Writer Lara Piu
Photographer Cathy Kreuger

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] new restaurant and two-stage live music venue is slated to rock North Scottsdale. Located on Butherus Drive east of Scottsdale Road, BLK Live was brought over from Southern California by Skydoor Restaurants and Entertainment, where the company owns and operates several similar establishments in Huntington Beach and Ladera Ranch.

“Our goal is to serve delicious and approachable food with the highest quality ingredients,” says Kevin Johnson, a Skydoor Restaurants and Entertainment principal. “We are providing the unique combination of a fine dining destination in a relaxed atmosphere with great entertainment.”

At 20,000 square feet, BLK Live is among the largest establishments in the company’s portfolio. Growth plans are already in the works, with the addition of an expansive outdoor patio coming in the near future. The restaurant is managed by Robert “Cookie” Oliver, who also opened 13 Blue Martini lounges across the country and ran the High Street location in North Phoenix.

“BLK Live brings a sense of classic rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia with a contemporary twist to the local music and restaurant scene,” Cookie says. “The cuisine is just as cutting-edge as the environment, with the use of liquor-infusion and pairing along with capitalizing on the latest and greatest dining trends. We love to keep things fresh and exciting.”

Executive chef Daniel Hackett and sous chef Michael Casanova have crafted a sophisticated-yet-casual contemporary American menu, featuring hand-cut steaks, hand-formed burgers and black wagyu cattle beef, the “BLK” in BLK Live. The barbecue-stuffed burger is made with a Sailor Jerry spiced rum barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese and fried onions, and the el Jimador burger is marinated in el Jimador tequila and topped with tequila guacamole, bacon, pickled jalapenos, carrots, onions and pepper jack cheese. There’s also a meatloaf topped with a brown sugar glaze, a sautéed salmon served with couscous in a dashi broth, scallops served with butternut squash puree and smoked apple and fennel salad, and a large variety of appetizers, burgers, sandwiches and entrees.

For the Waste Management Phoenix Open, they’ll offer a special package that includes parking, brunch, live music and shuttle service to and from the event.

One of BLK Live’s most unique features is its concert hall and poolside Aqua Lounge. This is where you’ll find cabanas, oversized plush loungers and the icon-inspired art of Roman Pastucha, most likely the Valley’s only in-house restaurant residential artist. So far he has painted David Bowie; Janis Joplin; Jim Morrison; Kurt Cobain; AC/DC; Led Zeppelin; Prince, a portrait of the band, Cream with a young Eric Clapton; Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce. There are also two paintings of Jimi Hendrix — one in color and another in black and white — and a portrait of The Rolling Stones.

“I have collaborated on several of the Skydoor Restaurants and Entertainment concepts, and each one is unique and innovative with its own theme,” Roman says. “Not only due to locale, but in an effort to keep each one true to the cuisine and ambiance BLK Live is trying to manifest. It is a rather fresh approach to design. When I first walked the site with designer Diana Benice, we discussed having portraits of rock icons to showcase in each one of the cabanas — crown jewels in a unique setting was the design sensibility.”

His paintings are so realistic, they appear to be photos. Roman uses a unique airbrushed technique on acrylic that is then reproduced onto plexiglass, known as hyperrealism. The paintings have the look of a photo and are backlit at night for a dramatic effect.

“It’s a thoughtful process, especially if I believe the art warrants a different medium,” he says. “The glimmering reflective surface of the pool paired perfectly with the backlit imagery, almost like modern-day stained glass. I continually saw the evening pool setting and the large panels of light reflecting off of the pool, so I thought, how do I create the optimal effect that I’m looking for? I love the problem-solving element of settings and overall venue design.”