Seafood will always be something of a novelty in Edmonton. With the nearest ocean well over 1000 kilometres away, finding seafood in town—let alone fresh seafood—is usually a challenge.
Enter the Black Pearl Seafood Bar, 104 Street’s newest culinary player located in the space formerly occupied by Lit Wine Bar. It’s the second venture for Nicola and Cristo Crudo, the brothers behind Italian eatery Cafe Amore Bistro (10807 106 Avenue). The two will split their time between the two places, with Nic in the kitchen and Cristo running front of house.
There’s no mistaking what’s on the Black Pearl’s menu as soon as you walk through the door: the interior is festooned with nautical bric-a-brac of all kinds, all authentic and sourced by the Crudos from Nova Scotia fishermen. Nets and rigging hang from the ceiling, an old ship’s wheel is mounted to the side of the bar and a rope of weathered cork buoys stretches along one wall. A bank of large saltwater tanks rests at the back of the narrow space, their crustacean and mollusk denizens revealing the key to the freshness of Black Pearl’s fare.
“I’m trying to bypass any frozen products—everything is coming in fresh,” Nic says, sitting across the table from me at the Black Pearl’s media launch. “I deal directly with suppliers from the east coast in Halifax and the west coast in False Creek, BC.”
As we talk, a server drops off the first of several small plates that will give me a thorough tour of the Black Pearl’s menu. I look at what has landed in front of me—a large BC side-stripe shrimp, fully intact and head still on, long antenna coiling around its body—and hesitate, my meat-and-potatoes heritage coming out. How do I eat this thing?
“The whole point is to have fun, get your hands dirty,” Nic says with a chuckle. Under his guidance, I pick up the shrimp with my fingers and take a big chomp. I quickly realize I had forgotten to peel the shell off first, but once I inelegantly extract those pieces I’m able to savour the meat: sweet and tender, balanced by a subtle heat from the sauce. It’s unlike any other shrimp I’ve had before.
“We’re trying to be very casual and collective here; we’re not trying to be on the pretentious side of seafood,” he explains. “Many people see it as a higher-class thing. We’re trying to make people as comfortable as they can be, just enjoying some great seafood.”
After he heads back to the kitchen, I try several other dishes from the Black Pearl’s menu: albacore tuna salad, spicy snow crab, grilled lobster, king crab legs, seafood mac and cheese, octopus and oysters—both raw and Rockefeller-style. The menu is a la carte, with small plates averaging between $20 and $30 (pretty reasonable, given the quality and freshness of the seafood), as well as more inexpensive side options available for those seeking a fuller meal.
Everything is unanimously delicious in addition to offering a host of new firsts to my woefully-lacking seafood expertise: cracking and slicing open crab legs to extract the juicy meat, eating a raw oyster—the latter was shockingly good, albeit foreign to my prairie palate. I’m sure many other Edmontonians will have similar first experiences at the Black Pearl, as it fills a big void in our city’s dining landscape—or seascape, as it were.
Black Pearl Seafood Bar
10132 – 104 Street