Please note this restaurant has now closed and has been replaced by Baby.
A Melbourne Food & Wine Special Event
It’s sad to announce that once again the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival has closed its doors for the year. While we haven’t been as active in broadcasting our food adventures as we would have liked, there was one last Express Lunch left at two hat establishment Pearl Restaurant in Richmond. Named after the hard object which many of the female kind would love to wear, this gem of a restaurant certainly strut its stuff with its modern Australian / Thai inspired menu.
“Any foodie would know about Pearl Restaurant. I have to admit that before I had experienced Pearl Restaurant I could have easily gone to ten other high-end restaurants before seriously considering going there. Subjective opinions of the public could never guarantee me to ensure I would impress Miss SL for an exceptional night out, and so I went with some uncertainty.
Upon entering Pearl Restaurant there was a little perceived pretentiousness. There was an automatic swing door and the staff were exceptionally attentive. As we were seated I took in the clean white decor and in-vogue lighting. The atmosphere was relaxed and yet professional and the waiters were diligent but casual. They came at the right time without being overbearing and they interacted well with guests when pouring wine and presenting dishes. We were quite relaxed and ready for a perfect Sunday lunch.
The wine started to flow and I had decided on the Pinot Grigio, or as the waiter cheekily put it- “pinko grigio”, due to its pink colouring. My wine tasting skills can be described as modest at best. What I can tell you is that it had a lovely crisp taste with very subtle notes. It wasn’t as fruity as a Sauvignon Blanc but nor was it dull. A medium balance to complement with a meal.
Dessert wasn’t a consideration and with that settled I elected for an entree and main. For entree I went for the raw option of Sashimi grade swordfish salad with green mango and heart of palm, coriander and rice paddy herb, red nam jim and for mains I opted for the Slow cooked western plains pork with coconut caramel, hand rolled noodles and green papaya salad.
For the entree the first noticeable element was the powerful Thai influence in the first mouthful. The fresh coriander was glossed with the nam jim. The swordfish was prepared perfectly to be soft and was well complemented with the heart of palm and mango.
The heart of the palm counter-balanced the dish, but also brought its own subtle flavours. This dish was incredible with its preparation, plating and tastes and without a doubt delivered remarkable Thai food.
With the entree completed, my excitement for mains had grown. Even though my dish wasn’t going to match Miss SL’s signature dish, it was sure to be something special. The plating was visually pleasing with the rice noodles wrapped into log shapes, used as a bed for the pork to rest. The pork had a lovely juicy taste and was a generous serving size, topped with a small salad. The pork itself succeeded as the star of the dish. The top skin was surprisingly soft and carmalised with little crunchy pieces. It was easy to cut through and I was able to enjoy the full depth of the top middle and bottom layers of the meat.
We were also naughty little children and ordered the Thrice cooked hand cut chips with roasted garlic aioli and tomato jam [$8 supplement].As expected for thrice cooked hand cut chips, they were definitely a mark above the average chip. They were crunchy on the outside but oh so soft on the inside. Out of the two sauces, the tomato jam had caught my taste buds. There was a true tomato texture and flavour which included mustard seeds. The roasted garlic aioli had a mayo flavor but wasn’t left behind, demolished between the two of us.
Pearl Restaurant didn’t just exceed my expectations but also changed my perspective. I could understand why they are a constant fixture in The Age – Good Food Guide and numerous other awards. Sure, the price point is a bit high and this might be their undoing given mixed reviews. Whether it’s hype or just plain luck on our behalf, Pearl Restaurant is worthy of its status.”
“There are some places you hear mixed reviews about – places where people either love it or wouldn’t really bother going back. Pearl Restaurant in Richmond seems to have been one of those places – I’d heard mixed responses from my friends but overall wasn’t deterred in going there to try it for myself. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t even sure what cuisine it was. When we sat down and looked at the menu I immediately realised it was a (mostly) high-end Thai restaurant.
Pearl Restaurant was very clever in the way that they designed their express lunch. There was the option to stick to the two courses [$35] or upgrade to three courses [$49]. On top of that, the restaurant goer had the opportunity to supplement their meals (for an additional cost) for some of Pearl‘s signature dishes. I was sucked in. I stuck my guns to two courses but decided to supplement my main and dessert for some signature dishes, going for the Coconut braised red duck curry with son in law egg, sweet fish sauce and cucumber ajar, coconut scented jasmine rice [$15 supplement] and Rose petal turkish delight ice cream with glace ginger and vanilla scented persian fairy floss [$5 supplement]. This brought my meal total to a cool $55, but hey – while I’m here, I may as well give it a proper shot, right?!
The house red was a Pinot Noir by Cross Roads, and was very delicious. It was easy to sip and enjoy without overpowering the senses. When my red duck curry came out I knew I made the right choice. The coconut scented jasmine rice sat invitingly in the centre of a large black dish, beckoning me to lather it with the paste from the sweet fish sauce and cucumber ajar that sat beneath the son in law eggs. On the waitresses advice, I added the sauce to the rice, mixing it in and adding some sprouts, duck and lime. WOOSH! The flavour explosion was instantaneous. The red duck curry was the best I’d ever eaten – the sauce thick, rich and creamy. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it tasted like tamarind was used to give the curry a tangy and authentic flavour, encouraging the spices to linger in my mouth.
I’d broken open the fried exterior of the son in law egg and it oozed out immediately over my rice. WOW! Who would have though that coconut flavoured Jasmine rice and egg would go so well? The heat from the dish quickly encouraged me to reach for my greens, creating a balance.
When dessert came I was ecstatic. It was romantically plated with deep pink / red rose petals lining the dish and pomegranate seeds peeping out underneath the vanilla scented fairy floss. The smell of this dish was just gorgeous – the sweet sugary vanilla and rose water scents rose from the plate and into my nose, teasing me to dig in and enjoy. The fairy floss was very sweet and melted in my mouth immediately. The ice cream was very cold – as you’d expect – and yet, added an element of suprise to the dish. There was something about mixing the temperatures of a dish that really intrigued me. The turkish delight flavours amongst the ice cream was enhanced with the sweet fairy floss and chunks of glaced ginger really added to the many textures that were experienced all at once.
Pearl Restaurant was an amazing experience and I really don’t care to hear otherwise. Mr LB and I discussed afterwards and agreed that it would be totally worth the a la carte price and that we’d be going back again sometime this year. If you like Thai and you have a bit of cash to splash then Pearl Restaurant is a must do. No ifs, but, next times – make it your next priority.
Final thought: “High end Thai food. The signature red duck curry is worth every penny”