As the name suggests, the Pearl Room is
very serious about seafood - albeit with Italian flourishes.
The five-year-old restaurant, on the corner of Third Avenue and 82nd Street in Bay Ridge, is luxurious. The spacious eatery has several seating areas, including the front room with its romantic high-backed banquettes, the more spacious backroom with enormous windows framed with golden drapes and the enclosed garden.
The restaurant underwent considerable renovations 18 months ago which doubled the seating area and transformed the garden from tables with umbrellas, to a patio topped by an elegant, waterproof bamboo awning.
The Pearl Room has all of the amenities, including valet parking and a waitstaff that is both friendly and knowledgeable.
Although chef Gerard Spezio has recently introduced his new fall menu, I’m still dreaming about starting my Pearl Room dinner with his poached lobster salad appetizer and a glass of their fresh-brewed ice tea. The fresh lobster, a hit from the summer menu, was tossed with seasonal fruits - including pineapple which lent it a retro flair - over baby greens and a creamy dressing.
Sadly, the mozzarella carozza is on the new menu. While the sun dried tomato and caper sauce is robust and full of flavor, the fried, breaded mozzarella is flavorless and surprisingly miserly with regard to the cheese.
Two intriguing newcomers to the appetizer list include bacon wrapped, roasted quail served with creamy herb polenta and a burnt honey grappa sauce, and the grilled portobello mushroom served with herbed goat cheese, drizzled with white port wine glaze over baby greens.
The Pearl Room also offers a raw bar with everything from Alaskan king crab legs to a champagne poached crawfish cocktail.
Spezio, formerly of Manhattan’s Hudson River Club, has a tempting list of options for those not so enamored of fish including pastas, duck, veal, chicken and pork chops.
Our waitress Donna recommended the sesame-crusted swordfish, and we are grateful. The substantial portion was served in an Asian-inspired sweet and sour scallion and ginger sauce akin to hoisan sauce, accompanied by a buttery smooth circle of creamy polenta and snow peas. The fresh fish was further enhanced by a topping of red peppers and onions.
Because the dinner plates at the Pearl Room could double as platters, it may be an impossibility to squeeze in dessert, but pastry chef Danny Martinez has devised a sinful list of temptations. His vanilla ice cream ball is the size of a cantaloupe - a positively gluttonous serving which should be shared by two. The ice cream is rolled into a ball, covered with banana bread, deep fried and then decorated with pretty swirls of caramel sauce. Yes, it is as good as it sounds.
The Italian favorites, tiramisu and tartufo, are well-represented. The cheesecake was more American style than Italian, yet was quite light and a little tangy.
The "chocolate heaven" is a warm, flourless chocolate cake with a molten center served with ice cream and fresh strawberries. But it should be called 10 seconds of heaven, because that’s all the time you have to eat it before your dining partner eats it all first. It’s a classic combination: cool, sweet strawberries perfectly paired with warm, dark chocolate.
Although our story ends here, the Pearl Room menu continues with mahi mahi crusted with macadamia nuts, bacon wrapped diver scallops, horseradish crusted Atlantic salmon, herb dusted wild striped bass and tamarind rubbed prawns. The new season has provided many more reasons to return to the Pearl Room.
Additional reporting by Tina Barry.
The Pearl Room (8201 Third Ave. at 82nd Street) accepts American Express, Master Card and Visa. Pastas are $11-21, entrees are $20-$32. Lunch is served seven days a week from noon to 4 pm. Dinner is served Sunday to Wednesday until 10:30 pm, Thursday and Friday until 11 pm and Saturday until 11:30 pm. The bar stays open until 1 am every day. For reservations, call (718) 833-6666.