Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

1612 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace on Urbanspoon

For me, having a good meal is just as much about the food as it is about the people you're eating with. The ambience is important too but I find that you can make up for a lot of things if you really enjoy the company.  This was never more evident to me as when a good friend of mine came to DC and we had lunch.  We've had a lot of really good meals together from Dell'Anima to Sushi of Gari to Dieci to Sorella to RedFarm and I wanted to make sure we headed to a good place.  So, I chose to go to Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, yet another restaurant in the Black Restaurant Group.

She had some major family commitments during the visit and we could only fit in lunch at Pearl Dive during her visit so we had to make it count.  Normally, when I have a meal with people I'm less familiar with, ordering is a pretty rigid process.   You order your own apps, entrees and desserts.  Sharing optional.  For this meal, ordering is a little bit of a free for all with sharing being a natural part of the meal which isn't a problem since our tastes are very similar.  We, of course, had to start off with six oysters but when we heard that there was a heirloom tomato salad appetizer, that had to happen too.  She ordered the soft shell crab special for an entree and I got the crawfish etouffee and we shared the fried chicken.  to finish it off, we got a piece of pecan pie a la mode.

For drinks we both got something called a Pearl Cup.  I wasn't really paying attention as to what it was but I think it was Pearl Dive's version of a Pimm's Cup.  Usually, the sweetness of such a drink can sometimes be overwhelming but the fresh ginger ale in this one really cut through that and gave it a great kick.

We ordered six oysters and asked for the chef's selection of the day.  I wish I wrote down which kinds we got but I was a little more engaged with my Pearl Cup at the time.  The six that did come out where all on the small to medium side and if you progressed from left to right (see picture below), the salinity for oysters increased.  The oysters were fresh, went down clean, and there was a noticeably absence of grit.  The heirloom salad had a mix of chunked heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella cheese.  The tomatoes were fresh and sweet though I don't know if I like them in such big chunks so much so that I thought the cherry tomatoes were the highlight of the dish.  Fresh mozzarella is always a great addition to a salad like this but it had been drizzled with oil or something which gave it a somewhat dark, almost dirty-looking appearance which as a bit off-putting.

When the waiter came by to ask me if my crawfish etouffee was too spicy, I answered, "It is and it isn't."  What?  It was spicy but the kind where you can't stop eating the dish because of the spiciness.  It came with a couple slices of toasted bread with herbs and butter which helped absorb the spice but I was just as content mixing up the rice and etouffee and shoveling it my mouth.  I did think the crawfish got a bit lost in the whole dish but I don't think that's abnormal for the dish.  The soft shell crab was nicely battered and gave off that familiar sweet flavor.  The best part of the dish, to me, was the salad of baby squash, corn and fresh basil that the crab lay on.  The baby squash came out with a nice, vibrant green color and had a good balancing texture to the crispy crab.

Just as we were about to finish up our entrees, we saw a plate of fried chicken come out of the kitchen and we both knew we had to get some.  We hailed our waiter and ordered some and asked why we didn't see it on the menu.  Well, it turns out it was at the bottom of the menu and we were both just a blind.  Oops.  I think there were some pickled vegetables and a slaw that came with the fried chicken but I couldn't tell you what they tasted like.  The chicken (all dark meat) came out steaming hot and crispy.  You could really see the buttermilk in both flavor and the tenderness of the chicken.  It would have been a nice way to end the meal but a meal with us always means dessert.

So, I asked my friend to choose and she narrowed it down to pie (Pie of the Day was peaches & cream), pie (the Kentucky Derby Pie -- still don't know what that is) or pie (the Brazos River Bottom Pecan Pie).  We ended up choosing the pie.  Okay, the pecan pie.  I should have learned my lesson at Virtue Feed & Grain but the custard in this pecan pie was made with bourbon (some rum too I think) and I'm learning that I just don't like my desserts infused with bourbon.   Despite the bourbon, the rest of the pie was nicely flavorful and I liked that it wasn't overly sweet as pecan pies can tend to be.

I've been wanting to eat at Pearl Dive Oyster Palace for quite a while now and when I finally got a chance to eat a meal there, I'm glad that it was with a good friend and one of my most familiar dining companions.  We both have similar tastes and a desire to sample a lot of food hence we got a good sampling of food during our visit at Pearl Dive.  All the food that came out was well prepared and I thought a good representation of DC restaurants to someone who was visiting from out of town.  While I'm glad the food came out tasty, I'll remember the meal most because it had been a while since I'd seen this particular friend much less dined with her and I didn't realize how much I missed her company and how much more enjoyable a meal could be when it's with someone so familiar.


  1. Wound up on your blog from the Ava Ballston portal (I'm in the Ava building). Great blog/resource.

    1. Hey! Thanks for the comment. Let me know if I have to do anything different. Glad you're reading it.


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