In August Perla opened its doors across from the Singing Fountain, bringing some added diversity in dining options to East Passyunk Avenue. Now that the restaurant has been open for a few months, Craig Laban stopped in to review Perla, giving it two bells.
Owner and chef Lou Boquila received praise from Craig Laban for a number of elements of the restaurant, but ultimately Laban thinks that, “Boquila may well need to dive deeper into tradition and master those flavors first, before he can truly move forward.” The restaurant is an ode to Boquila’s late-mother and combines versions of dishes she used to prepare with more modern elements.
Laban says that some of the “most compelling moments” at the restaurant are from the Sunday Kamayan feasts, where diners are encouraged to eat with their hands. The a la carte menu served throughout the week suffers from some “technical flaws” that hold the restaurant back slightly, but Laban makes note of some of the other standout dishes, including the kinilaw.
From Craig Laban’s review:
That sense of unbridled familial joy is harder to come by in Perla’s more refined à la carte menu experience, where Boquila occasionally struggled to strike the right tone between modern American presentation for $23 to $27 a plate and the edgier flavors that might give it distinctively Filipino personality. I loved the duck dish overall as a generic duck dish. But as an upmarket riff on adobo, with all the marinade’s sweet, sour, and spicy zing concentrated into a mild-mannered pork “jus” rather than braised into the bird itself, it lacked an essential swagger.
The Filipino ceviche called kinilaw was outstanding, with cobia glazed in a gingery cucumber puree enriched with coconut milk and palm vinegar. Sweet head-on prawns and pulverized prawn shell dust gave a nice punch to the chitarra noodle pancit.
Laban does note that while the “fast-evolving passion project is still refining its focus, it’s trending in the right direction.”