Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine Restaurant Review September 2009
By Dorothy and John Salmon
Nickie and Pete Zeller opened Pearl Restaurant fourteen years ago after working together at the Yountville Diner, a restaurant that locals remember fondly. Their Pearl Restaurant is just that, a “pearl” in downtown Napa’s “West End” behind the new Avia Hotel and Mc Caulou’s, across the street from the Greenhaus Spa. Pearl serves farm fresh and gorgeous looking food prepared with flair by Chef Jose Bravo. We love Pearl, we love Nickie and Pete and the real hometown fabulous, fresh food they serve, especially in the summer. Your September dinner or lunch with friends or family MUST include Pearl while Chef Jose’s “Guerrero style grilled corn on the cob” is still on the menu. It’s incredible! So is everything else, from their killer crab cakes to their grilled marinated tomato basil and mozzarella sandwich, the fish tacos, amazing salads and killer desserts. The grilled corn on the cob recipe is provided below, but it is a lot easier to go to Pearl and have Jose make it for you!
Nickie and Pete are consummate “locals” who support other Valley businesses, such as Big Ranch Farm, local wineries and nonprofits. For example, they donate half of each corkage fee to Napa Humane. They serve seasonal food, which means that you get big hearty food in the winter and incredible farm-fresh food in the summer. If you are lucky enough to get to Pearl when crab is still in season, try their soft shell crab sandwich (panko/sourdough crusted pan fried on an ABC Bakery potato bun w/ avocado, applewood bacon & chipotle aioli). AMAZING! Their loyal customers start calling them in April and May for these special dishes and they won’t serve them until the crab, corn and tomatoes are in season. The corn from the cob, tomato and mozzarella sandwich is usually available through September.
Dorothy ordered Jose’s famous Fulton Farms organic chicken verde with soft polenta, lime cream, house tortillas and great fresh veggies ($16.50), but not before we both had the killer grilled corn on the cob ($3.95). John ordered the fish tacos served with Asian coleslaw and wasabi vinaigrette with house made tortillas ($9.50). Pearl’s menu includes terrific entrees like fragrant roast duck with pear and ginger chutney, apple-Dijon brined pork chops, NY steak Au Poivre, and one-of-a-kind roasted garlic mashed potatoes and their unique polenta.
The desserts are amazing. In the summer you might be lucky enough to get their fresh picked apricot crisp with homemade ice cream ($7.25). We had to have that and it was wonderful. You can choose other great desserts, like their almond nectarine buckle with homemade ice cream, or Maggy and John’s chocolate pot De Crème. All desserts are $7.50.
John and Maggy Kongsgaard are regulars at Pearl. In fact, in the late 70’s and early 80’s the Yountville Diner hosted parties all the time. John and Maggy met at one of those parties. The Kongsgaard’s are wonderful folks. If you are lucky enough to be at Pearl when they are dining there, please say hi to them and order a bottle of John’s famous wine, which is on Pearl’s menu. http://www.kongsgaard-wine.com.
If you show up on Saturday, you can order their Saturday Lunch Oyster Extravaganza from 11:30AM to 2:00 PM. Their BBQ oysters are wonderful too (6 for $11.75) and a glass of Italian sparkling prosecco is $5.00. You can’t beat that!
If you are wondering what the interesting art is on the walls, those are Hex Signs painted by local artist Kathy Dennett to protect your homes, crops and barns! The metal sculpture was created by local artist and attorney Richard Mendelsohn. Nickie will tell you how you can purchase those items, so just ask her.
Guerrero Style Grilled Corn on the Cob
This is a great dish for the BBQ. Grill the corn around the edges of the grill, while cooking meat, chicken, fish or whatever in the middle.
• 12 ears of corn, shucked & cleaned of all silk & steams cut
• 1 cup sour cream (can be nonfat)
• 1 cup mayonnaise (can be nonfat)
• 1/2 tsp chili arbol molida (ground fine) if unavailable
ground buy whole dry chili arbol & grind in mortar or
• 1/2 tsp chili pequin molida (ground fine) same as above*
• 1/2 pound cotija cheese grated fine (like dry itlaian cheese)*
• 4 limes cut in wedges
• Make wood or charcoal fire. While fire is getting ready blanch corn in boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove to
colander & set aside.
• Can be done 4 hours ahead: whip the mayonnaise, sour cream, chili pequin & chile arbol together until smooth.
• Brush blanched corn lightly w/ vegetable, canola or olive oil, place on grill & keep turning until brown all over. Remove from grill & brush with sour cream, mayonnaise, chili mixture & dust w/ grated cotija cheese.
• Put on skewers if you choose or use your hands.
• Serve w/ lime wedges.
*can be found in Mexican markets (in Napa at Morenita Market on Jefferson across from Napa High, very reasonable price on cotija cheese & dry chilis) or in the Mexican section
of most super markets.
-if you are not grilling outside you can brown the blanched corn on the burners of a gas stove or in a grill pan.
– grate the cheese 4 hours ahead and spread it on a sheet pan to dry. That makes it easier to dust it onto the corn.