A new restaurant quietly will open its doors today in downtown Boise.
But if you listen closely, you’ll hear something.
And it’s about to grow louder.
Initially open 4:30 p.m. to 10 pm. Wednesdays to Saturdays, Little Pearl Oyster Bar, 160 N. 8th St., brings a refined new dimension to 8th Street’s popular “restaurant row” area. Classic oyster delicacies power the menu. But other choices include cheese and charcuterie boards, salads, seafood dishes, chicken, a gourmet burger and steak frites.
“It’s basically just a restaurant I would love to eat at in Boise,” owner and chef Cal Elliott says. “It’s a restaurant I wish was here.”
A Boise native, Elliott returned to Idaho recently after spending 28 years working in New York City’s dining scene. Many of Little Pearl’s furnishings are repurposed from Rye, a neighborhood institution in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that he shuttered in 2018.
“When they tripled my rent in New York,” Elliott says, “I packed up my restaurant and brought it here.”
Elliott also owns the four-story, former Bouquet bar building on Main Street in Boise. He plans to reopen it in the future as a hotel and two restaurants. Little Pearl is a complement to that, he says, and a way “to keep my knives sharp, so to speak.”
Other local restaurateurs are nodding knowingly — without even having tasted Elliott’s food.
“He’s gonna blow people’s minds,” predicts Remi McManus, who co-owns Kin, 999 W. Main St., with multiple James Beard Award nominee Kris Komori. “He has this very, very in-depth training, and also education of food — of classic food as well as modern food. He’s going to be able to appeal to many palates.”
Located in the former Regal Beaver space, Little Pearl is built to be an accessible bistro. With much of the room dedicated to counter space, it made sense to create an oyster bar, Elliott says. “It’s social, it’s celebratory, and I’ve been dealing with oysters my whole career. I worked at an oyster bar in New York. We had oysters at Rye.”
Reservations won’t be taken. Customers can drop in for a quick, casual treat of Market Oysters ($18/half dozen), Shrimp Cocktail ($16) and a glass of champagne. Or relax on a romantic evening, share a bottle of wine and savor Seafood Chowder ($12), Steak Frites ($28) and Mary’s Organic Half Roasted Chicken ($24). “If you want to spend a little time here, you can do that, too,” Elliott explains.
Elliott, 48, worked in “some great kitchens,” he says. As one of the opening chefs at now-closed Dressler in Brooklyn, he helped the fine-dining eatery earn a Michelin Star. His own restaurant, Rye, was a Michelin Bib Gourmand pick.
Elliott’s kitchen philosophy is not avant-garde. “To me, cooking is not wowing somebody with this eccentric dish — this weird, esoteric thing,” he says. “I’m like, ‘No, can you roast a chicken? Can you braise a piece of meat? Can you cook food to temperature? Can you make a delicious burger?’ ”
“I think our burger’s going to be a standout,” he adds.
The Black Label Burger ($17) is concocted with a grind of Kobe beef and bacon, augmented with red-onion marmalade and blue cheese — on a brioche bun and served with handcut fries. Does a $3 Rainier beer sound perfect with that? Good, because Little Pearl serves those.
Online, pick-up orders
Elliott did the renovations himself at Little Pearl. His wife, Ashley, who managed Rye, created Little Pearl’s interior design. She’s also handling the restaurant’s online strategy.
Little Pearl’s website, littlepearlboise.com, will be up and running shortly, offering online ordering for takeout. Within months, Little Pearl also will extend its days and hours, Elliott says.
Like many restaurant owners, he’s just hoping to keep his business afloat during the pandemic while offering a safe, socially distanced meal. Little Pearl also has a patio with limited heaters.
Elliott will adjust his menu based on product availability, he says. And Little Pearl will run specials — “stuff that we can kind of show off our cooking chops a little bit,” he says.
That said, kitchen shortcuts won’t ever be part of the plan. “We’re already doing three or four stocks here,” Elliott says. “We do a chicken stock, a lobster stock and a veal stock. And all of our sauces are reduction sauces.
“(There’s) a lot of time that’s put into everything,” he says.
Bottom line? Expect word to travel fast about Little Pearl Oyster Bar.
“He’s a Boise boy,” McManus says. “He went to Borah High School. And he moved to New York and … got his chops in the hardest city in the world.”
▪ Instagram: @littlepearlboise