Taking over the Mars location on S. Congress, this new seafood bar has prime real estate. We went for brunch on a Saturday during their opening week. Our friend, Lindsay, was visiting from Houston, so we took her with us, despite her clear dislike for most fare from the sea. Fortunately, Perla's had limited, but delicious non-seafood offerings on their menu, that suited even Lindsay's picky tastes.
We started off with delicious morning cocktails. They had a wide variety to choose from, including one called "The Minderaser" which has Bacardi 151 in it. What a way to start your morning! We weren't quite so brave. Justin had a bloody mary, I had their frozen concoction of the day, called "Peach Passion" and Lindsay went with a mimosa. The bloody mary was delicious, as was the mimosa. My Peach Passion was incredibly strong, even for my lush tastes. It was more suited for a starter drink before a night out on 6th street than a recovery drink on a Saturday morning. If that's their run-of-the-mill frozen drink, I can't even imagine what the minderaser must be like! I'm never one to complain about strong drinks though, I sure got my money's worth, and it made our post-brunch SoCo shopping a lot more fun!
Justin and I started with a sampler of 6 oysters on the halfshell. We each tried 3 oysters from different Northeast regions. Although the price was steep, ($3 each) they are pretty typical for non-gulf oysters around here. I love eating large plump gulf oysters when I am in the mood for beer, crawfish, and quantity. But when it comes to quality, there's something to be said for the small, zinc-y, briney goodness that only New England oysters can provide. They have a rotating menu with different fresh catch options each day. In addition to oysters, they always have a clam option as well, usually littleneck or cherrystone.
For our main course, I went with the breakfast bouillabaise (I just looked at the menu again, and I guess they changed the name to breakfast cioppino, I never could tell the difference between those two anyway. I know bouillabaise is french and cioppino is italian, but they're both tomato based seafood stews. But I digress...) It is basically a half portion of the dinner option, with two soft poached eggs nestled on top, complete with a crisp toasted piece of baguette. I am such a sucker for soft egg yolks, and these were perfect. Not too runny, but soft enough to mix with the saffron tomato broth for a delicious combination. I love eating my eggs with ketchup, and this was basically a gourmet version. The stew was full of a variety of seafood, including chunks of whitefish, clams, mussels, and calamari. A hearty breakfast for seafood lovers. Justin went with the lobster coddled farm eggs. Lobster chunks mixed in with soft baked eggs. Another highly recommended and delicious option. There was a considerable amount of lobster meat in such a small dish. The egg yolks were also the perfect soft consistency as my poached eggs. It was topped with fresh herbs (tarragon?) that gave a crisp bite to the dish. Lindsay decided to go with the basic wheat toast with eggs over-medium, with a side of fruit. No complaints here. She was also eyeing the buttermilk pancakes, which sounded really yummy, topped with fresh blueberries, whipped cream, and vermont syrup. It was nice to see typical brunch options on the menu, which appease to those who want a more traditional breakfast.
Overall, Perla's is a suitable replacement for Mars. I will miss the cocktails at Mars, but I think Perla's strong drinks will do just fine. I loved the overall environment of the resaturant. The decor was nautical and beachy, with a breezy atmosphere. The waiters looked like they stepped out of a J.Crew catalog (pink or light blue button down, khaki pants). Am I in Nantucket?? My one complaint is that Perla's is going through the new restaurant growing pains. Even on Saturday brunch, the restaurant was far from capacity. The waiter was not very knowledgeable about the menu, and appeared obviously green to the industry. However, everyone was very friendly and eager to please, which will carry them far. I can't wait to revisit Perla's again in a few months, perhaps for dinner this time.
Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar
1400 S. Congress Ave. Austin, TX 78704
512 291 7300