet Fish Sauce and Coconut Rice ($42). A dish inspired from Thai home cooking roots but now evolved into an impressively stylish fine dining offering. It’s not hard to imagine that if I’d hankered for nostalgia and voiced “Duck Curry” into the speech recognition module of some food replicator of the future, Pearl’s interpretation would be exactly what would have materialised. A somewhat redundant five minute tutorial to instruct us on how we should tackle the dish basically summed up into ‘mix everything together and enjoy’. The curry was certainly decadent. Meaty, sticky and rich but somehow lacked the effortless subtleties of genuine sauces from SE Asia that may have been its inspiration; it lacked chilli zing and the combination of a heavy-handed rendering of palm sugar, accompanying coconut rice, and fried runny egg eventually proved slightly challenging in its richness factor. It also got overly salty. Though we did share between us, perhaps it was yet another example of Asian inspired dishes that are meant to be passed around a shared table not translating well into one dish per person dining.

Now, request “Fish” from that replicator and you’re likely to get something looking like One Side Only Seared Yellowfin Tuna, Sweet Smoked Fish Salad with Galangal and Kaffir Lime ($38). This was more to our tastes, the rare ruby-coloured tuna fillet was perfect and inclusion of faintly sweet young coconut flesh into the combination of flavours was inspired. A simple Caprese style salad of Tomato, Mint and Buffalo Milk Mozzarella with Aged Balsamic Vinegar Dressing ($12) rounded up the meal and a White Peach Souffle with Vanilla Ice Cream and Vanilla Crumble, Caramel Lace ($22) was a delightfully airy bookend. Plaudits to chef Adam D’Sylva (and his team) who according to Pearl’s new (but less evocative and inviting) website is currently in New York furthering his career.

An architecturally perfect and subtly delicious White Peach Souffle to complete the evening

Whichever way you look at it, dining at Pearl is not cheap. Let me reiterate that, eating here is expensive! Fortunately for us, we visited with a $150 voucher courtesy of KB’s friends and ex-colleagues as a generous parting gift from her previous place of work. An unexpected benefit from folks around us knowing of our love for good food!

The barman smiled and nodded in acknowledgement as we made our way to the exit, then reached for a switch under his counter. The heavy opalescent glass door slid silently open by itself to let us out. Very cool...but oh so 21st century!

Food: 4 Spots - Innovative Pan-Asian inspired cuisine.
Service: 4.5 Spots - Exactly what I had been expecting.
Value: 3.5 Spots - Pushing the envelope too far, but for a special night out..?
R-Factor: 3.5 Spots - Perhaps we’ll wait for an opportunity for Pearl on the Peak.
Spot Score: 16/20

Pearl Restaurant and Bar
631-633 Church Street, Richmond, VIC.

I am not a Trekkie.

Apologies to Trekkies; all quotes and references used here are likely to be inaccurate, implausible and totally out of context so please keep your phasers in your holsters, or at least set only on stun. Blame and flame my main source of reference instead at
Memory Alpha.
Apologies to all others; once I started, I found it hard to stop.


thanh7580 said...

"Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated".

Ok, I love Star Trek too. I love it so much, that I actually made a t-shirt with the phrase Resistance is Futile. I love that quote.

So having said that, I loved your review. It had me laughing the whole time, maybe since I get all the references to Star Trek.

The meal at Pearl definitely looks good. It's been a place I've wanted to go for a while, but the price is still what's holding me back. If I do go, I guess "The Duck please replicator" would be the thing to try.

Towser said...

Thanh, will look forward to your views on Pearl if you do dine there one day. Meanwhile...
Live long and prosper :)

Agnes said...

Oh the truth is out! Great write up, Towser. I'm not a Trekkie, but your post still made me laugh.

Towser said...

Thanks Agnes, just thought it'll be fun to take food blogging to where no man/woman has gone before (cue Star Trek soundtrack). But seriously, that was really what Pearl's interior triggered images of! And no I have never worn stick-on pointy ears nor attended any conventions, ever!