What’s old is new again at The Pearl Hotel, Point Loma’s midcentury modern boutique inn that relaunched its onsite restaurant, now dubbed Charles + Dinorah, and unveiled new food and drink menus in May. Named for the property’s original owners, Charles + Dinorah offers refined comfort food overlooking the hotel’s saltwater pool.
Known among locals for its popular summertime Dive-In Theatre events where classic movies are projected onto a 10-by-13-foot screen by the pool, The Pearl has 23 guest rooms filled with modern décor and quirky embellishments (think: fish bowl wall mounts). But patrons don’t have to be overnight guests to enjoy the property’s amenities like Charles + Dinorah’s terrazzo bar and indoor/outdoor dining room.
Andrew Santana took over as executive chef of the restaurant last year, and was particularly mindful of his loyal regulars while revamping the dinner and weekend brunch menus, including the Pearl Burger, a longtime favorite. The burger remains, now dressed with a new secret sauce.
“I really like umami — powerful flavors that awaken the consciousness,” Santana said, “which might be a little unsettling at first.”
The curry fried Jidori chicken is one such dish bursting with flavors like doenjang (soybean paste) aioli, kimchi and pickled shiitakes — a version of which was named by Carlsbad chef Andrew Bachelier as his favorite dish of 2017 in PACIFIC’s annual Chain of Gourmand. Another standout is the “charr”tare, a play on beef tartare with black garlic aioli, allium dust, separated hard-boiled egg, puffed beef tendons, ice plant and grilled bread.
The restaurant receives fresh bread delivered from local baker Crystal White of Wayfarer Bread & Pastry, including sourdough batard and sesame boule, both organic and naturally fermented sourdough loaves that are incorporated into various dishes. (Read more about the newly opened bakery here.)
Santana’s new menus play off the property’s intimate hotel and pool settings, which are undeniably part of The Pearl’s distinct charm.
“You feel like you’re in a backyard here, with a pool and home environment,” he said. “That to me relates to grilling in the backyard. Being so close to the harbor plays into the vibe as well. From the bamboo and wood detailing — everything has that island-centric vibe here, without going overboard.”
Refreshing cocktails round out the full poolside experience. Bar manager TJ Majeske’s new cocktail menu floats some exotic flavors, which he says patrons are more open to trying while on vacation (or possibly pretending to be on vacation). The menu is approachable, yet enticing enough for someone to be adventurous, he said.
“The atmosphere lets me up my game with showmanship,” Majeske said. “Most places in San Diego are high volume, but we can do so much more in the smaller environment here.”
Majeske’s favorite cocktail is the The Green Screen, which has barrel-aged Xicaru 102-proof mezcal, Luxardo liqueur, Green Chartreuse and lime. He’s also obsessed with “fat-washing” spirits like the Beach Break cocktail that has coconut fat-washed tequila, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, lime, agave, Firewater Bitters and a toasted coconut rim. “Fat” is the coconut oil, which can’t be infused because it separates.
One of Majeske’s favorite menu pairings is the Shiso Pretty, a cocktail with shiso-infused cucumber vodka, aloe, Green Chartreuse and lemon, alongside the whole fish that’s served with torpedo onion, charred lemon and fermented black beans.
“TJ and I have a good cross-utilization of ingredients,” Santana said. “We have shared thoughts on how to approach a drink menu with a food menu, and they really mesh well.”
Santana worked under acclaimed chef Michael Mina directly out of culinary school, and was part of the opening team at Mina’s Arcadia restaurant in the Bay Area. But it was chef Peter Armellino, from the Michelin-starred Plumed Horse in Saratoga, who most influenced Santana’s cooking techniques and approach to diverse flavor profiles.
“We’re just getting started (at Charles + Dinorah),” Santana said. “As we get more comfortable and the team gets stronger together, it’s going to be a great adventure.”
1410 Rosecrans St., Point Loma, 619.226.6100, thepearlsd.com
Catch an old flick during The Pearl’s outdoor movie series, with showtimes beginning at 8 p.m. every Wednesday through summer. Reservations are strongly encouraged. The June lineup includes:
June 6: Almost Famous
June 13: Grease
June 20: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
June 27: Spaceballs