Bite and Booze by Jay D. Ducote

Monday, January 19, 2015

Jolie Pearl Sets the Bar for Oysters

Beausoleil Oysters at Jolie Pearl
Beausoleil Oysters at Jolie Pearl

Jolie Pearl, located at 315 North Blvd.
Jolie Pearl, located at 315 North Blvd.
Recently I had the opportunity to check out one of Baton Rouge's newest and most hyped restaurants, Jolie Pearl. The downtown oyster bar, situated across from the North Boulevard's Town Square, serves raw and cooked oysters that delight the senses. Upon entering the old Jobe's building, it became clear that Jolie Pearl's strength is branding. We were beyond impressed with the unique custom decor, the light fixtures, the ambiance, and the amazing chalkboard art lining the walls. Sitting out for all to see are whole oysters, on ice, and labeled according to where they came from. An open Bloody Mary bar faces patrons, and during happy hour diners can choose an album from the restaurant's extensive vinyl collection to play.

Jolie Pearl's atmosphere disarms even the most timid of diners. Oysters, particularly raw oysters, can be intimidating to the untrained palate. They're salty, slimy, and hard to stab with a tiny fork. But the restaurant's transparency and emphasis on educating diners about oysters works in its favor. If you've ever had a trouble getting a whole raw gulf oyster down, perhaps you get acclimated with a smaller Atlantic or Pacific oyster. 

Corn Maque Choux Baked Oysters
Corn Maque Choux Baked Oysters
Jolie Pearl offers oysters from the west, east, and gulf coasts. Vendors ship a steady supply of the freshest oysters to the downtown restaurant. Purists can order a sampling of oysters raw, with an array of flavor-enhancing toppings like Bloody Mary granita, cucumber mignonette, and rum mango salsa. The gulf oysters have always been my favorite. You just can't beat an oyster that grew up in the salty, muddy waters of the gulf. Getting to try them side by side with some New York, Canadian, and West Coast oysters presented a fun dining experience... and confirmed my evaluation though you should really try them for yourselves. For the folks who aren't serious raw enthusiasts, Jolie Pearl slings classic baked and chargrilled oysters. Our favorites off the cooked menu were the baked corn maque choux and the classic chargrilled oysters, though I'd go eat a sampling of the entire menu again and again. Amazingly, Jolie Pearl sells oysters at such a reasonable cost that it won't break the bank to try four of everything when you share them with a group of people. The imported Atlantic and Pacific oysters run a little higher at fair market prices, but they are certainly still worthy of sampling for your taste-buds' delight.

Hand-painted chalkboard art
Hand-Painted Chalkboard Art
The cocktail menu had some eclectic options. Blair and I went with the Corpse Reviver, a mix of gin, Cointreau, Lillet, Corsair red absinthe, and lemon juice. Our intern Sydney opted for the fresh margarita (which she claims is the best she's ever had), a mix of lemon, lime, and orange juice, agave nectar, Silver tequila, and a half salt, half sugar rim. Classy. 

For the high-rollers, $500 buys access to an old-school liquor locker, customized with the keyholder's name. Regular customers can purchase bottles of booze from the restaurant and store them in the locker to drink with their meals. Maybe I need to go ahead and sign up for a Bite and Booze locker. They only have two left and so far they've all gone to lawyers.

At Jolie Pearl, it's the details. The record player, the chalkboard art, the colors from the wood on the ceiling and tables, even the logo set the tone of the experience you'll have. And of course, the details in the oysters. Jolie Pearl brings a unique, inspired concept that deserves attention, so check it out for after-work drinks and perfectly prepared oysters. 

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