A unique concept that takes you from Japan to Peru
Exactly 10 years ago, Pearl opened in Faro. This is a restaurant with a unique concept, which, besides providing a veritable journey from Japan to Peru, also showcases the quality of the best fish on the Algarve coast. Here, the sushimen prepare every piece right in front of the diners and there is a unique fusion of flavours.
Walking into the restaurant, every client is welcomed with the traditional ‘konnichiwa’ greeting, the Japanese word for ‘hello’. Dinner is by reservation only, and you can choose a counter experience, which costs €90 per person, in the dining room or on the terrace, the latter with an à la carte menu.
At the counter, you are seated less than a metre away from the sushimen, who are also responsible for service. The premise is simple – Omakase, a Japanese concept where the chefs are in charge of what you eat. As soon as we sit down, traditional saké is served and, as all counter dining is customised daily depending on the fish available, every meal is different. Still, starters include a wakame seaweed salad, miso soup with cockles, bao steamed in bamboo, oyster with octopus sauce, tartare and tacos.
Next are the gunkans made with horse mackerel, sea urchin and gamba da costa (tiny prawns prevalent in the deep waters off the Algarve and North African coasts); and the nigiris of braised tuna belly, Atlantic bonito, amberjack, red mullet, mackerel and even sardines with Montanheira salad and fleur de sel. To finish off, the croquette, a speciality of one of the chefs, Tiago Torres, combines a Korean sauce with tuna belly and sun-dried octopus roe, for an explosion of flavours in the mouth. Finally, the desserts are inspired by Peru, and there are three to choose from: matcha tart with white chocolate, chocolate mousse with crispy quinoa, and dulce de leche with whipped egg whites.
André Paulino, owner and creator of Pearl, explains: “Here, every detail counts. Each piece we serve provokes a sensation. The flavours are always different, and we take diners on a continuous journey. This is not a static meal, the senses are always being enhanced, sensations are always unique, and the journey is extensive. That has always been our goal, to present something that is unparalleled.”
Speaking of journeys, Pearl’s story begins in the United States, when André Paulino was studying there. “I felt we were missing something with this level of quality in the Algarve. We started with a different format, but we quickly turned to seasonal and local produce because you cannot find that anywhere else,” he states.
This is exactly one of the characteristics that gives Pearl life. Every day, 10 to 15 varieties of fish arrive at the restaurant, all caught off the Algarve coast just a few hours earlier. This is what they pride themselves on serving. André Paulino says: “I don’t even know if there is another restaurant in Portugal with this much daily, fresh and local selection. We have the Ria Formosa right on our doorstep and that is priceless.”
But there is more that makes Pearl standout, thanks to several team trips to Japan and Peru. The rice is made with fermented vinegar, without any sugar, using cooking techniques from 19th-century Japan. The vegetables come from their own garden, located on the outskirts of Faro. And even all the ceramic crockery was handmade exclusively for the restaurant by local artisan and designer André Sancho.
The team also strives to ensure that the quality of the product surpasses that of the previous year. The latest novelty was the creation of Pearl at Home, a concept that transports the Pearl counter and its Omakase concept to the customer’s home, where they can have a sushiman cooking exclusively for them. It is a fully bespoke experience and starts at €120 per person.
The beginning of 2023 has a lot in store. After some remodelling work, Pearl will reopen with a new menu, a larger counter area and new techniques. “We will start serving the pieces wrapped in a seaweed that is considered the best in the world, we will only have fresh wasabi and we will make our own ginger. The fish will also be caught using the Ikijime technique, a more peaceful catch that also makes the texture softer. Basically, we want to replicate the Japanese culture and the origin of sushi as much as we can,” says André Paulino.
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