Yesterday started off gloomy, with spitting, noncommittal rain and low, gray clouds. Suitably depressed, I spent the morning catching up on emails, checking in with my tweeps, and charging up my laptop. I trudged out the door at about noon and took the (oddly crowded with children) bus across town, and then the C train down to the West Village.
My destination? Pearl Oyster Bar, the legendary (and legendarily tiny - at least before its recent expansion into space next door) seafood restaurant on Cornelia Street. I'd been hearing tell of Pearl's obscenely delicious lobster roll for years now, but the accompanying descriptions of ridiculously long lines pretty much killed my curiosity.
I figured, though, that a weekday afternoon was probably a pretty good time to avoid the crowds and decided to give it a shot. I was right! When I walked into the restaurant, it was about half-full, and since I was alone, the bartender invited me to sit at any of the open bar stools. I hopped up to a spot right in the middle, pulled out my book, and ordered a glass of Pinot Blanc and a lobster roll.
The lobster roll arrived about five minutes later, accompanied by piping hot shoestring fries. Huge chunks of lobster tossed with mayonnaise, salt, pepper and lemon juice graced a freshly-toasted (and buttered) brioche hot dog bun. Topped with a shower of chives, it was pretty much one of the best things I've ever tasted. I can't explain it - I think it must be either something in the lobsters' cooking liquid or some kind of alchemy, but this salad was just...insane.
I doused the fries with malt vinegar and dug in. I thought the ridiculous deliciousness would wear off as I made my way through the roll, but I was wrong - the very last bite was just as good as the very first. Possibly more so, since it involved the buttered bun.
Now, I'm a New Englander. I have my loyalties, and I am of course of the mind that seafood - particularly lobster and, say, fried clams - are best enjoyed as close to the ocean as possible, preferably at a picnic table within spraying distance of the waves. However. I am not exaggerating when I say this was, without a doubt, the best lobster roll of my life.
I finished the meal off with two mugs of coffee and a few more pages of my book, reluctant to leave the calming rythms of the semi-open kitchen and gentle hum of conversation at the bar. Eventually, though, I packed up my things and headed back out into the gray New York afternoon - which, I have to admit, seemed a whole lot brighter.
Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia Street
Between Bleecker and West 4th
212-621-8211 (No Reservations)