In Depth

Lucky diner in New York finds pearl in oyster dish

Dish served up at city’s famous Grand Central Oyster Bar contains hidden treasure

A diner at the world famous Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York has found a pearl while eating an oyster dish.

Rick Antosh told the New York Post that he felt a small object rolling around his mouth after diving in to his favourite dish, the pan roast, a stew-like dish that includes six oysters.

“For a fraction of a second, there was terror,” Antosh told The New York Post. “Is it a tooth? Is it a filling?”

On closer inspection it turned out to be a pea-sized pearl – which, according to ­Eddie Livi, owner of New York-based DSL Pearl, could be worth thousands of pounds.

“Value is based on luster, clarity and roundness,” said Livi. Looking at a photo of Antosh’s pearl, he noted its imperfections. “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 (£1,575) to $4,000 (£3,150).”

When he discovered his treasure, Antosh initially thought it wasn’t that unusual.

“This isn’t Joe’s Steakhouse. It’s the most famous oyster place in the United States,” said the 66-year-old. “I [assumed] it doesn’t happen often, but figured it happens at times.”

But actually it was an incredibly rare occurrence at Grand Central Oyster Bar. “I’ve been here 28 years,” said Sandy Ingber, the restaurant’s executive chef. “This is only the second time I’ve seen this happen. And we sell over 5,000 oysters on the half shell every day.”

The “occurrence of natural pearls in oysters is not well understood”, says The Guardian, but anecdotally it has been estimated at one in 10,000, according to Matthew W Gray, an oyster physiologist at the University of Maryland.

Gray adds that the phenomenon occurs “when an irritant, such as a piece of sand, gets lodged in the oyster’s shell and a pearl forms to protect the mollusk”.

Antosh told the Post he’s not yet sure what he’ll do with the find.

“I will definitely come back and try to find more pearls,” he said. “You never know.”

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