- - Thursday, January 24, 2019

Tweezers are used to extract a splinter, or perhaps to pluck an eyebrow. But tweezers in a chef’s breast pocket? That’s what each of the six chefs in the open kitchen of Aaron Silverman’s Pineapple and Pearls (715 8th St. S.E.) restaurant carries to put the finishing decoration on one of the spectacular dishes served at the restaurant.

Pineapple and Pearls is extraordinary, from the moment a guest is served a tiny translucent cup of fragrant tea at check-in, to the miniature dark chocolate bonbon and caramel dipped gooseberry topping off a 10 course dinner. (The “edible treat” once given to guests at the end of the meal has been replaced with a donation in the guest’s name to the World Food Program.)

I have rarely enjoyed such a unique meal, a coordination of tastes, textures and colors in the food, the minimalist yet elegant decor, the amusing prints and stencils on the walls, the open kitchen and the bevy of waiters bringing utensils glasses, dishes, bottles and, of course, the food itself, each a work of art.

The menu is a 10-course prix fixe, accompanied by alcoholic or non-non-alcoholic pairings for each course. The kitchen will accommodate culinary aversions or allergies. Each dish is a morsel, at most three bites; each a complex gem that defies description, a melange of imagination and ingredients. It’s like beholding then consuming a flower garden.

Dinner began with a warm punch of milk-washed Cognac, citrus and burnt thyme, accompanied by a tiny slice of smoked Wagu tallow tart that melted in the mouth, and a miniature puff pastry shell filled with a cream of parsley and garlic, a nest for a tiny snail. Pop it into your mouth and sigh with delight.

The menu included a black and white mole twosome — dark truffle and huitlacoche on one side of the dish, and ground benne seeds on the other — served with 3-inch tortillas; and monkfish with mussels and “Charleston ice cream” (rice boiled, then dried in the oven with lots of butter).

My favorites courses were an extraordinarily smooth beef tartare and two small slices of perfectly roasted duck breast, presented on watercress spaetzle and duck fat brioche, topped with a spoonful of mixed vegetables. So pretty and so delicious. But then, there was the extraordinarily tender venison, and the fragrant Tete de Moine cheese, irresistible in its flower-like presentation. Custards, sweet and savory, appear in several dishes. Especially enticing was the sunchoke pudding, a bridge between the savory courses and dessert.

Pineapple and Pearls is a creation of chef/owner Aaron Silverman, as was his Rose’s Luxury next door, where the line still snakes down 8th Street with patrons waiting for the restaurant to open at 5 p.m. Chef Silverman recently opened Little Pearl, a cafe during the day and wine bar with a $45 prix-fixe menu in the evening.

Scott Muns, who met Chef Silverman when they both worked at 2941 Restaurant in Falls Church, is the Head Chef at Pineapple and Pearls. He opened Rose’s Luxury as Chef de Cuisine and ran the kitchen at Volt in Frederick, Maryland. He has a talent for French cooking. Others in his kitchen lean toward Mexican, Spanish or Asian cuisine. A new dish is sometimes a joint effort, sometimes a one-man creation. Some take months to develop, others a day. The menu changes when a new dish is invented, but on an irregular basis.

Chef Muns’ kitchen runs smoothly; there’s no frantic rushing about. Diners sitting at the eight-person counter facing the kitchen get the double treat of tasting the food and watching as it is prepared and presented.

There’s a Japanese aesthetic in the decor: Black-topped tables, white napkins, a small bowl holding a single flower, and in the choreography of the perfectly fashioned food served in china, glass or pottery. Glasses are changed with each course. The sparkling rhubarb non-alcoholic cider, or the paper-thin slices of cucumber lining the inside of a glass are delightful. Unfortunately, the wines and cider offered in the alcoholic pairing did not live up to the quality of food they accompanied.

All this does not come cheap. Dinner, including the drinks pairings, tax and tip is $325 per person. What you get is a leisurely evening to be savored for a long time. You will not leave hungry, despite the tiny portions, nor will you feel you have eaten too much. At the bar in the front, the price is $150 for a six-course meal without drinks. Portions are somewhat larger and may not be from the restaurant menu.

Pineapple and Pearls deserves the two stars it received from the Michelin guide. It is a place for celebration, be it a birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or just the joy of being alive. The tweezers are put to good use.

• Corinna Lothar is a Washington writer, critic and frequent contributor to The Washington Times.

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