photo). It doesn’t open until five and has a masculine nighttime vibe: three TVs tuned to ESPN pierce the blackness. “We’re not a sports bar,” Drobek says, “but the fact that we’re on Main Street, Ann Arbor—you have to give ’em the option.”
The Black Pearl was designed by co-owner John Janviriya, who’s also responsible for at least a half dozen other restaurants and nightclubs on the Detroit-Chicago axis (the word fusion comes up a lot in descriptions of them). Janviriya was an original partner in Mélange, a few doors down from the Black Pearl (he no longer is), and he’s a partner in the Birmingham Asian-seafood-sushi restaurant Chen Chow. At the Black Pearl he’s partnered with Harry Cohen, who, according to Drobek, “has a Ph.D. in psychology and tours the country as a motivational speaker.” Most nights when Cohen’s in town, he’s at the restaurant, Drobek says.
Severe and black as the Pearl is, the menu, designed by Chen Chow executive chef Robert Courser, is approachable and snacky. There are over a dozen appetizers, as well as sandwiches, soups, and salads in the $10–$15 range and ten entrees from $16 to $25. The real chef on the spot is Gabriel Geyman, a Culinary Institute of America grad who makes a mean french fry sprinkled with fresh thyme. The seafood promised in the restaurant’s title ranges from raw oysters to coconut shrimp to calamari to black cod with miso crust.