***Brief respite from blogging over at Globeater, in turn a brief respite from blogging over here.***

Long story short: Girl moves to Denver, girl falls in love with Black Pearl, Black Pearl loses girl with a string of iffy chef shuffles, girl returns on a whim that reignites the crush—this time with Seattle transplant Mitch Mayers. He’s a keeper.

Taking family there last week, the Director & I were presented with a menu that boasted all the much-missed hallmarks of the restaurant’s original, splashy style—bold flavors in unexpected combinations—with none of the recent drawbacks (what either were smaller portions at higher prices or simply seemed to be because I was annoyed; see “much-missed hallmarks”). It’s funny—it’s not as though Denver’s devoid of creative contemporary cuisine; far from it. But there’s a certain rare flair for surprising juxtapositions that speaks to me personally, & Black Pearl’s best chefs have had it in spades, to the point where I positively crave nearly everything they’re dishing up, be it deviled-egg salad with maple-horseradish vinaigrette or a bacon-stuffed bison burger with brown-mustard mole or goat-cheesecake with sage-granola crunch & red wine-marinated strawberries—& yes, all of the above are on the current menu.

We started, however, with an old favorite, the sesame-crusted calamari in sweet aged soy, tossed with slivered scallions, toasted garlic & pistachios. Having written about it often, I didn’t bother to snap a pic, so here’s an old one—

but rest assured it’s as good as ever. In his retirement years, the Director’s dad discovered he actually liked squid okay; as we smugly surmised, that was probably because he’d had it prepared properly for the first time in his life.

Speaking of firsts, he also gave the agave-glazed wild-boar spareribs over Moroccan-spiced quinoa with baked plantains & beet chutney a shot, & so pleased was he with the gorgeous results I didn’t dare ask for a taste.

Same went for his missus’ classy, throwback shrimp & crab salad with lemon velouté in a puff pastry shell (which, get this, was retro-colored in real life!).

Not that I wasn’t busy with my own entree: edamame-corn cakes topped with sauteed zucchini & served over chipotle crema-drizzled refried black beans.

Dense but fresh, pure & naturally sweet, the cakes stood up admirably to the smoky-rich beans, making for a smart play on masa & frijoles, while the squash ribbons added a dose of levity.

Of course, I was also busy with the Director’s hickory-smoked game hen.

Over nutty orzo, that crispy-skinned bird just kept adding to its own pilsner-splashed jus, accompanied by unbelievably silken quarters of grilled artichoke heart; the “hoecake” (really more like a corn muffin) pretty much gilded the lily.

I still say the markup is too high on the bottle list, however sizeable & interesting the cellar may be; wines by the glass & cocktails are a better way to go. And I do hope the warm chocolate-chip cookies & milk return to the dessert menu someday. But that’s just quibbling for the sake of not slobbering too hard or jinxing the delicate balance currently being struck at this sometime neighborhood ideal.

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