Don’t shift your mindset to fall and winter just yet, Cincinnati received a great new addition to their food scene – PearlStar Oyster Bar recently opened in the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood.
Located at 1220 Vine St. in the former A Tavola storefront, PearlStar has a fresh new interior, menu and ambiance. Terry Raley – Nashville restaurateur and former executive chef at Senate, now leading the kitchen at PearlStar – with culinary and operations director Leroy Ashley, have created a trendy new space. People of all ages can enjoy PearlStar’s streamlined menu of light fares.
PearlStar’s interior design is articulately curated to resemble an atmosphere of a beach town. Green-glazed plant potters holding tall palms or textured snake plants create an intimate oasis. The main dining is filled with light wood benches backlit with a soft blue light to illuminate the gallery above. Light fixtures play with one another to create a layered environment, mixing modern with eclectic styles.
The kitchen is merely separated from the main dining by laminated glass and a thin strip of small open windows, as a metaphor for PearlStar’s value of bringing fresh oysters from each coast to your plate. Vintage artwork, signage and photographs throughout the space complement the simple color palette. The bar is colorful with a display of drinks, shiplap canvas and brass details. Exiting into the courtyard, vintage inspired red umbrellas, white benches, bocci ball area and a large green wall with the restaurant’s signage displayed confidently.
When my party of three sat down, we were given a light blue menu with all the oysters of the day and side items. We chose six different oysters and then the side of Smoked Trout Mousse - $12 or market price. Each oyster ran from $3 to $3.50 each, or market price. Our three must-have oysters are the Beach Point, a semi-tumbled sweet and briny that went great with the contrast of horseradish; the Boomamoto, a full brine robust; and lastly in third place, Savage Blondes, a very clean taste.
We topped the Savage Blondes with PearlStar’s special hot sauce, and it was the perfect marriage. The Smoked Trout Mousse came displayed with perfectly oiled and toasted bread to spread the mousse, and a mustard side, which gave it a nice flavor. This side dish was unique, soft and savory, but is best shared among the table.
Another guest passing by stopped to enthusiastically urge us to order the Miso Kale Salad, $12 or market price, and Baked Oysters, also $12 or market price. We did so, along with many other dishes. The Miso Kale Salad had a simple dressing with a crunchy detail and parmesan flavor due to the Grana Padano cheese.
The preparation of the Brussel Sprouts, $8 or market price, were exactly what I wanted with a slightly crispy exterior but that tender interior any brussels sprouts fan loves.
Lastly, our table indulged in the Baked Oysters and the Seared Scallop Tostada, $16 or market price. The oysters came as three on a beautiful platter, “Rockefeller” Style, making a slight crunch from the toppings but a smooth, cheesy and buttery flavor. They were seafood in the fall’s dream. This topped the list of our table’s favorite side dish. The tostada was composed of chorizo, avocado, serrano, lime crema and scallions. The serrano pepper added a pleasant amount of heat and smokiness to the dish just when you thought it would be a milder simple taste.
PearlStar is an extremely affordable place in OTR to enjoy with college friends and embrace the area’s ever-evolving food scene. It features food that is delicious, light, with great takes on seafood and an inviting seaside-like ambiance. I will surely be back, and I hope you go as well.