[review] We first met Patrick Cappiello as a suit and tie kind of guy, an extremely knowledgeable and down to earth Sommelier at the fantastic Sommelier at Gilt Restaurant inside The Palace Hotel, which has sadly since closed its doors and served its last meal. Luckily for the masses of New York City Patrick has traded in the suit and opened up shop with Chef Richard Kuo and GM Branden McRill at a progressive wine bar in Nolita. You can find Patrick in his buzzing oenophile restaurant, clad in a rock n roll t-shirt and typically sporting a kickass bottle of wine as a fashion and food accessory.

Pearl & Ash is fine dining without the pomp and pretense. It’s in the hidden gem of a neighborhood named Nolita that seems to be taking over all of Manhattan -the restaurant focuses on small plates, lots of options, great ingredients and no ‘forced’ flavors. Everything here just seems to go together so well; it’s a beautiful balance of spontaneity and central planning. From the chic décor to the intimate tables and pure fresh food, it’s a fantastic night out that you won’t soon forget. Looking to impress a date with gourmet food and none of the tuxedo and crumb catcher routine at Daniel or even the once magnificent Gilt? Pearl & Ash is the perfect place.

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Treat the menu however you’d like—appetizers only, tapas style or tasting menu, the options are endless. Everything is so perfectly portioned you leave feeling happy and elated, not overstuffed and slightly obese. The raw bar features ama-ebi with smoked lime yogurt, radish and bee pollen while the small courses (though everything is on the small-er side) include incredibly tender pork meatballs and a surprising tea cured salmon with a touch of goat cheese, tamarind and seaweed. Unexpected flavors executed wonderfully.

Try something from the fish and meat menu for your ‘main’ (we showed up extra hungry) and you won’t be able to leave one bite of your rainbow trout with celery, black olive and pearl onion or lamb belly & heart, kohlrabi, and hazelnut on your plate. The diners with no shame can be found licking their plates and wistfully wondering why they didn’t savor each bite more. Then the next course arrives and you dig in like a dinosaur…it just gets better and better.

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One of the best elements of the experience at Pearl & Ash is Patrick himself. A co-owner and honest oenophile, Patrick is not one of those wine directors throwing an expensive bottle of red at you every time you try to pair a plate. He’ll pull up a chair and talk about what you like, what you’ve ordered, how adventurous you are and really make sure your vino is just as satisfying as the food will be. Patrick’s impressive eighteen-page wine list includes 35 varieties of Champagne…and nothing makes the list without his approval. The dessert is a little disappointing, but they are new in town – they’ll figure it out.

Dinner at Pearl & Ash is all about the full experience. From the hand crafted libations at the bar to the tasting menu and choosing bottles for the table with a man who has access to three of the worlds greatest wine cellars and shows up with absolutely NO pretentiousness, it’s just a good time. Great food, great wine, great people. Check out one of their special Renegade Wine Dinner’s to experience it all for yourself this fall: http://renegadewinedinner.com/9-17-2013-Jura

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Photography by Jenna Davila