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Restaurants & Bars 9

Uptick in T-Towne (Tulsa OK) : Pearls Seafood Grill

Mike | Nov 3, 200304:20 PM

I hesitate to put the hex on this place but I had a truly good lunch at Pearl's Seafood Grill (7031 S Zurich Ave. [N. off 71st St. near and east of Yale Ave] Tulsa 74136 Phone: 918-524-FISH.
This was a place fairly unique in being a Tulsa restaurant that makes you want to go back a second time.
OK the details. I asked is Pearl's a chain? (string?!) and I suppose it sort of is, with another location in Oklahoma City. But unless they unwisely decide to expand I think that barely contravenes the Chowhound proscription against chains, especially in a state not so well off for good food.
Located in a defunct steak house this place has been open about a year I was told: enough time to feel like it's found its pace and style. (This is my first visit.) Decor is sort of Mardi Gras decorations offset by dark wood paneling. As you walk in you notice an ice display of oysters and shrimp which is both an ornate and hunger-inducing device.
In the event I did not order oysters as they were pre-shucked, but they were available at the not-cheap not-ultra expensive price of about $5.99 the half and 10.99 the dozen on the half shell.
Started proceedings (we are a party of three) with alligator appetizer. This was the tip-off that good things were to come, as fried seafood (alligator, shrimp, oysters whatever) is not as simple to bring off as dumping stuff into the fryolator and hoping for the best. The alligator was cooked just perfectly (the meat) and the crust would not have disgraced a fry cook in New Orleans' finest. Or Lafayette's for that matter. (Could have lived without the provided seafood cocktail sauce, or come to think of it any seafood cocktail sauce served anywhere in the world, but there was better to come).
Main courses:
1) Tilapia with blackened scallops and shrimp with side of dirty rice
Included green salad with excellent vinaigrette
2) Crawfish Etoufee (lunch menu item) with side of dirty rice
3) Skewered blackened shrimp and scallops with side of red beans, rice and andouille (sausage)
Included "Tabasco" Salad (Caesar style & good, not sure why the name Tabasco, there must be a drop of it (literally) in the dressing somewhere)
All the main courses were very well done. Blackening here means what it should mean: a flavorful and pungent seasoning ... not that the food has been incinerated. The tilapia was super fresh, and cooked (as was all the seafood) perfectly. It was also extremely moist and matched well with the rice dressing and shrimp. The Etoufee is not for the purist: it's a brown roux gravy style not a light vegetable one. I have to say it's not as appetizing to look at as the bright red / light brown affairs that are more common in LA but it was declared to taste fine, and I confirmed it was well done on its own terms if not what I might have expected having ordered c.e.
I had the shrimp and scallops impaled on ye olde stick. The scallops were cooked "just so" and the shrimp were superbly fresh and (as with a lot at this place) made you forget you were not a whole closer to the Gulf & bayous than Tulsa.
The dirty rice could have been a bit dirtier for me, more radical "bits & pieces" would have been fine: it was a little bit gentrified, but the red beans & rice (it was a Monday as it happened) could not have been more authentic, especially when nicely accented with some slivers of andouille, the Cajun sausage of choice.
A good selection of wine by the glass and with my meal I selected Beck's Dark which made for a heavy but deeply savory and satisfying combination with the rice dressing and seafood.
The house specialties of crème brulee dessert was very good but served with a cool crust (unfortunately). Topped with fresh fruits and the custard very satisfyingly creamy and vanilla-ry.
The tab? Don't know as someone else was picking it up. We ordered from the main menu and entree prices were from about $9 to $16 so quite reasonable and place settings, plates and all were 2-3 notches above the norm being pretty designs and large enough to accommodate the hearty portions without being crowded.
Service: we had a good waiter but I still don't like the all-prevailing style of random folks bringing this and that and constantly wanting to clear things away and ask you things. This may just be my European frame of reference, which is: "Bring the food, be there if we need you, but otherwise don't be coming asking us every five minutes if 'everything is to you liking' and 'can I take that?'."
They have a great chef though who knows that fresh fish and flavorful simplicity will win out a lot of the time. I can't define quite why this place beats similar places (the Bourbon St Cafe comes to mind) by a huge margin, but it's a combination of an uninstitutionalized (chain) menu and just a little extra effort in the quality and preparation I think.
Pearl's Seafood Grill now joins India Palace as the not one but TWO places in Tulsa I would now go back to other than under duress or at gunpoint. As I said to start, to say this is to almost guarantee a hex will occur on this place: if the chef moved on I suspect all, or most, might be lost; although whoever buys the food is not skimping on quality most especially the seafood. We heard that an "all you can eat lobster" special offerred for $40 had been discontinued. "Homer Simpson party of one, your table is ready!"
I wonder why!~?
Thanks for reading.

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