Food Industry

Pearl App Lets You Seek Out Miami's Best Oysters

Over the past decade or so, smartphones have changed the way we communicate, navigate, and make restaurant reservations. Now it's the best way to source fresh oysters.

The newly launched Pearl app allows users to find oysters in restaurants, mark their favorites, and check in to let the world know where they're slurping some bivalves.

The app works with 300 restaurants, including six in Miami.

Pearl is the brainchild of Sam Asher, who worked in finance and the tech industry before forming the app as a startup. "I always loved seafood and wanted to bridge the gap between consumers and restaurants. I've been eating oysters my whole life."

Asher says that although an oyster app might seem like a niche product, the shellfish is trending far and wide. "They're the fastest-growing food in restaurants. Everyone is crazy over oysters. New York City has over 15,000 restaurants, and at least a quarter of them offer oysters."  

Although there's a serious interest in oysters, Asher says people are still intimidated by all the varieties. Pearl also helps people find the right oyster by offering tasting notes on different types. "Here's a seafood group that can get really complicated. I want to teach people about oysters the way we teach about wine."

Though there are plenty of websites and books that delve into oysters in detail, Pearl describes more than 400 oysters by taste, size, cup depth, brininess, origin, and body. For instance, the popular Long Island Blue Point is described as fresh, crisp, and mild, with medium brininess, medium body, and a medium cup depth, making it an ideal all-around crowd pleaser. "We created this formatting to describe oysters in a simple way." Asher says his team contacts each oyster farm to consult on flavor profiles. In a nutshell, Asher says West Coast oysters are sweeter, with a sort of melon taste, while East Coast oysters tend to be brinier.

What oysters does the expert prefer, by the way? "I have two: One is called a Shigoku. It's grown in Washington by Taylor Farms. On the East Coast, I tend to stray toward oysters from Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard." 

Once you find the oyster of your dreams, you can use the app to locate it in a restaurant. Pearl lists more than 300 restaurants in about ten cities. Miami has only six restaurants as part of the app, but the list is growing. Asher says he expanded the app to Miami after the Dutch signed up its New York and Miami locations. "I spoke with Andrew Carmellini's people, and they said that oysters were doing really well in Miami." Asher plans to visit Miami soon to visit the restaurants that have joined Pearl (Midtown Oyster Bar, Mignonette, Sweet Liberty, the Dutch, the Restaurant at the Raleigh, and Mare Mio). 

Each restaurant provides daily updates about which oysters are offered and includes any oyster specials. For instance, when I checked in, Sweet Liberty was offering Blue Points for 75 cents each from 4 to 7 p.m. The restaurant also had Fat Bastards, Wild Goose, Kumamoto, and Totten Inlet oysters available. And as with the beer app Untapped, you can check into restaurants and rate the oysters you've tried.

If you still have an oyster-related question after downloading the free app, just shoot Asher an email. "We'll answer any question you have, or we'll give you restaurant recommendations if you're traveling. You should see some of the requests we get. Some are odd, but they're all from people who are really into oysters."

But what if you're a crab or a caviar person? Why no love for clams or mussels? Asher says Pearl will soon expand to offer information abouot all raw bar items. "We're going to add information on caviar, stone crabs, shrimp, lobster. There's a lot of crossover. Restaurants can take a picture of what they're offering and add it to the site."

The free app is available at
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss