Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, 8 September 2012

Last night I tried Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, one of Jeff and Barbara Black’s DC-area restaurants.  Pearl Dive has been open for almost a year now, and I wanted to check them out before their big anniversary bash.

Naturally, I started off with a plate of twelve raw oysters.  I got a good variety – two each of six – including Hammersley (Washington), Chefs Creek (British Columbia), Broadwater (Virginia), Battle Creek (Virginia), Wild Goose (Rhode Island), and Fire Lake (New Brunswick).  The oysters came out with the usual cocktail sauce and mignonette, but also included was their Dive Juice and Yuzu-Mirin options, which were both great…I especially liked the yuzu with the oysters.

You can’t show up to Pearl Dive and not start out with a few oysters-on-the-half-shell. That would be wrong. Top right sauce was the Dive Juice, bottom right is the yuzu.

My second oyster dish of the evening was the Mariscos de Campechana.  A sundae glass filled with Virginica oysters, blue crab, shrimp, tomato-serrano salsa, and avocado, served with tortilla chips.  It was a little bit bigger than I was anticipating, but that was okay as it was delicious.

Another great oyster dish…bigger than I was anticipating.

Pearl Dive has quite a number of oyster preparations, including some hot ones.  My server, Blake, recommended the Tchoupitoulas plate – oyster confit, blue crab, tasso ham, and roasted corn – which was probably my favorite dish of the night.  The other options sounded good, but there is only so much I can try in one sitting.

My favorite from the evening…the Tchoupitoulas oyster plate.

I closed off the meal with an order of the Braised Pork Cheeks, served with chipotle-ham-hock broth and stone grits.  The tender pork cheeks went really well with the grits, which had a slight sweetness possibly imparted by the broth.

Nice and tender pork cheeks.

Good cocktails as well.  I got a Sazerac to start off….

Good Sazeracs here.

…and finished up with a recommendation – Pearl Dive’s cross between a Pimm’s Cup and a Mule – the Pearl Cup (Pimms, Plymouth Gin, cucumber, lime, mint, house ginger beer).  This one was excellent…I’ll be adding this to my list to reproduce at home.

Great take on a Pimm’s Cup. Recommend.

As a warning, Pearl Dive is first-come, first-served, so try to get there early.  I went on a Saturday at about 7 PM and they were mobbed…I got a seat at the oyster bar (four or five seats) which was not.  Pearl Dive has a frontage  bar which opens onto the street, and would be nice when it’s not as humid as this evening happened to be (here’s some photos of the establishment from the folks that built it).

Also, check out Tom Sietsema’s reviewat the Washington Post here…he recommends the catfish po’ boy, which I will be trying next time I stop by.

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
1612 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 319-1612
Pearl Dive seats on a first-come, first-serve basis.

AGAINN, May-June 2012

I’ve hit Againn twice in the past month for some delicious , locally-sourced, gastropub food.  What makes it so endearing to me is the simple pub-fare food, classed-up, and somehow made lighter than one would typically expect of such eats.

Thus far all the dishes I’ve had at Againn (a Gaelic word meaning “with us“) have been excellent.  I’ll mention the details here.

Baked Camembert Cheese. Great starter.


  • Baked Camembert Cheese – “Studded with garlic and rosemary, tomato chutney, garlic croutes.”  Really garlicky (especially the croutes, although there is plenty in the cheese).  I’m a fan of baked Brie, and Camembert has its similarities.  The tomato chutney went well with the rosemary and garlic flavors, adding tang and a mellowing out of the saltiness.
  • Salmon Fishcakes – “Lemongrass, chili, coriander, marinated cucumbers, sweet chili dip.”  As one would imagine from the description, there’s a hint of Thai in the taste…not a bad fusion, although not the typical UK pub grub flavors.
  • Oysters – Add a half or full dozen of the daily selection of oysters Againn has up for offer.  They came out with a half lemon (with a cloth filter to catch the pulp and seeds) and a tasty shallot vinegar.

Love me some oysters…

Good fishcakes appetizer…


  • Pork Belly and Crackling – “House made black pudding, apple mash, red wine jus.”  I’ve tried this twice, and every bit of the dish has been delicious.  The pork belly was tender and succulent, and the black pudding and apple mash were flavorful even without the jus.  The crackling was crunchy and went well with the rest of the entree.  If you’re a pork fan, get this one.
  • Grilled Lamb Rump – “Potato gratin, red wine sauce.”  Againn serves the lamb medium, although it appeared closer to medium rare to me.  I actually asked for medium rare, so this was great.  Keep it in mind if you prefer yours more cooked.  The red wine sauce went very well with the meat, and the gratin side was savory (I’m definitely a fan of the sides here – they’re not something that everyone gets right).

If pork belly is on the menu, I’m probably getting it…

Great lamb dish…


  • Cheesecake (special) – Againn was testing a new cheesecake recipe when I was visiting.  Baked cheesecake with an Oreo crust, topped with melted Mascarpone, and served with a berry sauce.  The Mascarpone could have had a little more sweetness, although it worked as a nice contrast with the taste of the rest of the dessert.
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding – served with vanilla ice cream.  Sweet and tasty…a good pub dessert.  I’d get this again.
  • Strawberry Eton Mess – “Pimm’s marinated strawberries, crushed meringue, whipped cream.”  I didn’t get this, but it sounded so good that I want it in the near future.

Againn’s test cheesecake…

Great ending…


  • God of War – “Makers Mark bourbon, cherry herring, sweet vermouth, Peychauds bitters, house-made blood orange bitters.”
  • Pimm’s Cup No. 13 – “Pimm’s No. 1, choice of any spirit, english cucumber, mint, lemon, ginger syrup, Angostura bitters, ginger beer.”
  • Lady Macbeth – “Choice of vodka or gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon, eggwhites.”

These were all good…they’re going up on my list for in-house mixology.

God of War…

Pimm’s Cup No. 13 (with gin)…

Lady Macbeth (with gin)…

If you’re a scotch fan, Againn has something for you.  Besides having an extensive scotch list, scotch lockers, and listed scotch flights, Againn will let you do your own custom flights.  I tried one with Islay scotches…all nice and peaty.

Flight of Islay scotch…Ardbeg 10, Bowmore 15, Caol Ila 12, Oban 14…

Againn has lower reviews on some sites than I would have expected.  As with any restaurants, I’d encourage folks to check places out for themselves before taking a restaurant off your list based on poor reviews – especially when the number of reviewers is low.  Keep Againn on your list.

1099 New York Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 639-9830
Book on OpenTable