Chef Aaron Silverman’s recently reimagined Pineapple & Pearls aims to be more fancy party than formal dinner with its canopy of sea green balloons and pull-your-own buttered popcorn soft-serve. But the clearest cue that this isn’t your average fine-dining experience: the pair of bedazzled handcuffs that come with one of the menu’s star dishes.
The dish in question is a duo of beggar’s purses—delicate beet- and saffron-tinted crêpes stuffed with caviar and crème fraîche, then gratuitously topped with gold leaf and more caviar. The one-biters are presented atop heavy glass pedestals (technically upside-down candlesticks) and meant to be picked up with your lips, not your fingers.
It’s an ode to the signature dish of the Quilted Giraffe, an ’80s-era New York hotspot famous for its excess and celebrities. At one point, it was the most expensive restaurant in the country and earned a rare four stars in the New York Times. Silverman has become kind of obsessed with the place and its legacy of fancy-fun dining. During the pandemic, Pineapple & Pearls’ kitchen designer introduced him to its former chef/co-owner Barry Wine, and the two became fast friends, initially chatting over Zoom.
Back to the dish: Quilted Giraffe’s caviar-stuffed beggar’s purses were likewise intended as finger-free morsels. To ensure proper consumption—or just to be a little kinky—the restaurant would famously handcuff diners. Wine, who was really into photography at the time, rarely left the kitchen without his camera and took countless photos of famous people like Yoko Ono and Warren Beatty eating the dish.
Pineapple & Pearls didn’t initially have its own handcuffs when it reopened in May after a pandemic hiatus. “We would tell this story, and people would be like, ‘Wait, are you going to handcuff us?’ And we’re like, ‘No,'” Silverman says. Then the chef asked one of his managers if maybe they should get some cuffs. “She’s like, ‘They’re already ordered on Amazon.'”
The restaurant now has two bedazzled pairs, which they bring out at random, often on a silver platter. “If somebody says something about them, we’ll bring them out,” Silverman says. “It’s about creating pleasure for people, and not everyone’s going to find that pleasurable.”
Wine has also gifted the restaurant with some of his original snapshots of diners eating the dish, including celebs like Yo-Yo Ma and a young Bobby Flay. You can see them in the bathroom … just leave your handcuffs at the table, please.