Former Blanchard chef Jason Paskewitz seems invigorated as he gears up to open Pearl Brasserie on Wednesday along the Chicago River in the The Loop. The new restaurant is a relaunch of Pearl Tavern, 180 N. Upper Wacker Dr., as the owners remodeled the space and brought in Paskewitz as a partner and executive chef. Diners familiar with Paskewitz’s French menus at The Blanchard in Lincoln Park will have a strong work-week lunch option downtown. They’ll serve breakfast and dinner, too.
“Down in the Loop, lunch is the main meal period down here,” Paskewitz said. “That’s the busiest time on Wacker.”
Pearl Tavern has been closed since the start of July. The remodel includes new garage doors that swing out to Wacker, a patio bar, and an extension of the restaurant’s main bar inside with a 40-foot marble top. They’ve also added a chef’s counter. Meandwhile, Paskewitz is also diving into the world of grab-and-go items (avocado tartines, croissants) for the morning commute. The grab and go reminds Paskewitz when he sold sausages in Weed Street in Lincoln Park, catering to the late-night crowd in front of his old bistro, JP Chicago. Depending on the morning service’s success, Paskewitz said there’s potential to expand Pearl next door and add a coffee shop.
Pearl’s French menu will include foie gras in three ways: Seared with pain perdu, compressed berries and vanilla gastrique; chilled as a touchon with fig and sea salt; and fried with apricot gelee. There’s also a roasted chicken with crispy-herbed skin, pomme puree, and chicken glace, as well as grilled lamb T-bone chops.
Paskewitz seems primed to embark on a new project. He didn’t touch upon it in detail, but he said he was “pushed out” of The Blanchard at the end of 2016. He was briefly chef at Ocean Cut Chicago in River North before finding Pearl. The situation at Pearl reminds Paskewitz of when he opened The Blanchard two years ago. He enjoyed critical success and won awards there, so it’s easy why he’d want to replicate that in The Loop.
Part of Paskewitz’s excitement working with GM/beverage director Steve Carrow, last seen creating the drink list over at The Lunatic, The Lover & The Poet in West Loop. Paskewitz said he’ll never open another restaurant without Carrow’s expertise which includes working at Naha in River North, at his side. Carrow’s cocktails include “The Koi Pond” (tequila, Veev, white grape and ginger), and a few classics including the French 75. The wine leans French with 19 available by the glass.
Having an adventurous drink program will help better utilize the space’s 120-seat patio off the water. The space is a hidden gem, and Paskewitz said it’s the new staff’s job to better utilize the space. Reservations are already online. Pearl Brasserie opens on Wednesday.