Before saying farewell to NYC, I visited Mother of Pearl with fellow foodies The Dishelin Guide and The Social Pause. Finally. For me, this was one of the most anticipated meals of 2016, but the truth is, I was slightly underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, the food is good, but when you’re the sister restaurant of Avant Garden, and there’s so much hype around the recent veganization of this place, the bar is set pretty damn high.
Mother of Pearl is a Polynesian fusion restaurant featuring small plates and cocktails in a tiki bar atmosphere. Palm leaves, floral prints, breezy curtains… this place is channeling some seriously dreamy vacation vibes. The decor alone makes Mother of Pearl worth visiting, but based on this visit, I would recommend it for cocktails and snacks, not a full meal. Yes, the food is beautiful, but if you’re already familiar with these flavors, some of the dishes fall short. It didn’t help that our waitress seemed grumpy, and the space felt chaotic, not lively as the night went on.
At Mother of Pearl, they serve up gorgeous cocktails with delicate, balanced flavors that set them apart from the way too sweet tropical cocktails at many other places. The Spring Tea ($16) was a pink and green beauty with rhubarb, aperol, lemon, gin, matcha, and begonias. The signature Shark Eye ($15) is hands down the most heavily Instagrammed cocktail of 2016 and even comes with a drizzle of “blood” syrup. Everything we tried was enjoyable, but it’s a shame that every cocktail comes with so much ice.
As soon as we spotted the fried guacamole ($12) on the menu, we knew we were getting an order. Looks like croquettes, but they, unfortunately, fall apart if you try to pick them up. Nice fried exterior, creamy guacamole interior on a bed of black bean puree. Tasty with plantain chips. The Dishelin Guide said this was like a deconstructed version of my sliders.
We only ordered one item off the Cold section of the menu: the king trumpet mushroom crudo ($12). It’s nicely plated, but where are the shrooms? As a lover of king trumpet mushrooms, it was disappointing that there were only a few paper thin mandolin slices in this dish. Plenty of cucumber, avocado, hearts of palm, and fried vermicelli, but barely any of the title ingredient. The jalapeno vodka broth, if you can call it that, was a watery green liquid with a teensy bit of jalapeno flavor. Meh.
There were two types of potstickers on the menu, and we opted for the lychee potstickers ($11) over the mushroom cabbage ones. Subtle lychee sweetness, not much Thai basil flavor, black vinegar sauce for dipping. The wrappers were very fried, which gets a little scratchy on the roof of your mouth. (At this point, my camera ran out of battery… or maybe it got bored and fell asleep. Thanks to The Dishelin Guide for capturing this one.)
In case you missed the memo, jackfruit is the hot vegan food of the year. At Mother of Pearl, they stuff their fluffy buns with kalua jackfruit and shiitake mushrooms ($11). Great texture with plenty of ginger aioli and five spice ketchup. Great combo of ingredients, very nicely done. This was my favorite of the night. (Photo credit: The Dishelin Guide)
The rum fried rice ($12) is basically Mother of Pearl’s version of a paella. Cooking the rice in pineapple rum gives it an interesting flavor, and the entire bowl of rice had the addictive, crispy texture that you’ll find at the bottom of a paella pan. The dragon fruit and orange edamame spruce it up for photos and add a little sweetness to make it tasty enough. (Photo credit: The Dishelin Guide)