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Pearl Alley Bistro (Santa Cruz) report and questions

Carb Lover | Nov 13, 200504:17 PM

Y and I popped in for a bite and drink at Pearl Alley Bistro before a late movie on Fri. night. First time visit. Cozy and intimate space that's consistent w/ the bistro name and menu. Website linked below w/ photo from the website.

In a small plates sharing mood, we ordered:

Hudson Valley foie gras, seared and served w/ a pomegranate reduction ($16): My FIRST real foie gras, and it was good. Cross-hatched and seared nicely. Syrupy pomegranate reduction complemented well, think there was some balsamic in it. Served w/ crispy toast points. Minor quibbles: should have been sliced a little thicker IMO; could have been more careful trimming connective tissue; toast points too doused in olive oil, should have been more plain to let foie gras shine.

Escargots w/ parsley and garlic sauce topped w/ a dome of puff pastry ($11): Y really wanted this since he has an affinity for mollusks. Presentation was very nice w/ the fresh bright green sauce and the dramatic pastry atop the snails (no shells). Got the attention of surrounding tables. Taste was fine, but nothing special. Sauce was heavy-handed w/ raw garlic, so good thing we love garlic.

Imported cheese plate w/ toast points, picholine olives, and lightly dressed microgreens (buckwheat sprouts, I think): For $11, this was not a good deal. This was bad ordering on our part since the toast points were the same as on the foie gras dish. Small portions of 3 cheeses that didn't quite match what our server told us. Membrillo listed on menu but greens came out instead. Nothing memorable except the very creamy muenster and the tender, nutty greens.

Fig creme brulee ($7): A basic vanilla bean creme brulee w/ one half of a black fig embedded in the middle. I usually don't care for creme brulee, but this was made well. Smooth and eggy w/ a shattering thin sugar crust and flecks of vanilla bean. Fig was ripe and honey-flavored and garnish of a thin chocolate "cigarette" was nice touch. Only downside was the swirl of whipped cream that had off-flavors from the fridge.

Y had a glass of Cotes du Rhone and I had a 2004 Cloudline Pinot Noir. Both were around $7ea. and nice generous pours. Service was alright. Waitress was friendly but Santa Cruz spacey. Dishes didn't quite match her descriptions, and she didn't seem to know much about the food or wine. We had to correct her when she charged us for a dish that we initially ordered but that they had run out of. Bummer b/c it sounded good (salad of endive, duck confit, and a few other things).

Overall, we enjoyed ourselves and the atmosphere there and will return at some point to try the entrees. Food was a 6/10 (not as good as Soif or Sestri in consistency and execution) but I don't think we ordered the best dishes. The hanger steak and duck that whizzed by looked really good, and this chef reportedly specializes in duck. Wish they had frites on the menu though!!


1. What is the deal w/ the menu? I read somewhere that they rotate every month to focus on a different European region? For instance, website says Southern Italy, but menu read "Parisian bistro". I don't quite understand...(not to mention the Mongolian BBQ that we saw some people order!).

2. How are the oysters, tri-colored flan, and bouillabaisse?



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