Once that proverbial brave man first ate an oyster, the crowd followed. Now that everyone in the crowd has gotten used to them, they all seem to be opening oyster bars, with Pearl Tavern (180 N. Wacker Dr., The Loop, 312-629-1030) joining the oyster bed on January 21.
In addition to the pearls of the ocean, Pearl Tavern will serve crudos and tuna poke at its raw bar. “I think Chicago is ready for crudo scallop,” says Chris Lorenz, the executive chef. “I philosophically believe in truth in flavor. I don’t ever want to cover up everything and hide what it is. I want to accentuate what it is.”
Lorenz bursts with enthusiasm about oysters. “I keep a diary of every oyster I’ve ever eaten,” he says. “I’ve been keeping this for years. Cooking was my destiny. Being a chef was my destiny. Oysters are glorious.” He plans to present the raw seafood simply.
Lorenz, who spent about three years at Brasserie Jo and opened Pelago with Mauro Mafrici, mentioned a few other specific dishes:
• That tuna poke—made with ahi bigeye tuna, specifically, along with Asian pear, cucumber, avocado, and the fermented umami seasoning shio koji
• Crudo razor clams with confit fennel, trout roe, and a spritz of absinthe
• Crab churros, a cousin of crab Rangoon in which a savory pâte à choux is filled with mascarpone, ricotta, lemon zest, and crab meat, and then fried
• A cocktail called an Angry Mermaid, with mezcal, St. Germain, habanero syrup, and lime
The restaurant marks the first solo ownership foray for Adolfo Garcia (Hubbard Inn, Barn & Company). “[Garcia and I] traveled to New York together to do fact-finding,” Lorenz says. “By which I mean overeating.” We can tell you from experience that you don’t need to travel to New York for that.