Jeff Black’s new Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Black Jack restaurant and bar officially opens tonight. We liked the Southern-influenced menu and the interesting cocktail list during its soft-opening weekend, but the major attraction at this new two-story restaurant in Logan Circle is the pair of indoor bocce courts in the second-floor bar.
The high-ceilinged bocce area has two regulation courts, laid end to end on one side of the room, and they’re surrounded by a fence to keep balls from rolling away. Scoreboards with heavy wooden pegs and a sign listing basic rules of the game hang on the wall under a huge mounted bull’s head.
The two courts are custom-made, and they were installed with advice from the DC Bocce League, which will host a league night there on Tuesdays. You can watch the game from a banked section of old wooden theater seats or a row of barstools alongside the court. Servers make their way through the crowd taking beer and cocktail orders from players and spectators, and we never had to wait long when our glasses were empty.
Once word about Pearl Dive gets out, we expect there will be long waits for a chance to play, reminiscent of the early days of H Street Country Club. (Reservations for court time are first-come, first-served.) However, the delicious cocktails should help pass the time. Favorites include the Bull’s Blood -- a Blood and Sand variation with Speyside Scotch and cocoa bitters -- and the mellow Maple Derby, which gets its rich flavor from bourbon, grapefruit, maple syrup and a touch of ginger.
Downstairs at the Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, you’ll find a theme that’s become popular this summer: Gulf Coast cooking. As at his other restaurants, Black focuses on seafood. Here, the coastal cuisine of Texas shines just as brightly as Louisiana’s. Black is a big proponent of the Vietnamese cooking in his home town of Houston, and he represents it on his menu in the form of Vietnamese pickled shrimp served on crispy rice paper with a pickle juice aioli. Raw, broiled and grilled oysters, a selection of gumbos and po-boys highlight the rest of the menu.