The Black Pearl
Admittedly, we hit it early. We'd been watching this Main Street space for months as banners in the window promised "Coming soon." Ratcheting hopes that high increases the temptation to put a place to the test too soon. And then there was a matter of emphasis: I'd been looking forward to the seafood part of what's officially called the Black Pearl Seafood & Martini Bar-but early on, its accent was more on the bar.
One step into the long, narrow room and there was no doubt: this is definitely a bar. I'm starting to think of its creator, John Janviriya, as the Christopher Nolan of restaurant design: Janviriya creates these dark and moody spaces-cerebral, modern, and a little decadent. That's true of both the Black Pearl and his first Ann Arbor creation, Mélange. But the Black Pearl is rougher around the edges than Mélange-louder and less sensual than its subterranean sibling, with no standouts in the black-on-black decor. Lined with black slate tiles on the floor and up one wall, padded on the other wall with tufted black velvet, furnished with black chairs and tables, the room is focused on a sleek black granite bar, above which rattan ceiling fans rotate hypnotically.
I stopped by on opening night and cajoled the hostess out of a menu. That's when I got my first "uh-oh" feeling. The least expensive appetizer, the creatively spelled "pommes fritts," was $7. Most of the starters were in the $10-$15 range-more than many of the sandwiches. A bowl of clam chowder was $11. Huh?