But the difference between Pineapple and Pearls and, for example, Per Se in Manhattan is this: There will be no check creep once you enter the Barracks Row restaurant, says Silverman. As New York Times critic Pete Wells noted in his recent evisceration of the sacred cow, he and three guests spent nearly $3,000 at Per Se even though the chef's tasting menu is, at present, $325 per person. (Similarly, Minibar by Jose Andres charges $275 per person, but beverage pairings can add another $195 per diner to the check, not including tax and tip.)
At Pineapple and Pearls, Silverman says there will be no sticker shock. A $250 dinner will cost $250. When diners make a reservation, they will pay half upfront and will be billed the other half automatically on the day of their reservation. If they cancel 72 hours in advance of their reservation, diners will be refunded their initial payment.
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. March 14 on the Pineapple and Pearls website for dinner services starting on April 7. (Reservations will be released every Monday for dates a month out.) Customers will be able to select between the eight-seat chef's counter or the 22-seat dining room via a reservation system custom-built by GiftRocker; the seven-seat bar will eventually be added to the system. (In February, Silverman opened a coffee shop of the same name, located in front of his fine-dining operation.)
Pineapple and Pearls wants to "eliminate the guest from ever having to look at a bill," Silverman says. "When you show up, you have nothing to worry about. Everything is paid for. All you have to do is sit back and have a good time. We'll take care of the rest."
In deciding on the price tag, Silverman and team reviewed the competition, including Michelin-starred establishments and three- and four-star restaurants in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other places. The lowest-priced tasting menu they uncovered was in the District.
“Komi was coming in at $260 or $280 or something like that," Silverman says. (Komi's tasting menu costs $150 per person, with another $75 for wine pairings, not including tax and tip.)
"Komi is like the cheapest in the country. I don’t know how they’re doing it, but it’s impressive because they’re obviously doing well," Silverman continues. "It’s hard to do what we want to do, charging $250. There’s not going to be truffles and caviar and foie gras everywhere, although there’s a little bit of those things. . . You have to be more creative.”
Part of the ticket price will cover server salaries. Silverman expects to pay his front-of-the-house staff a living wage — in "teens or twenties per hour," the owner says — and then supplement the base pay with restaurant profits. If, for example, Pineapple and Pearls manages to generate only 80 percent or less of its maximum sales per week, the servers will be paid their base salary. But if the restaurant generates over and above that amount, the extra revenue will be shared among the floor staff.
"Those aren’t exact numbers, 80-20," Silverman says. "The busier the restaurant is, the more they make. It’s not based on tips. It’s not based on anything except volume."
The chef and kitchen team — head chef Scott Muns, sous chefs Jonny Black and Bin Lu and pastry chef Kim Janusz — are still developing the menu so Silverman is reluctant to share details. Generally, diners should expect between 12 and 16 dishes over the course of the meal, some served together and some individually.
All told, Silverman says dinner will cover seven to 10 courses with five or six drinks paired with the plates. Beverages will not be limited to wine, but will also include beer, cocktails, champagne and non-alcoholic beverages. Silverman's new hire, beverage director Jeff Faile, will lead the charge, collaborating with virtually everyone at Pineapple and Pearls, as is the owner's custom.
Part of Silverman's goal has been to question every practice of the standard fine-dining experience and decide if it's right for Pineapple and Pearls. He's already opted to close the restaurant on Saturday nights, a decision that would make some investors call for the chef's head on a platter. But on the other hand, Silverman likes the idea of crumbing tables during service, which his servers will do.
As you'd expect, the food and ambiance at Pineapple and Pearls will depart significantly from those at the quirkier Rose's Luxury, Silverman says.
"But I think you’re going to feel the same warmth, the same hospitality, the same sense of playfulness," he says. "We think we can make [fine dining] a more enjoyable experience by cutting out some of the formalities."
Pineapple and Pearls, 715 Eighth St. SE. pineappleandpearls.com.