Oysters on the half shell and signature cocktails deliver NOLA to Market Sq.
The French poet Léon-Paul Fargue wrote, “Consuming oysters is like kissing the ocean on the lips.” Knoxville’s solely uncooked bar, The Brass Pearl, opened on Market Sq. in early 2022 with a easy idea: oysters from varied areas of the east and west coasts, fresh-caught seafood, hand-crafted cocktails, and “bubbles.” It’s a pleasant addition to the Sq..
The inside design with its lofty ceilings, rococo mirrors, and black-and-white tile flooring may have you pondering you’re within the French Quarter, and once you style the home Po’ Boy of crispy shrimp, haddock, oysters, kale, and radicchio slaw, you’ll know you’ve arrived in The Huge Simple.
Chef Ben Dawson, a Powell Excessive College and Pellissippi graduate, honed his craft on the French Market and Cru, choosing up progressive concepts as sous chef for Darin Hoagland at Oliver Royale. “Darin’s ardour for the craft and his means to interrupt down strategies to show somebody new was like nothing I’ve seen earlier than in a kitchen,” stated Dawson. “I realized one thing new every single day.”
While you’re deciding, you would possibly attempt one of many home cocktails, the Oyster Shooter of vodka, home combine, and an oyster, or a Martini, supplied Soiled (Castelvetrano Brine, olive), Dry (Dolin Dry Vermouth, twist), or Basic (Cocchi Americano, twist).
The celebs of the present are clearly the oysters. On the night we visited, the choice du jour included the Sugar Shack from New Jersey (barely salty with a candy end), Dukes of Topsail from South Carolina (excessive salinity, candy and scallop-like), St. Anne’s Bay from Nova Scotia (briny, crisp, clear), Sarah’s Shore from Prince Edward Island, Canada (nutty, popcorn, lemon end), North Shore Gold from Cape Cod, Massachusetts (brisk brine, candy end), with Unhealthy Boys from Nova Scotia (buttery, candy, umami).
We particularly favored the “tasting notes” provided on the desk that allowed us to savor the variations among the many varieties. When you’ve ever thought all oysters style the identical, it’s a studying expertise. Together with the same old crackers and sizzling sauces, the Pearl features a basic “mignonette,” a piquant sauce made with vinegar and shallots for sprinkling atop of the oysters.
The “bubbles” embrace the most effective glowing picks on the town, from Italian Proseccos to numerous French Brut wines, a Spanish Frizzante, and a number of other notably good California choices. These are supplied by the glass, so chances are you’ll pattern these as you do the oysters.
Including a number of of the opposite starters—for instance the whipped feta with Fresno chilis, honey on toasted sourdough, or caviar served with crème fraiche, purple onion, chopped egg—make a splendidly gentle and flavorful meal.
If oysters aren’t your factor, or you’re within the temper for one thing heartier, there’s at all times a contemporary catch. Ours was Chilean Sea Bass cooked to agency and succulent perfection. Fish ‘n’ Chips are crispy, beer-battered haddock and fries with chowchow tartar sauce and malt vinegar.
We cherished the tomato-based Fisherman’s Stew of mussels, shrimp, fish, grilled lobster tail, spicy tomato sauce, risotto, and toasted sourdough. If you’re feeling indulgent, the Lobster Bisque—served with sourdough crouton, crème fraiche, and chives—is scrumptious.
The New York Strip with blue cheese got here with oyster mushrooms, demi-glace, buttermilk blue cheese, crispy shallots, white cheddar polenta, and asparagus.
We completed our meal with a Salt Bae—Blanco tequila, grapefruit cordial, aperol, lime, salt, and soda. It was a wonderful digestif, and we left the Pearl in true NOLA line-band vogue, buzzing “When the Saints Go Marching In.”