The Pearl's Hairy Lobster Is a Mess of Gold Leaf Dessert and Lobster Cubano

Third time isn't the charm for the troubled spot that once housed Fenouil and Jamison.

Geographically, Jamison Square should be a prime spot for an upscale restaurant. The Pearl may be soulless, but there are lots of neighbors with plenty of money and small kitchens. And yet, the newish Hairy Lobster is the third spot to land at the north edge of Jamison Square, where the fancy, Francophonic Fenouil flopped. Prime patio season is coming, but I worry about the Lobster's long-range prospects.

From the bizarre moniker—no one likes to eat hair—to dissonant decor and furnishings, but especially to the freeform stream of disconnected, disconcerting dishes, multiple visits yielded only bewilderment.

On arrival, you'll notice "THL" emblazoned on the foyer wall and menus. A blue wall stocked with a collection of door knockers is the incongruous backdrop for two hostesses busily tapping their computerized seating map. In my case—once with a reservation, twice without—comfy banquettes or a cozy spot next to one of the Fenouil-era fireplaces proved elusive. Instead, I got a rustic wood-and-steel stool that would have benefited from a second stool to climb up to it. The stools along with abundant distressed barnwood on the walls comprise the vestigial remains of the restaurant's most recent tenant, Jamison.

In addition to the array of door knockers, the new operators have added a disconcerting portrait of a saucy redhead working a stovetop, her peek-a-boo posterior revealed by a lobster clawing at the back of her slinky green dress. In another twist, all the modernist-tilting meals are served on the owners' vast collection of vintage floral dishware.

The trappings at THL feel nearly normal compared to the food. The menu is divided into three main categories, "Water," "Garden" and "Barn." Be especially wary of the water.

In hindsight, my server might have been discreetly trying to warn me off the signature Maine lobster Cubano ($19) when he observed that the vanilla-scented cornbread and the mass of mustard foam on the side (neither mentioned on the menu) "go surprisingly well together." After trying this grotesque curiosity, I'd agree, but only to the extent both are yellow.

The "ginger-kaffir lime brined pork tenderloin" ($15) is, too, a total shipwreck. The disharmonious components were nothing like their billing—instead, the dish was dominated by an abundance of basil and acrid "leek coffee ash," which might as well be code for burnt coffee grounds. On the dessert menu, avoid the sticky toffee pudding ($10). Served simply, this earthy-sweet cake might be humble and lovable. Here the ruinous pileup of superfluous components includes gold leaf, celery leaves, caramel sauce, spicy candied pecans, a possible bagel chip and vanilla ice cream.

If Uncle Earl from Iowa hits town this summer and insists on a great patio spot in the Pearl, go ahead and cushion the alcohol with the red flannel confit duck hash ($16). It's pretty much self-explanatory and decent, as are the chicken fried shrimp ($13), which are imbued with the magic of batter and the deep fryer. The caramelized lamb ($18) is also fine—notwithstanding the thick rim of fat on the rosy slices of meat and the absence of anything that might fairly be called caramelization.

Nothing quite encapsulates the Hairy Lobster experience more than this: At the end of my third (and final) visit, my dining companion and I pondered whether to order a chocolate dessert or the lemon chiffon pie ($10). Our irrepressibly effervescent server recommended the latter because, she said, "it's not just a dessert, it's a work of art."

When it arrived, I understood.

Along with the lightly lemoned cuboid of cake, the dish featured green dots of cilantro-flavored gel, shards of bitter cilantro-flavored meringue, quenelles of cassis-ginger sorbet plus a bunch more shards, dots, crumbs and even tiny pâte feuilletée butterflies. This bizarre dish made me think of the landscape at Disneyland's It's A Small World ride, and like so much else here, it was more a showpiece than a meal.

EAT: The Hairy Lobster, 900 NW 11th Ave., 971-229-1166, 5-10 pm Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9 pm Sunday.