Crazy for the Cultured Pearl
I admit it. I’m sushi crazy. And there’s no place that curbs my cravings better than that Rehoboth tradition, The Cultured Pearl Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar at 301 Rehoboth Avenue.
The restaurant has been around since 1993 and just a few years ago moved to their new signature spot, high atop Rehoboth Avenue, serving as a gorgeous gateway to our city. Proprietors Susan Townley Wood and Rob Wood (holding forth in the kitchen) have done a magnificent job of turning what might have been a city white elephant (the shuttered Quillen’s hardware store) into a welcoming mall and restaurant. Susan is responsible for the design of the space as well as the operation of the restaurant and she deserves a great big cheer for the job she’s done.
When it comes to consistent quality and fresh, fresh, fresh fish, the Pearl is the place. Four of us dined out the other night and had an all-sushi, sashimi and maki roll evening, selecting from the Pearl’s long list of favorites. Nobody has more dynamite in their dynamite roll (Tuna, salmon broiled with spicy mayo) or crunch in their crunchy roll (eel, avocado, tempura bits, spicy sesame and sweet eel sauce).
In a nod to my heritage, east met middle east for a Japanese bagel (a roll of yummy smoked salmon and scallion cream cheese). I have to say that my favorite roll of all is the Rainbow Roll, and it’s mere coincidence that it has a rainbow theme. The combination of an avocado roll draped with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, rockfish and and shrimp is my kind of rainbow! On the sashimi front, the baby yellowtail or Hamachi was new for me and so very delicious. At our table the baby octopus, quail eggs and roe and other delicacies happily disappeared— washed down with a good quantity of Sapporo beer along with hot and cold saki (there are so many kinds at the Pearl I lost count).
Let’s talk edamame—at the Pearl they have an edamame bar. Sure, you can get the traditional steamed soybeans, chilled and salted, but how about Eastern Shore Edamame with Old Bay seasoning, green onion, garlic and lemon. Look out! We sampled the traditional and Eastern Shore, but next time I think I’ll do a happy hour and sample the others at the bar. The choices include Mexican edamame with jalapeno, tomato and cilantro, Smoky edamame with smoked sea salt, miso and aioli, and Thai edamame with chilies, ginger, lime and coconut.
In addition to the edamame, other appetizers on the menu include tempura veggies, handmade dumplings and hamachi kama (grilled yellowtail cheek—sweet and tender). Naturally you can get knockout miso soup, but also a Pearl classic, cream of crab soup.
While this time, we concentrated on a meal from the talented sushi bar chefs, the Cultured Pearl’s kitchen entrees are also legendary. Their Asian Fried Rice and house-made Teruyaki glazed meat or fish are magnificent. The Autumn Duck on the menu (pan seared pomegranate and rosemary glazed duck breast with grilled duck and foie gras sausage already has my vote for the next visit. Curry lovers have a green curry beef and yellow curry shrimp to select, while cashew chicken and and shrimp tempura also grace the menu. The kitchen entrees are in the $22-$25 range and a great value for the money.
Did I tell you that the food at the Cultured Pearl looks as good as it tastes? The platters always come out of the kitchen looking like artwork, and the Pearl is well known for its winning showpiece entries in the Rehoboth Chocolate Fest.
Dinner is served nightly starting at 4:30. There’s an outdoor rooftop dining area, with gazebos raised above fully stocked Koi ponds. Inside there are several dining rooms to choose from—and lovely Koi ponds inside as well.
Reservations are highly recommended. It’s that good!
The Cultured Pearl is located at 301 Rehoboth Avenue. Call 302-227-8493 or visit them on the web at culturedpearl.us.