I don't only want to know what appetizer six strangers on Yelp think is good — I want to know if I'm going to sweat to death waiting for a table at the front bar, if the chairs are too small for my midwestern parents' approval, and if the rosemary-gin cocktail is actually better at the bar next door. The type of things no one really tells you unless you ask.
(Don't get me wrong, Pete Wells knows his shit, but he'll never give you a heads up that a restaurant's booths are made of vinyl and you're fucked if you're wearing a short dress.)
So, with an open heart and a much-too-full stomach, here's the first in a series of many edible trail maps for your mealtime journeys:
The Rundown: If you don't leave this place with drool out of your mouth and feeling like a fur-bedecked character on Game of Thrones, you did it wrong. Splurge, smile and earn every second of the Advil you'll be popping for your headache at work the next day.
Basic Info So You Don't Have To Scour Blogs In Preparation: Perla is the fourth in a series of super-hip, low-key, well-decorated West Village restaurants (Jeffrey's Grocery, Joseph Leonard, Fedora) casually gathered together under the Little Wisco umbrella. This one's key ambience is there's a hilariously good soundtrack that will remind you of high school in the best of ways, and the walls are covered in badass musician photographs.
The Chef: Michael Toscano, who used to cook at Babbo (Mario Batali's fancy expensive Italian place) and Eataly's Manzo, which a lot of people really eat at? I think I've had too many soft pretzels inside a Target to want to hop on the dinner-in-a-store trend.
Fun Fact: Owner Gabe Stulman can sometimes be seen wandering the floor, picking up plates and serving dishes like an porcelain-lugging OG. He's very friendly and has a bushy beard and you should get drunk and say hello, because he'll probably say hello back. Also, since he staffs his restaurant with a group of familiar Midwestern faces that sometimes shift between properties, the servers are super reliable when it comes to suggestions.
The Menu: Everything here is good. Really, really fucking good. If you see anything that piques your interest just go for it, especially since plates are on the smaller side, and it'll at a minimum be great.
Don't Leave Without Eating The:
-Seared Foie Gras. I ate fatty foie gras every day I was in Paris and it never held a candle to the creamy, almost butterscotch-y one they have here. I was drunk the first time I had it and thought I actually might be a zombie who's given their last go-around in purgatory.
-Pasta. Most reviews call out the accurately-described "Intro To Tripe" Garganelli (which is fantastic), but the Agnolotti, with its fatty dumplings smothered in beef drippings, is my fatty fat fat indulgent favorite. If you order a second, go for the Cavetelli, which has the added fun of a waiter grinding foie gras shavings like parmesan over the top of it like that's a normal fucking thing to do.
-Guinea Hen with Black Trumpet Mushrooms It's phenomenal, mushrooms that look like hippie 'shrooms are my favorite vegetable to eat, and the fatty outer layer tastes like taking a swim in sin ocean. Also, it's got more foie gras! Why the hell not make this dinner your own three-course foie gras tasting menu? Add in the PB&J-style foie sammies for your pre-meal bites and you've got yourself a fattened liver fiesta.
-Potatoes. Weird, I know, but after asking Gabe if we missed anything in the overload of courses we ordered (see? friendly!) he starch-whispered us and made sure we added these on. Let's just say the bowl emptied so quickly that we got Hunger Games-style catty about confiscating bites left on anyone else's plate.
Booze: Before, during and after. My first time there, the hostess suggested Little Branch beforehand, but their underground bar doesn't have much cell service so be careful if they're calling when your table is ready. On the early end, try VBar around the corner for date wine or beers at Blind Tiger if you're with a group, and on the late side, give Jeffrey's Grocery or Wilfie & Nell a try. (It's a short walk, but you'll be too high on animal fats to care.) As for Perla, I know nothing about wine but they've got a selection of bottles, and the cocktails from what my hazy mind can recall are quite strong.
Reservation Nation: It ain't the easiest to get into, but it's worth it. Reservations are taken for groups of four or more, but when I walked up at 5:45 to try and put my name down night of, the earliest available was 10pm. With the front and back bar reserved for diners it's presumably easier for two-tops, so try dropping in on the early end, putting your name down, and grabbing a drink beforehand.
Seating Arrangements: Two full bars you can have a meal at, a handful of spacious leather booths for larger parties (go with friends, trust), a few teeny two-tops in front that are kind of tight when it's packed and one primo benched table for large parties directly at the front of the restaurant that opens out to the street on nice nights.
Perfect For: Thursday night throw-downs that will be more exciting than your weekend. Go with people you don't mind sharing bites with and friends who know how to sock it away, and leave out anyone preferring healthy modifications. (There are none.) If you go on a date, you're gonna get really fucking drunk, so sneak away to the bathroom to admire the photography while popping your nighttime pill, if that's your jam. You'll definitely forget to take it later.
The Verdict: Bump this to the top of your restaurant list, and go here as soon as you possibly can.
Here is their website
Here is their menu
Here is where it's located
Here is what the NYTimes, Yelp and Eater say about it
Here is their foie gras PB&J, because otherwise you may not believe it exists