Tired of dining in and desperately needing to get outta the house, I braved the indoor restaurant scene with a dinner at Southern Pearl Oyster House.
Part of the Half Shell Oyster House restaurant family based in Mississippi, the Baton Rouge iteration on Perkins Road has maintained popularity since opening in September 2019, in spite of the pandemic.
Inside the restaurant, Cajun, zydeco and blues music drifted from the speakers and put us in a festive mood. The decor was reminiscent of the French Quarter with a hint of Jacques-Imo’s Cafe flair mixed in.
Once seated at a socially distant table, our eyes narrowed in immediately on the menu’s two sampler appetizers: Oyster Sampler and Shrimp Trio. Our server congratulated us on such smart choices that allowed us to get a wide flavor swath of the full menu.
For the Oyster Sampler, 12 oysters were presented in trios of charbroiled, Bienville, Rockefeller and a new one to us: Orleans. This last one had abundant garlic and parsley with plenty of Parmesan and a cayenne kick. Rockefeller were rich and creamy with a perfect whisper of Pernod absinthe liqueur. It was the favorite of my table. Bienville was topped with a shrimp, cheese and breadcrumb mixture that was superbly flavored, though the breading could have used a bit more broiling for crunch. Charbroiled seemed so simple with wine, butter and a garlic herb sauce, but for me they were the juiciest and most delicately flavored of the bunch.
The Shrimp Trio consisted of shrimp in the same Orleans sauce as the oysters, plus fried and Voodoo shrimp. The Voodoo was at first very sweet, but then a mild heat rewarded you with a soft bang of flavor. A squeeze of lemon further tamed the sugar. The fried shrimp were plump, juicy and crisp, as all good fried shrimp should be. The included cocktail sauce was perfect for dipping as well as clearing sinuses. Swimming in butter, the Orleans was rich and peppery. But something in the flavor was off—perhaps a dried herb or spice in the seasoning had been overcooked.
After such large and satisfying appetizers, we split the Herb Encrusted Mahi, choosing the recommended Bisque and Jalapeño Hushpuppies as our two sides.
The hushpuppies were crunchy and loaded with onions, but there was no jalapeño to be found. The seafood bisque was packed with so much seafood and corn in a thick cream broth that we could practically stand the spoon straight up in the cup. Overall, it was a rich, silky treat.
For the entree, fat, juicy mahi filets were seasoned perfectly with a salty, earthy Parmesan and herb crust. So large was the fish portion that we almost missed the simple sautéed spinach hiding underneath. Topped off by a tart lemon cream that tied it all together, this was a deeply satisfying entree that was plenty large enough for us to share.
Too full to indulge in desserts, we took the Bananas Foster Cheesecake and Chocolate Obsession home to enjoy later. Both servings were diminutive slices, but the luxuriousness made sense as smaller portions. The velvety cheesecake had ample flavor, reminiscent of banana pudding, with a swirl of caramel throughout. Chocolate Obsession offered decadent layers of chocolate cookie crust, chocolate “decadence,” and dark and white chocolate mousses all crowned by chocolate sauce. Though it sounded too cloying to enjoy more than one bite, it was surprisingly subtle and worthy of its name—and a great ending to the meal.
If you are even hinting at a diet this month, Southern Pearl likely isn’t your jam. But if you need a true seafood experience, swim on over. You won’t be disappointed.
THE BASICS: The Half Shell Oyster House family of restaurants opened a Baton Rouge outpost in September 2019. While the name is different, the restaurant brings much of the same Southern and New Orleans cuisine that made the restaurant group so popular.
WHAT’S A MUST: Test out the range of flavors with the Oyster Sampler appetizer, featuring a dozen bivalves prepared in four different ways. For a satisfyingly large entree, try the Herb Encrusted Mahi and make sure to order the loaded seafood Bisque on the side.