I was recently comparing notes on new restaurants with a friend, he's adventurous and probably eats out more than I do. I offered up Little Pearl (new to me) on Capitol Hill, but instead of an enthusiastic thumbs up it was met with a snarl, a pretty harsh, and perhaps unwarranted one at that.
Little Pearl is a cafe by day, wine bar at night. It's a beautiful restaurant on the grounds of The Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, set-back among the trees behind the wrought-iron fence. The double moniker of cafe-wine bar might confuse some, expectations of what is in store, it's much more casual cafe than it is a wine bar, perhaps too much so. Run by Aaron Silverman of Rose's Luxury and Pineapple & Pearls, the menu is a mix of serious but playful, which shouldn't be a shock to anyone.
To the gripe at hand - said friend described the meal he had - smoked eel which I'm sure was delicious but easily one of those foods you either love or hate, this friend very much in the hate camp. He also had the burger which was met with disappointment, I too had the burger and thought it was great, the "animal style" from In-N-Out, an homage that I very much love. But he is a fitness type and is always on a low-carb-low-fat-gluten-free-dairy-free misery diet, once he took the meat off the bun, scraped away the cheese he was left with a piece of meat on a plate which apparently was very disappointing and the restaurants fault. So yeah, perhaps that wasn't the meal he was expecting but he has no one else to blame, and is certainly not reflective of the meal he could have enjoyed. Don't do that.
The menu seems to change regularly which has its pros - indulge on new dishes regularly, and cons - miss out on your favorites, but it's worth the gamble. The Angel Egg which seems to be a fixture was an interesting bite, a deviled egg with a cream yolk filling in a puffy meringue substitute, ordered individually makes this a safe and inexpensive bet. The crispy potatoes were suitably crisp on the outside with a fluffy interior, topped with a cod roe hollondaise cream. The corned beef taco was legit but sadly no longer appears to be on the menu.
On a more recent visit I gave the cafe a try, Saturday brunch. There were plenty of tables available with a steady stream of customers dining in and taking away. You'd be forgiven for forgetting that it is a cafe, order from the counter, no table service, finding the silverware is a challenge itself and bussing your own table is par of the course. Still, the food is excellent, a small but creative menu with a fried chicken sandwich topped with pickles, onion and bib lettuce that should be included in any best of list.
Little Pearl: 921 Pennsylvania Ave, SE Washington, DC (closest metro: Eastern Market)