An unassuming basement in the city center of Dublin, is home to Pearl Brasserie, specializing in refreshingly modern French food with a hint of Asian flavor
When it comes to dining, there are a couple things that all amazing restaurants have in common. It doesn’t matter what city you’re in, or what continent, for that matter—the restaurants that stand out all seem to adhere to some cool set of uniform qualities. Laid back attitude, the need for perfect ingredients and the resistance to every opinion. So when I heard that there was a French chef, doing really cool things with Irish produce and a love for Asia, operating from a basement, I was sold! One thing I’ve learned: anything that’s hidden in a basement is sure to be a gem. Pearl Brasserie, a modern French restaurant in the middle of Dublin, is proof that the hippest things are often found underground.
Pearl Brasserie, though it has the feel of a well-kept secret, is a popular destination in the city center of Dublin. When we arrived at the restaurant for our 9:30 reservation, the place was packed and alive with the merriment of satisfied patrons. Whatever you’re imagining about a basement restaurant is probably fairly accurate. Pearl Brasserie has a dusky kind of lighting that gives the environment an undeniably romantic and snug feel. The sounds of laughter and clinking silverware reinforced a reality we were soon to understand—this restaurant really has it all figured out.
We were greeted at the front by Kirsten Batt, who owns the restaurant with her partner, Sebastien Masi. After showing us our table, she hurried off to seat her next guests. I was happy to see that the owners were so hands-on in the restaurant—you can sense their passion and love for their restaurant, and it’s a pride the customers pick up on too. Outkast was playing coyly in the background, dim lighting was setting the mood and the circles of laughter were a bit contagious. This restaurant was cool, without even trying to be. Who knew that 90’s hip-hop and fine dining could juxtapose so wonderfully?
Sebastien Masi and Kirsten Batt opened Pearl Brasserie in 2000, in the cavernous venue that was once Lloyd’s Brasserie by Conrad Gallagher. The French cuisine of Pearl Brasserie is attributed to Masi’s culinary genius, which is rooted in his French origins. Born in Clermont Ferrand, France, Masi moved to Ireland in 1994 to work in Michelin-starred restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and then Commons Restaurant on St. Stephen’s Green. Masi and Batt intensely value the importance of genuine hospitality and that’s exactly what they throw back into their restaurant. Their team is genuinely friendly (something that only comes from a good work environment) and knowledgeable, with endless and vivid recommendations for every palate. They’ll also tell you where all the good dive bars are...
Our meal began with a bright amuse-bouche, which featured crabmeat with the familiar citrusy profile of ceviche. It was a tasty sneak-peek of what was to come. Next was goat cheese parfait, paired with smoked tomato, Kalamata olives, apple balsamic, and fennel. My favorite dish was the tuna, accented with zesty ponzu and wasabi sorbet. It’s possible that wasabi sorbet is the best thing I have come across, and I have to figure out how to have this on constant standby! We also really enjoyed the lamb loin with mini ratatouille, rosemary jus, and risotto croquettes.
At the recommendation of our waiter, we had no choice but to order the fresh king scallops with tomatoes as well, a dish that made it official: Dublin has the best scallops we have ever had. Rumor has it that Pearl Brasserie makes a Bloody Mary sorbet every now and then, so keep your eyes out for it!
Our meal ended with a visit from the chef/owner, Sebastien, pulling up a chair next to us and promptly ordering more wine to share. His demeanor was cool and intriguing as he shared stories about his past ventures and his love for Dublin and his wife. It’s easy to fall in love with this couple. You can’t help but listen to every word they say, and follow their every move. Their ardent passion is simply contagious and we can’t wait to come back.
For more information about Pearl Brasserie, please visit their website: