Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pearl Restaurant, Not Shiny Yet

Visited on 12/10/08
Location: Seattle - Eastside

There are precious few restaurant gems on the Eastside. So when I saw that Pearl had replaced the old Trader Vic's in Bellevue I was ready to find a new one. Fortunately for me, my wonderful wife was gracious enough to take care of our four and a half month old daughter so I could go out with a co-worker for some Christmas shopping and dinner.

As you walk into Pearl you are greeted with a bustling bar area and a very "happening" decor. Unfortunately, once seated we immediately noticed that it was nearly impossible to hear the waiter, or each other - perhaps a result of the arched bamboo ceiling that appears to be the last vestige of the previous tenant.

For appetizers, the foie gras was good, with a tayberry (blackberry and raspberry fruit hybrid) sauce, but I was not a fan of the croutons it was served with, as it ruined the whole flavor and texture for me. We also tried the calamari, which was also good. The accompanying sauce had a nice bite to it, but was not overpowering.

We had finished the foie gras and were halfway through the calamari when our main dishes suddenly showed up. That was a bit jarring, but OK. Why couldn't they have timed things a bit better? I had sablefish and it was terrific - cooked perfectly. The honey-miso marinade was a great accompaniment and it was ringed with mushroom caps and crab dumplings. My co-worker tried the Wagyu sirloin steak, which was good but a bit chewy. The beef came with a large mound of smashed potatoes that were bigger than the steak itself, and a generous portion of veggies. The entrees were so huge however, it makes ordering appetizers totally unnecessary. We did try one side of the truffle fries. However they were served in a lowball glass with too much truffle oil yielding terribly soggy fries as all the fries at the bottom of the glass suffered.

Don't bother with dessert either. We tried the white chocolate banana cream dessert which was fine. However, the triple chocolate dessert was a total mess. It was described as essentially a warm chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream. The ice cream was fine, but the cake... oh my! I tried to use my spoon to eat some and couldn't even get through the outside. I could barely crack the outside with a fork. The inside was totally dry, very hard, not warm, and basically inedible. I have to say it's the worst dessert I have ever been served as it seemed overcooked and at least a day old. I have had better McDonald's apple pies and the prepackaged desserts at the cafe at work that were better. I couldn't eat a bite of the cake it was so bad.

Overall Pearl has some good things going for it. The main dishes showed promise, the decor is very well done, wine list substantial and Northwest, but in general Pearl seems to be just another average American restaurant trying to masquerade as fine dining by offering the same foods. It has some glaring problems, including the noise, too large entrees, slightly overpriced dishes, and the dessert situation. Currently the only way to eat here is to order entrees only, you will get generally well prepared food and plenty of it. Unfortunately that formula is all to common among many popular American restaurants causing Pearl to lose some polish.

Pearl Bar & Dining on Urbanspoon

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