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It’s not gone, it’s Oyster & Pearl

For shellfish reasons, a neighborhood restaurant returned with a re-brand

Roasted branzino, with roasted vegetables and broccolini
Roasted branzino, with roasted vegetables and broccolini

If you’ve happened to cruise Lake Murray Boulevard on a regular basis in the past couple years, it might be easy to presume that ten-year-old eatery The Vine Cottage didn’t make it through the pandemic. By late 2020, its homey sign had come down, and the vaguely Mediterranean storefront got a modern facelift. Passersby were now met with Oyster & Pearl, a more modern looking restaurant. On its sign, the Y in Oyster is styled as a martini glass, with an olive garnish, to suggest the new place is a cocktail spot with a raw bar.

Place

Oyster & Pearl

6062 Lake Murray Blvd, La Mesa

Which it most certainly is. But it’s mostly the same restaurant, with the same chef, adding new options alongside the same, seasonally adjusted menus. It would appear the folk behind Vine Cottage turned the covid shutdown into opportunity to refresh the brand, going with the Oyster & Pearl name to highlight the seafood side of its Mediterranean, comfort food menu.

Without a doubt, embracing oyster bar status adds value to this cozy neighborhood sit-down, especially during its extended happy hours, which run all day Monday and Tuesday, and from 2-6pm the rest of the week. In addition to drink specials, the bivalves go for $2 each, allowing you to mix and match an assortment that may include Blue Point oysters as well as Washington and Baja-raised varieties.

A new name and storefront for the restaurant formerly known as The Vine Cottage

The patio seating is nice enough, but with parking lot and that Boulevard so close, I found it better to embrace my rising indoor dining confidence to enjoy the small dining room. It gives you a sense how hampering pandemic restrictions had to be for small venues like this. Fortunately, an interior that might have felt anxiously confined, pre-vaccination, has gone back to feeling intimate, and even inviting, with the help of dark woods and warm lighting.

Happy hour oysters, priced $2 apiece

Though Oyster & Pearl’s Mediterranean and European inspiration means you may always find the likes of beef and duck confit on the menu, it does clearly lean on seafood, including a menu of pasta dishes featuring its fair share of shellfish ($26-39).

We found mussels, charred octopus alongside grilled and baked oysters on the starters menu, in addition to charcuterie boards. Among entrees, we found comfort fare such as cioppino ($38) and a succulent Chilean sea bass filet served in a sweet tomato broth with pearled couscous. The biggest hit was a roasted branzino ($39), served whole with roasted root vegetables and broccolini.

Chilean sea bass and pearled couscous in tomato broth, topped by a caper berry

Given the breadth of dishes and level of ingredients at play here, dinner’s a decidedly pricier proposition than happy hour. I can’t say there aren’t restaurants I would prefer over Oyster & Pearl when spending upwards of $50 a person for dinner and drinks, but most of them aren’t this far east.

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Roasted branzino, with roasted vegetables and broccolini
Roasted branzino, with roasted vegetables and broccolini

If you’ve happened to cruise Lake Murray Boulevard on a regular basis in the past couple years, it might be easy to presume that ten-year-old eatery The Vine Cottage didn’t make it through the pandemic. By late 2020, its homey sign had come down, and the vaguely Mediterranean storefront got a modern facelift. Passersby were now met with Oyster & Pearl, a more modern looking restaurant. On its sign, the Y in Oyster is styled as a martini glass, with an olive garnish, to suggest the new place is a cocktail spot with a raw bar.

Place

Oyster & Pearl

6062 Lake Murray Blvd, La Mesa

Which it most certainly is. But it’s mostly the same restaurant, with the same chef, adding new options alongside the same, seasonally adjusted menus. It would appear the folk behind Vine Cottage turned the covid shutdown into opportunity to refresh the brand, going with the Oyster & Pearl name to highlight the seafood side of its Mediterranean, comfort food menu.

Without a doubt, embracing oyster bar status adds value to this cozy neighborhood sit-down, especially during its extended happy hours, which run all day Monday and Tuesday, and from 2-6pm the rest of the week. In addition to drink specials, the bivalves go for $2 each, allowing you to mix and match an assortment that may include Blue Point oysters as well as Washington and Baja-raised varieties.

A new name and storefront for the restaurant formerly known as The Vine Cottage

The patio seating is nice enough, but with parking lot and that Boulevard so close, I found it better to embrace my rising indoor dining confidence to enjoy the small dining room. It gives you a sense how hampering pandemic restrictions had to be for small venues like this. Fortunately, an interior that might have felt anxiously confined, pre-vaccination, has gone back to feeling intimate, and even inviting, with the help of dark woods and warm lighting.

Happy hour oysters, priced $2 apiece

Though Oyster & Pearl’s Mediterranean and European inspiration means you may always find the likes of beef and duck confit on the menu, it does clearly lean on seafood, including a menu of pasta dishes featuring its fair share of shellfish ($26-39).

We found mussels, charred octopus alongside grilled and baked oysters on the starters menu, in addition to charcuterie boards. Among entrees, we found comfort fare such as cioppino ($38) and a succulent Chilean sea bass filet served in a sweet tomato broth with pearled couscous. The biggest hit was a roasted branzino ($39), served whole with roasted root vegetables and broccolini.

Chilean sea bass and pearled couscous in tomato broth, topped by a caper berry

Given the breadth of dishes and level of ingredients at play here, dinner’s a decidedly pricier proposition than happy hour. I can’t say there aren’t restaurants I would prefer over Oyster & Pearl when spending upwards of $50 a person for dinner and drinks, but most of them aren’t this far east.

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