What better way to start out the new year than by experiencing a new restaurant?
At Pearl in Island Park, owner Paul Holand and executive chef Michael Ross have teamed up again after their first venture, Pasta Grill in Rockville Centre, which opened in 1993. We have been waiting for them to re-emerge and we are thrilled that we can again enjoy their wonderful cuisine.
This talented pair brings us a restaurant with a sophisticated atmosphere that is chic, posh, and inviting. There is ample bar room, which keeps the bar crowd from interfering with the diners at tables, and a fireplace.
Chef Ross has been wowing diners on Long Island for more than 30 years. Following the closing of Pasta Grill, his creations charmed us at some of our favorite places including Fiddleheads in Oyster Bay, Bel Posto in Huntington, Sally’s Cocofe in Huntington, Jewel in Melville, and Salt & Barrel in Bay Shore. He grew up in Brentwood, hence his cognizance of local products, and attended The Culinary Institute of America. His signature dishes are incomparable.
Pearl’s menu is exciting. It was difficult for us to select items from the many choices to enjoy on our first visit. There is only so much we can eat in a single sitting. Fortunately, we had some friends dining with us, so were able to broaden our samples. We will revisit Pearl again and again — at least until we taste each of the items on this diversified menu.
We have followed Michael for more than 20 years, to a great extent because of his talent with fish and seafood. The fresh raw littleneck clams and local oysters were superb, as is the ceviche. An awesome tuna tartare is joined by scallion, chives, a lemon truffle dressing and sesame seeds.
Other appetizers that we sampled included the calamari a la plancha served with scallions, herbs, sea salt, black pepper, and red wine vinegar, a fresh, tender, and tasty dish. The grilled octopus was presented with chickpeas, olives, sweet peppers, tomatoes, and herbs, on a plate decorated with black tahini.
Our entrées were the pan-seared diver scallops — huge, supple scallops that stand out in an accompaniment of green olives, capers, anchovies, and a saffron-tomato broth with basil, united with couscous. What a combination! And the butcher block special, a 28-day dry-aged sirloin served in a red wine glaze, with colossal visalia onion rings and charred whole vine tomatoes.
Chef Ross has perfected the art of making pasta. Fresh homemade pasta dishes on the menu include fresh linguini with lobster with basil mint garlic, tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, and paccheri, a very large tube-shaped pasta energized with shrimp, scallops, clams, calamari, tomato and basil.
The evening ended with the lemon cheesecake with crème anglais and fresh whipped cream, and the pearl flourless chocolate cake served with an exceptional chocolate gelato, both desserts made in-house. Our next trip will certainly finish with the Pearl sundae, made with vanilla bean and salted caramel gelatos, fresh chocolate sauce, chocolate pearls, almonds, and fresh whipped cream.
Congratulations to Michael Ross and Paul Holand, who once again are giving Long Islanders this pearl of a restaurant: the consummate restaurant with a versatile, artistic, distinctive, top-drawer menu, and a venue that is aesthetically pleasing, congenial, and elegant.
Pearl, 4338 Austin Boulevard, Island Park, 516-432-0723, Pearlrestaurantny.com, Monday-Thursday 5-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5-11 p.m., Closed Sunday. Appetizers $8-$14, Entrees $22-38, Desserts $6-$8.
Jeff is a practicing attorney. Vera is a retired schoolteacher. Both love Long Island food and wine and are delighted to share their discoveries with you. Contact them via firstname.lastname@example.org.