There’s a lot to know about oysters. They come from all over: Prince Edward Island, the Chesapeake Bay, Narragansett Bay, Long Island, Vancouver Island, and more. Some are big and plump, others are quick little slurps. They can be briny, sweet, buttery, crisp, strong, or light. But now a new app aims to demystify a restaurant’s oyster selection before you even get to the table — and help you choose a restaurant based entirely upon that selection.
Pearl, which founder Sam Asher launched in June, works with restaurants and oyster farmers to get all the details about your oysters before you even know where you’re going to eat. The geo-locational app provides listings for restaurants that include what kinds of oysters they’re serving that day, how other app users have rated those oysters, contact information, OpenTable bookings, and intel on oyster happy hour deals — all intel that comes directly from a restaurant itself, as all the restaurants manage their own Pearl pages.
These restaurants are in cities throughout the US and Canada, with a special focus on Boston, New York, and San Francisco in this first version of the app. But there are plenty of participants in LA and San Diego right now, Asher says, and Pearl is pushing to add more restaurants in DC and Chicago. Though the app has only been out for two weeks, the Pearl team is already working to add about 50 new oysters and 100 new restaurants that have signed up to be listed.
But finding a restaurant that serves oysters is only the beginning of Pearl. Say you’ve never heard of the Beausoleil oyster at the John Dory Oyster Bar in New York City. You can click on the oyster name on the restaurant menu and the app will whisk you to a profile of the oyster itself, which reveals that the New Brunswick-farmed oyster runs about 2.5 inches with light brininess, full body, deep cup depth, and has a clean and sweet taste. The app also lists all of the other listed restaurants who have that oyster available — in this case, The Ordinary in Charleston, South Carolina. All of that information is actually culled from the oyster farmers, which Asher explains is to make sure that the app is as accurate as possible.
Finally, once you’ve actually tried the oysters, you can rate and save your favorites within the app — there’s even an option to rate the “aphrodisiac effect” of each oyster, if you believe in such a thing. The idea is to keep track of what you like so that when you’re looking for a restaurant recommendation, you don’t have to pick a restaurant based on reviews or reservations: you can choose where you dine that night based on the exact oyster that you want to eat.
That’s exactly the feature of the app that Pearl hopes to capitalize on. “Oysters are just the starting point for us,” Asher says. Though right now the app is limited to the mollusks, the plan is to expand it out to include all seafood, a move that could come as soon as late fall. "People are so concerned about what they eat,” Asher says, explaining that Pearl will be able to help them choose a restaurant based on the exact oyster or shrimp or lobster that they already know they like. “That’s kind of the future,” he says.