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Dean Yasharian spent years cooking at Michelin-starred restaurants and under some of the world’s most renowned chefs before finally opening a place of his own in Pasadena in March of 2020. Though the timing wasn’t ideal (his first night of friends and family service coincided with day one of a citywide Covid shutdown), Yasharian persevered, and, nearly two years later, has settled in to a comfortable groove.
While Perle (named after his daughter) is a love letter to the traditional dishes found at French bistros and brasseries, Yasharian puts his own spin on the genre, inspired by flavors from further afield and produce from closer to home. His thoughtful menu gives diners a multitude of experiences in a refreshing way that plays to trends without pandering to them.
Here’s everything you need to know before you go.
1. It’s French, with hints of Armenian and Asian flavors.
When diners discover that Perle is a French restaurant, they expect the classics, like coq au vin, escargot, and French onion soup, Yasharian says. Those are staples at Perle, but he also nods to surrounding cultures in LA, such as the nearby San Gabriel Valley, which has a large Asian population. In his renditions of canard à l’orange, for example, Yasharian dresses duck breast in an orange jus with hints of soy and oyster sauces, accompanied by Chinese broccoli, and garnished with daikon radish.
Yasharian also has a yearning to connect to his own roots. “I have an Armenian name, but I [was raised] as an American on a dairy farm in upstate New York,” he says. “I’ve been trying to learn more about Persian cuisine and Armenian flavors, in particular.” In his coq au vin, Yasharian incorporates pomegranate molasses in the finishing sauce, a sweet-and-sour jolt that balances out the red wine. Pistachios appear in the escargot, where Yasharian coats wild Burgundy snails in a pistachio-panko crust.
2. The chef’s resume speaks volumes.
While Yasharian has been working in restaurants since he was a teenager, it wasn’t until he graduated from culinary school that he landed at a Michelin-starred restaurant. At Midsummer House in Cambridge, England, a young Yasharian worked under acclaimed chef and owner Daniel Clifford.
That experience led Yasharin to a position as part of the opening team for Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in New York, which was awarded two Michelin stars during his tenure. And for a decade, he cooked with revered French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud at his New York restaurants, working his way up to executive chef at the Bar Boulud location in London. Just before launching Perle, he served as the executive chef of Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood.
3. There’s a mirrored menu for vegetarians.
Perle offers a unique mirrored-menu concept, in which dishes with meat and seafood are on one side, and plant-based and vegetarian versions are on the other. Instead of escargot, there are mushrooms in herbed butter and garlic. The “coq” au vin is made with red wine-braised soy drumsticks instead of chicken.
“For the longest time, French or fine-dining restaurants didn’t have much to offer for vegetarians,” Yasharian says. “I’ve always made it a point to get more creative with the menu not only for vegetarians, but also vegans and anyone else with dietary requirements.” (Gluten-free dishes are also available.)
4. Don’t skip out on the charcuterie board.
When Yasharian was at Bar Boulud, he had the opportunity to work in the same kitchen as a fourth-generation charcutier. He’s brought an interest in cured meats to Perle, importing a frequently-rotating selection of products from the US and Europe, and making several items in-house.
His charcuterie boards change every week, though past favorites have included housemade pork and seafood rillettes, chicken liver mousses, and lamb and rabbit geleé terrines.
5. There are ways to go fancy.
Yasharian has found that on any given night, there are a handful of tables at Perle celebrating special occasions. It’s part of the reason he has some bigger ticket items on his menu, such as caviar service and black truffle pasta. “There’s an option to go a bit more luxurious,” he says. “We’ve always had a philosophy of ‘something for everyone.’”
The classic caviar service arrives at the table with an ounce of Kaluga caviar, housemade blinis, chopped quail egg, red onions, and chives. It’s served artfully arranged on cutting boards Yasharian handmade with his brother-in-law in his wood workshop.
Perle’s truffle pasta is offered year-round, with fresh shavings of black truffles (imported from France and Australia) served over handmade spaghetti coated in a Parmesan sauce. A popular dish, Yasharian says they sell upwards of two pounds of truffles a week.
6. The general manager has an impressive culinary resume as well.
Perle’s general manager Lisa Witkowski, a certified sommelier and Cicerone who studied at The French Culinary Institute (now called The International Culinary Center), handpicks the restaurant’s robust wine menu, which has a natural emphasis on French bottles. She, along with bar director Scott Sullivan, also developed a tea program for Perle through her relationship with Rare Tea Cellar, a company that specializes in fine and rare leaves.
Witkoski’s career has taken her from Sherman Oaks’ Petit Trois Le Valley to New York’s Chelsea Market and Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire, England. Yasharian says he was impressed that she had worked at Le Manoir, a two-Michelin starred temple to haute cuisine that he considers one of the top destinations for hospitality workers in the United Kingdom. “Honestly, I hired her for that reason—if you can spend four years at Le Manoir, you can pretty much work anywhere,” Yasharian says.
7. The interior decor has been a labor of love.
When Yasharian found the space for Perle with his wife and business partner Pauline, he noticed there was a vintage feel to it, which they happily leaned into.
After working at historic Chateau Marmont for four years, Yasharian had fallen in love with the antique-heavy decor, and wanted a similar aesthetic for Perle. “I liked the fact that you feel like you’re in a different era [at the Chateau],” he says.
Pauline, a fashion designer, played a major role in designing the space. The couple renovated much of the restaurant themselves: Yasharian sanded and painted the dark mahogany walls, and reupholstered vintage rattan chairs from a furniture warehouse. The couple hung up old frames they found at flea markets, filling them with French posters.
Pauline adorned the walls with black-and-white photographs of Yasharian’s family, featuring his great-grandfather and other relatives who came to the United States as Armenian immigrants. “My parents actually live on the farm in Pennsylvania that our original ancestors bought,” he says. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”