Thanks to a sexy space that's part futuristic bistro and part Nordic cubby hole, Pearl & Ash doesn't look like the most affordable place in the world, or even the Bowery. But GM Branden McRill -- who opened the joint with help from chef Richard Kuo (of Frej), former research biologist/ current cocktail master Eben Klemm, sommelier Patrick Cappiello — claims that "two people can try everything on the menu for just about $58 a head", and if you've seen Stuck On You, you should now have a pretty funny image in your own.
The overriding design feature is this asymmetrical box-wall that illuminates the room with candles, and holds all sorts of other atmospheric randomness like...
...bottles filled with vanilla beans.
And miniature classical sculptures.
And moss. There's actually kind of a lot of moss.
Towards the back is the open kitchen overlooked by a big communal table and booths whose benches are covered in cushions that're the same color blue as the pants every single girl you know wore last Spring.
There's also this high-walled booth if you need some privacy, and are Gheorghe Muresan.
The food is influenced by the chef's roots in both Taiwan and Australia, and utilizes "obscure" ingredients that he believes need a little dap. These beauties are his interpretation of "how a meatball should be", and feature veal & pork (those are not the obscure ones) that're glazed and finished with mushroom jus, blowtorched, and then topped with soppressata and bonito flakes that weirdly wave and kinda seem alive.
The octopus has a nice kick thanks to being dry-rubbed in Asian togarashi peppers for 24hrs and cooked in mirin.
Possibly even better than curly fries (maybe), these crispy potatoes get fried in porcini oil and topped with porcini-infused mayo, plus crumbled-up chorizo and chives.
The cocktail program is heavy-booze-free, but it benefits from that need for creativity by employing "liqueurs that would otherwise be modifiers" to yield tipples like this Alley, The Ice Wagon that 1) is named after a Bo Diddley song, 2) is inspired by the Manhattan, 3) rocks house-infused coffee Punt e Mes, blanc vermouth, and just a drop of soy sauce to tie it all together.
Beer cocktails are also on hand, like this monolith called the Dark Horse Candidate (go Ron Paul!), which consists of McGovern's Oatmeal Stout and Pineau des Charentes, and will go straight to your head(s).