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There has never been a shortage of Caribbean food in New York City, especially in Brooklyn, where street carts and pizzerias hawk snacky Jamaican beef patties while sit-down favorites (Glady’s in Crown Heights, The Islands in Prospect Heights) dish out classics like jerk chicken and curry goat. It’s a shame then that of all the borough’s neighborhoods, Williamsburg, for all it’s culinary acclaim, had been so historically lacking in West Indian flavors. Thankfully, the cuisine got a major player in the fall of 2015, when John Seymour (Sweet Chick, Pop’s of Brooklyn) and his wife Fallon (Pop’s of Brooklyn) opened this neon-lit, Calypso-soundtracked canteen that pays homage to Fallon’s native Trinidad and takes its name from her grandmother, Pearl.
Here, the couple trade their signature burgers and fried chicken for traditional island staples, which channel the region’s wide range of cultural influences from African and Spanish to East Indian and Chinese. For starters, pop some crowd-pleasing plantain bites dipped in the requisite sweet tamarind-chili sauce ($5), or scoop a perfectly-seasoned bready crab stuffing straight out of the shell ($12).
Of the larger plates, seek out a half rack of jerk ribs ($21), shellacked in a surprisingly fiery guava-BBQ sauce and tempered with a side of sweet, coconut-crusted corn. The spice averse, however, should opt instead for one of the house rotis nestling chicken ($14) or shrimp ($16) in a fluffy, crepe-like wrap. A clear standout was the bake and shark, an evenly textured sandwich of crispy-yet-tender fried shark nestled in a pocket of fried bread and generously doused in a selection of house sauces including boisterous tamarind, pungent garlic and herbaceous shado bene (culantro).
Drinks by Sweet Chick bar man Wilmer Reyes include fruity, Caribbean-inspired concoctions such as the house rum punch ($10) taming a kick of white rum with apple, watermelon and orange juices, and the Frozen Rude Boy, an icy blended riff on the classic dark & stormy ($12). They’re as spirited and colorful as the space, which includes vintage cultural patterns painted by local graffiti artist Snoeman and photographs of the region’s musical icons by Jonathan Mannion. From food to decor, Pearl’s succeeds as a tribute to Caribbean culture and a welcome addition to a neighborhood desperately in need of it.