Pearl Bar & Dining

(Bellevue, WA) — Never having spent quality time in Seattle, we relied on OpenTable and the opinions of friends for meal recommendations (as well as a healthy dose of Google research). Our first night would actually be in Bellevue, essentially across the bay from Seattle proper. We found a swanky place that was highly rated, called Pearl Bar & Dining. After taking the hotel shuttle downtown, we spent a good 15 minutes just trying to locate it! It is tucked between the mall and the Westin hotel, just around the block from the unfortunately named/located Earl’s Bar & Restaurant. Dazed and confused, we entered the dark interior, not quite sure what to expect...

He Fed:

This is my first dinner in Seattle (well, Bellevue) and I’m pretty excited, despite the fact some of Juliet’s acquaintances tell us last-minute that the restaurant I’ve chosen doesn’t live up to the hype. (When we ask what they think of Pearl, one hotel staffer says, "They hire a lot of pretty people.")

Inside, Pearl is designed with a recurring “circle” motif, waveforms on glass, and warm wood accents. It is kind of murky but we get a table right under some lights. Both of us are pretty frazzled from the search; thankfully the very active bar doesn’t get on our nerves because there’s a thick glass wall partitioning off that area. It really keeps the “bar” separate from the “dining”.

We start with Pellegrino and Lunetta Prosecco, just to wet our whistles and mull over the menu. Pearl offers mostly American and French fare, with a Northwest flair. We begin, virtuously enough, with salads. Mine is a plate of spring greens with some juicy, orange cherry tomatoes, champagne vinaigrette, and a large crostini topped with goat cheese. The goat cheese is tangy but there could have been a bit more of it? Otherwise, it’s a serviceable helping of veggies that fulfill our healthy quotient for the evening.

For my main, I select the Merlot Braised Boneless Short Rib. It’s a thick, tender, and slightly fatty round of meat in a vegetable broth, handmade potato gnocchi, and horseradish gremolata. I overlook the horseradish component on the menu, so my first bite is, “What the heck is THAT!” Once Juliet explains it to me, my taste buds concur and I concentrate on the other flavors. The gnocchi are indeed handmade and a bit too thick for my taste. Gnocchi should be light and fluffy, not weighed down and doughy. The merlot in the short rib just doesn’t add enough punch. Nor does it soothe the high salt quotient. In the end, the dish ends up tasting like mom’s pot roast to me. It does pair nicely with the local Efeste “Final Final” Cab/Syrah blend.

To share with our entrees, Juliet orders a side of Eggplant Parmesan, which turns out to be prepared with a light tempura touch. The eggplant is tender and the breading adds a delicious crunch unless, like me, you tend to drench it in sauce first.

Dessert doesn’t excite either one of us, but we can't resist the allure of the cheese plate. Out comes a blue, a brie, and a cheddar...but no explanation of where they came from, no story. Just cheese. It’s fairly odd that our server, who is pleasant enough, doesn’t go through the usual presentation. To be honest, we’re too distracted to give her a hard time. The cheeses are good, nothing unusual enough to lift our eyebrows.

I choose a Lachini Pinot Noir to end the night, and it is spicy, complex, and very drinkable. Truly, the wine hit all the right notes tonight, while the food fell somewhat short of the mark. Pearl wants to be a high-end restaurant (certainly the prices reflect that), but in reality they are a solid eatery with some distinctive flaws found in a lot of hotel restaurants.
She Fed:

I've been in Seattle a few days for work and when I share that my husband will be joining me for a long weekend, the first question everyone asks isn't "Where are you staying?" or "What are your plans?" but rather "Where are you going to eat?" and "Do you want a restaurant recommendation?" I learn very quickly that Seattle is a big-time foodie town and I'm sure Jeremy and I are in for some culinary treats.

Finding Pearl is an adventure in itself. Armed with Google maps on a cell phone, we figure we can guide our driver to the right spot. Wrong. After many twists and turns, we arrive only a few minuteslate for our 6p reservation.

After my eyes adjust to the dimly lit entrance, I realize each member of the staff is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. I'm talking out of a magazine (or Victoria's Secret catalogue) picture perfect models. I can barely keep my eyes on the menu as all the stunning men and women strut through the place, bussing tables, taking orders and serving food. I haven't seen this much physical beauty outside of Hollywood.

I am motivated in the long-term to moisturize more frequently and in the short-term to order salad. I opt for the baby arugula with roasted peaches, dates and parmesan in champagne vinaigrette. Greens are tender and peppery; peaches are slightly tart; dates are chewy and sticky sweet. It's all fabulous and I gobble it up quickly. The glass of Lunetta Prosecco I order pairs well, probably playing with the vinaigrette.

Despite having fish for my last four dinners, I order the daily king salmon special with "foie gras" butter on a bed of roasted corn risotto. The salmon is cooked to medium well which is a little more well done than I like. Surprisingly, the fish is almost flavorless and there is no hint of the foie gras butter. The risotto is cooked perfectly however and the niblets add a fresh sweet dimension. Our server recommends a red blend for me but then delivers the Vin Du Lac pinot noir after consulting with the bartender. It's a solid wine, but after sipping Jeremy's Efeste "Final-Final" cab-syrah blend from the Columbia Valley, I order a glass for myself. It's a big bold wine and makes up for the flavorless salmon.

The real revelation of the evening is the side of tempura eggplant parmesan we decide to share. And by share, I mean that Jeremy takes about four bites and I inhale the remainder. We're still learning to appreciate eggplant; its texture can be too squishy or bitter at times. This eggplant is young and tender, coated in a light and airy tempura batter and garnished with fresh tomato sauce. It's just amazing and I'm surprised Jeremy even got four bites.

For dessert we share a cheese plate and our server delivers it and walks away. We have to flag her down to ask what the cheeses are on our plate. She struggles for a bit, goes to ask the kitchen and returns with incredibly brief descriptions, like "triple cream cow."

Pearl is a visual treat, both the decor and the staff are eye-catching. The food is hit or miss unfortunately. At least on this night.

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