As anyone who has tried to impress a first date knows, eating out in a swanky, big city restaurant can command quite a price tag. Justifying spending several hundred of your hard earned quid on food that is usually small, fiddly and disappointing can be tricky if you don’t know what to expect. More often than not, the returns aren’t worth the faff. Occasionally however, something happens that makes all the effort of dressing up and pretending to be sophisticated feel like time well spent.
New York City’s Grand Central Oyster Bar has been serving the rich and famous for more than 100 years. Since it first opened its doors in 1913, the restaurant has specialised in seafood cookery, with its eponymous oysters a highlight for anyone passing through Grand Central Station. Today, diners from all over the world experience top-notch fish in the cavernous, subterranean dining room. With shucked shellfish selling for around $3 a pop, it’s not an experience that comes cheap.
Small wonder that Grand Central guest Rick Antosh was delighted to discover something seriously valuable with his meal earlier this month. A regular guest at the restaurant, Rick opted for his usual meal of pan roast, featuring six slowly stewed Blue Point oysters. As he settled into his hotpot, he was shocked to feel a small object rolling around his mouth.
Initially, the 66-year-old thought he would need an emergency trip to the dentist. Speaking to the New York Post, Rick revealed that, “for a fraction of a second, there was terror. Is it a tooth; is it a filling?” But, once he had opened his mouth and rummaged around for the source, his alarm turned to excitement. Sitting in the palm of his hand was a small, perfectly formed, pea-sized pearl.
You’d think that jewellery that’s been inside someone’s mouth might not be top of the shopping list. Eddie Levi, owner of DSL Pearl, disagrees. Having examined pictures of Rick’s pearl, he reached a surprising conclusion. Speaking to The Post, Levi stated that “Value is based on luster, clarity and roundness. It is not very round and has a black spot that may or may not be removable. [For] something in this condition, a dealer who really wants it, ballpark, may pay $2,000 to $4,000.”
You might also expect that this kind of thing isn’t that unusual in a restaurant that gets through around 5,000 oysters every single day. Again, you’d be mistaken. Executive chef Sandy Ingber revealed that, even though she has been at the restaurant for 28 years, this is only the second time that it has happened to her. Bad news for anyone else who was hoping to head to Grand Central and make their fortune.
Clearly, chancing upon a pearl worth around 200-times your lunch is not an everyday occurrence. Rick could be forgiven for heading to the hills and never returning to the scene of his find. However, instead of holding what he has, Rick has instead decided to keep returning to Grand Central in the hope of finding more pearls. As he puts it, “I will definitely come back and try to find more pearls. You never know.” You can’t help but admire his optimism.