In our hunt for a good anniversary-dinner spot, we stumbled upon the unassuming Black Pearl of Dunedin and decided to give it a go. We could not have picked a better destination.
Once inside this intimate space, there's a mix of decor styles. You get a metropolitan vibe from the padded walls...but then you remember you're in eclectic Dunedin with the mismatched Depression-style glassware on the tables. Overall, the ambience is upscale yet warm.
The food, though. Ahh, the food.
I ordered: lump crab bisque with sherry, New Zealand rack of lamb with a brandied demiglace, tarte tatin
My partner ordered: butternut squash ravioli with sundried cranberry butter sauce, asiago-crusted red snapper, bananas foster
The unexpected favorite of the evening was the ravioli. It was an extraordinary combination of sweet and savory and was simply fantastic. I couldn't stop stealing bites. Even if you're not usually a fan of "sweet, hot foods," you may find you like this one. My partner ordered this on a whim, not usually being a squash-and-cranberry daredevil, but we would have missed what I'm calling The Pearl's signature dish.
My bisque was delicious -- not the best I've ever tasted, but definitely above-average with the optional addition of sherry and fresh black pepper.
My partner enjoyed the red snapper quite a bit, but because the appetizer and dessert were so out-of-this-world, it lost a little of the spotlight. The asiago preparation was light, not taking away from the fresh taste of the snapper. I'd have to agree with the unabashedly biased server: I don't order fish from many places, but I'd order it again here. What really shined on the red snapper plate, though, was a spoonful of aromatic relish that sat to the side. I have no idea what it was, but it was creative and very good.
My rack of lamb was perfect. Good lamb doesn't need explanation or justification -- it was just very, very good, as was the lightly sweetened demiglace that accompanied it.
Dessert: The bananas foster was just shy of beating out the best of New Orleans. The tarte tatin (note: made fresh, so must be ordered at the beginning of the meal) was a LARGE round *feast*. Order it for 2-4 people instead of just one. It was made with thinly sliced apples arranged atop one another in a circle. They were baked on a light and flaky puffed pastry and drizzled with a sweet (cinnamon-based?) sauce. It was original, interesting and tasty, but it was a tad sweet for my palate.
Overall, this little gem in downtown Dunedin should be experienced by any foodie who appreciates classic service with casual elements and fine cuisine. Considering the intimate size of this restaurant, there really is no comparison that I have discovered in Tampa Bay.