Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pearl, Treasure Island, FL

What a breath of fresh air on the Gulf beaches!  I am increasingly amazed at the heights to which the food culture has risen on on the Pinellas Suncoast since I first arrived almost 25 years ago, when pretty much everything was a seafood shack (not that those are necessarily a bad thing) or a tourist trap.

I've been fascinated by Pearl's eclectic menu from my first online glimpse of it.  It's tough to categorize, but I suppose I would describe the cuisine as somewhat global in nature with an emphasis on Moroccan and French cuisine along with a nod to familiar favorites with an international twist.

The interior is warm and inviting (lots of brick and terra cotta), elegant without being stuffy, and quite conducive to the convivial buzz of  happy diners.  The music provided by an acoustical guitarist on the evening we visited was particularly nice and dialed down to an appropriate, convo-friendly level. Here's a peek at our little corner:

Our server, Dustin, was friendly, professional and attentive. Some of the first words out of his mouth were "everything on the menu is made to order and we will be happy to make any adjustments necessary to suit your personal taste or dietary restrictions".  Well, there's a novel approach.  No one despises that resto patron whose order goes something like "I'll have the Chili Cheese Burger, but without the chili...and please substitute the beef patty with chicken breast and top it with slaw instead of cheese...and can I have it on pumpernickel bread instead of a bun?" more than I, but let's be reasonable.  I get incredibly turned off when I read the imperious statement "We must politely decline any alteration or substitution" on a menu.  Really? We're prepared to pay $150 or more for dinner for two and you won't leave a tomato slice off of my salad? These are the same people who are so arrogant that they don't put salt and pepper shakers on the table so patrons are forced encouraged to enjoy the dish just as God the Chef intended. Reminds me of when I dined at the French Laundry in an uncomfortably hushed and stark room with unadorned white walls because "the food is the art and it's all the atmosphere you need".  What a bunch of prima donna crap. Now that I've gotten that rant off my chest (probably going down a cup size in the process), let's get back to the Pearl.

We began with a sparklicious bottle of Domaine Carneros "Champagne-esque" bubbly while we perused the menu. Warm bread was promptly dispensed along with a nicer-than-average olive oil dipping sauce which was liberally infused with obviously freshly chopped basil and garlic.
Being the liver pate junkie that I am, ordering Pearl's Duck Liver Pate was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Two generous slabs (one Paris-style and the other more rustic) were stunningly presented with Dijon mustard, red onion bits, sliced cornichons and beautiful crostini carriers (I can't comment on the little tomato salad thingy going on alongside it because raw tomatoes are just about the only thing on the planet I won't eat other than sushi, but UD fell upon it like a stray dog).  I loved them both, but the creamier version was the epitome of my pate fantasies.  I was also impressed by the fact that when Dustin noticed that we had almost exhausted our supply of crostini but still had pate left, he inquired if we would like some more...without any prompting on our part or being told we could have additional toast points if we didn't mind paying a dollar extra, a la The Refinery.

We also tried one of the evening's specials - an herbaceous, garlicky and buttery little bowl of tender lobster chunks. Someone (she shall remain nameless) couldn't wait until after the photo-op to dig in.  Divine!

Entrees came with a choice of soup of the day or house salad.  I'm a little saddened by the fact that my salad pic turned out too blurry to publish because it was one of the most precious versions of an entree-inclusive side salad I've ever had.  My bountiful, crispy, chilled blend of lettuces (no iceberg, of course!) along with an accoutrement or two was generously drizzled with a delightful sweet vinaigrette.  SO good.

UD went with the soup, which was Beef Lentil.  Served with the steam still rising (as was everything we ordered that should've been hot...don't even get me started on lukewarm food), it had an extremely "fresh forward" veggie taste and received my better half's coveted stamp of approval.

Underdog's main course of Bouillabaisse was proclaimed to have an approximate seafood yield of 2 lbs.  He may have exaggerated a bit, but it was a hearty portion nonetheless. Pearl puts an unexpected lemony twist on this dish and I think a little less citrus would've ratcheted the enjoyment factor a notch higher.  Nonetheless, only crustacean shells remained after my Dog had his way with it.

My Duck Pasta (sautéed duck with peas, tossed in a wild mushroom Cognac cream sauce) was simply ridiculous in its indulgence factor.  I didn't find any peas in it, nor did I particularly miss them.  Our server (along with his satellite of associates who checked on us between his visits) did say that only fresh ingredients were used at Pearl (which I have no problem believing), so maybe fresh peas weren't available.  My tightening belt was the only thing that kept me from shoveling every last morsel of this decadent offering down my pie duck pasta hole

We can rarely end a meal without trying at least a bite of dessert, so we both agreed on the Carrot Cake. This is not your Southern Standard Issue variety of said cake.  While refraining from being anvil-heavy in density and adorned with inches of cream cheese frosting, it was still pleasing, moist and flavorful...a lighter and more homogeneous variation of what I have grown used to (almost reminiscent of spice cake).  We liked it and, honestly, couldn't have eaten any of it had it been any richer given the portion size of our entrees.

Pearl is one of my new favorites...a "class act" in every aspect.

 Pearl on Urbanspoon

My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.

1 comment:

  1. Another awesome post on delights. I so look forward to your postings so I can live through your adventures! Everything looks heavenly! XOXO - Bacon/June