Monday dinners are Perla are subdued, but still pumping with wonderful surprises. The Jay-Z & Nate Dogg playlists are replaced by Adele’s 21 and all the seats at the bar are unfilled until 6:30PM. Luckily, the delicious pastas and friendly service are around every evening. Gabe Stulman’s ten-weeks-old spot is making great strides to serve quality Italian meals.
I’ve been going to bed for the past few days just dreaming about this dish. As I was growing up, Mama Cho would make Nak Ji Bokum (spicy stir-fried octopus) for the Cho family. Every component of the dish was perfect except for the octopus itself. We bought it from the dreaded frozen seafood aisle and that monster was a total bitch to chew. The octopus here has a different story to tell. It’s perfectly braised and soft like every octopus should be. The tomatoes are sweet and aromatic. The eggplant is succulent and tender. Most importantly, the fett’unta soaks up all the elements on the plate. It’s a must at Perla.
The Pasta Tasting
Our server hesitated when my friend and I ordered four pasta dishes AND the octopus AND the guinea hen. I knew it was a lot of food, but my eating capacity has developed quite tremendously since arriving in Manhattan. I wanted to try everything on the dinner menu.
The piping-hot morsels of pasta have a spicy kick which I truly appreciate. It’s delicate and has a similar texture to Korean rice cakes. However, my first-love gnocchi is still at Barbuto.
The Tortelli with asparagus offers…….to be honest, I don’t remember anything about the tortelli. I dropped the ball, again. I apologize. I think I was still dreaming about the octopus.
I certainly remember the garganelli. My friend preferably does not prefer offal so I insincerely nodded my head when he asked me if the tripe was duck (sorry, Ryan). The chili from the garganelli brings in a pleasing spiciness and the guanciale adds a wonderful meatiness to the pasta (pork jowl does wonders). The garganelli was one of my favorite pastas of the night.
My other favorite was the cavatelli incatenati with Egg, Pancetta and Pecorino Molise. Maybe I actually fell in love with the foie gras preparation. YES, the foie gras did indeed win me over. The smell of the liver and the pancetta resonated throughout the entire plate. The aroma and the taste of the ingredients on this dish are captivating.
Chef Toscano truly knows how to build the better chicken. Perla’s succulent guinea hen is poached in its own juices at a very low heat for a few hours and then pan-seared. The inside is moist and the skin is crisp. When I visited last week, I was treated to scallops and asparagus instead of the usual black trumpet mushrooms. The entire plate is then blessed with stock and foie gras sauce. It melts in your mouth.
To make me feel less conscious about my figure, I asked my friend Ryan to share the crostata with me. He refused to take any more bites so I soldiered on by myself. I justify ordering dessert by saying it’s for the blog. That always seems to take the pain away.
The presentation of the dish does not do justice to how delicious it is. The smooth dark chocolate and the crunch from the almonds are intoxicating. The subtle notes of banana and salted caramel at the end of the experience are what I’d call a “happy ending.”
This place is my vision of what an Italian restaurant should be like. All the dishes are dependable and the service is accommodating and friendly. Perla’s open kitchen seems to create a constructive interaction between the front of the house staff and the chefs. The members of restaurant look like they’re truly passionate about serving the food.
There is no doubt in my mind I’ll be back for more wonderful meals. Even if I know that the lines are going to get longer once Perla becomes widely known, I’ll patiently wait for my turn again and again.
P.S. I saw Padma Lakshmi after my meal y’all. It was a pleasant surprise at the end of the night. She was dreamy, just like the braised octopus.