I had high hopes for Perla, one of the restaurants on the Eater heatmap coming off a solid 2 Star performance in the New York Times last year. From the website, the style and cuisine bore much similarities to Rosemary, a personal favorite. Except Perla has a reservation system, taking out some of the guess work. Still, I expected seats to be quite hard to come by.
Sure enough it was. A search on a weeknight revealed only a 4:30PM “dinner” for two.
After persuading my guest that dinner at 4:30 is a good idea for winter (“hey, there’s a bit of sunlight”), I went about my life until the morning of the reservation, when it was interrupted by a phone call. Seeing that I was in a meeting, I let it go to voicemail.
When I finally escaped the conference room, I was shocked to hear that I had to confirm for seat by 2PM. If not, my 4:30 will be released to walk-in customers. The same stern warning greeted me in the form of an email as well. So I call, confirmed, and was warned once again that a delay of 10 minutes to my 4:30 would mean my seat would be released to walk-in. Better be punctual.
After asking my guest to dash from his off-site meeting at 4:15, I speed walked from the subway station and arrived at 4:25. At this time the restaurant was prepping for service, and I was offered to wait at the bar. After ordering a drink (the names are all wonderfully whimsical), I sat there waiting for the inevitable throng of diners who will show up and take my table because my guest ran late. Interestingly, this never happened. For the next hour, we were the only guests in the restaurant.
Once I was able to wrap my mind around the fact that we rushed into an obscenely early dinner for no particular reason, I realized that the food is actually quite good. The octopus with oven dried tomatoes was both tender and had great flavor. Chicken liver mousse, pre-smeared on bread, was nicely executed as well with a very delicate flavor.
Orecchiette with sweet Italian sausage and broccoli rabe pesto was simple yet masterfully executed. From the texture of the pasta to the scent and flavor of the pesto, one of the better pasta dishes I’ve had.
Sadly, the early hour means we weren’t able to venture into the secondi, another better timed visit maybe.
I spent the drive back trying to figure out Perla’s reservation system. Was it an effort to generate artificial scarcity, or rather could it have been an off night. Whatever the reasoning behind the reservation madness, it’s really quite a shame because the food’s excellent, and all of the hoops we had to jump through to get in served only as a distraction.
24 Minetta Ln
New York, NY 10012