The news on Cafe Society that Pearl Street Grill had gone & had its hair done couldn’t have come at a better time for the Director & me; we’d grown a little sick of the old style (the restaurant equivalent of the Rachel), so we were all over the makeover, coinciding as it did with Celtics’ night out.
Sure enough, the new menu’s all dolled up with adorable little illustrations of veggies & heart-healthy nuts & your daily RDA of wholesome dairy products & all those things you didn’t know constituted food groups at Pearl Street, whose nutritional pyramid heretofore resembled a platter of nachos: chips on bottom, guac & sour cream on top.
And though the substantive changes aren’t sweeping, they’re certainly noticeable. Take the new array of sides like carrots spiced with ginger, cinnamon & dill (huh) & steamed artichoke with orange-tarragon dip.
The jumbo thistle was perfectly tender from the outermost leaves inward; it almost didn’t need saucing, a good thing, since the dip was pretty bad, with the thin, artificial sweetness of those oil-free Pritikin salad dressings of old, when guys with mustaches & gals with Farrah dos (speaking of time-capsule hairstyles) switched to decaf & went jogging in short shorts.
No, it wasn’t premium fresh mozzarella or prosciutto, but it was decent & generous, with olives & garlicky marinated tomatoes, & a refreshing change from the usual greasy fried suspects.
Granted, enough oil was accumulated somewhere to smear my lens. But isn’t it fitting to view a quesadilla through a haze of fat?
Yet even this old standby has been updated for the new millennium (or at least late in the old one) with a vegetarian filling (black beans, peppers, tomatoes & blended cheese), plus “salsa fresca,” “lime crema” (not, note, “sour cream”) & “avocado relish” (not, note, “guac”). Terminology, as we learned here, can make all the difference between junk food & health food. Really, the changes are neither here nor there as far as either nutrition or flavor goes; the quesadilla’s good, it’s fine, it’s nothing you couldn’t make at home just as well. But then, that’s true of most items at a place like Pearl Street; as I noted in the abovelinked post about Hanson’s, you don’t come here to be wowed by the cooking, you come to be lulled by the boozy neighborhood vibe. The eats just help you soak it up.
Same goes for the Southwest steak salad.
With avocado, tomato, corn–black bean salad, queso fresco & mixed greens, it’s only a slight variation on the pre-revamp version, with 1 exception: the really good, smoky, tangy, creamy roasted red pepper vinaigrette on the side. If it wasn’t housemade, I sure couldn’t tell.
Ultimately, it’s the same old Pearl Street, just buffed a bit. Why should it be otherwise?