Casa Pearl in Williamsburg
The best part of work meetings is lunch. Every time I have a meeting in Williamsburg, I look forward to getting out of the office for a day and enjoying a delicious lunch at a new restaurant. This most recent visit included a stop at Casa Pearl, a restaurant that opened less than a year ago but has already received rave reviews.
A former abandoned Texaco gas station was transformed into an eclectic restaurant that specializes in oysters and tacos. Aside from the roll-up garage doors, that now let a ton of light into the restaurant, you’d have no indication of the building’s past. Casa Pearl renovated the gas station to have a sleek, minimalist interior.
Once seated, we began to look over the seemingly modest menu. While the menu is not as large as other local seafood restaurants and taquerias, Casa Pearl produces every single menu item at the highest quality, with a wide array of flavors. Casa Pearl’s menu ranges from Chesapeake Bay and mid-Atlantic seafood and their take on Southern favorites to tacos and Latin-inspired dishes.
We started by ordering all—yes, all—of the shareable snacks, including Casa Pearl “Chips & Dip,” hush puppies, smoked fish dip, North Carolina shrimp toast and fried plantains.
My favorite of the snacks was the “Chips & Dip.” South meets southwest as barbecue-spiced chicharrones are served with a side of pimento cheese spread. My barbecue-covered fingers and the fact that we had to order more pimento cheese are indicators of how much I loved this dish.
While we didn’t order any oysters, we did indulge in the ceviche. The beautifully plated dish was not swimming in lime juice, like traditional ceviche, but was gently drizzled with olive oil and served with cucumber, avocado, jalapeño, garlic and herbs. Instead of tostadas, airy yucca chips are used as the vessel for this refreshingly light ceviche.
In addition to oysters and ceviche, Casa Pearl’s raw bar also features peel and eat shrimp. The menu also features hot dishes, such as: char-grilled oysters, baked Chincoteague clams, crispy brussels sprouts and a whole grilled fish.
We were brought a complimentary bowl of brussels sprouts, much to my (initial) dismay. I’ve never been a fan of the vegetable, so I was beyond surprised when I was the one scooping every last bit of the dish from the bowl. These smoky sprouts are served in a lemon-caper vinaigrette and topped with shaved parmesan, offering the perfect combination of salt and acidity.
While I was stuffed (nearly) to the brim, I couldn’t leave without trying a taco. Fortunately, Casa Pearl’s tacos are a single serving, so I went ahead and ordered the Oyster Po-Boy taco.
Made with Chesapeake Bay oysters and brined Southern style in buttermilk and hot sauce, these tacos keep Casa Pearl’s flavor train rolling. Jalapeño and tomatillo salsa verde bring the heat while the crisp Napa cabbage cools it down, providing a palate-pleasing balance. Accompanied by a remoulade sauce, this loaded taco was the perfect teaser for my upcoming trip to New Orleans.
The Oyster Po-Boy taco is one of Casa Pearl’s best sellers, but the restaurant also offers grilled fish, smoked pork and fried chicken tacos that are not to be missed.
Casa Pearl’s fantastic dishes are complemented by the fact that many of their ingredients are sourced regionally. I appreciate any restaurant that supports local growers and watermen. That being said, their menu does change seasonally, which means new offerings to experience every season.
Casa Pearl is located at 722 Merrimac Trail, Williamsburg.