Sunday, September 23, 2007


I had the good fortune of being treated to dinner at Blackbird last week, which I enjoyed with two friends. Blackbird is a pretty remarkable place - it's ultra sleek and modern, and has won countless awards and nominations including several James Beard awards, a number of Wine Spectator awards, Best New Chef in Food and Wine magazine, and the distinction of being on Gourmet magazine's list of one of the top five restaurants in Chicago, and top 50 in America.

Unlike it's other top-Chicago peers, Blackbird delivers a stunning dining experience for about $25 an entree. It's located in the ultra-trendy West Loop, right next to sister restaurant Avec and around the corner from Sepia. The cuisine is "contemporary American", with a heavy emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients.

We started out with some pre-dinner cocktails, which were awfully strong, but delicious. The one in the foreground is the Orange Blackbird - a strong and sweet mix of Tanqueray and Orange liquors. Leanne got a "Rosewater Something", which had cucumbers in it. It was strong but impressively refreshing, and pretty.

For our first course, we all ordered something a little different. I ordered the "crispy veal sweetbreads with green acres farm crispy carrots, preserved lemon-hazelnut yogurt, candied caraway and beets". Its a good thing I didn't ask what "veal sweetbreads" were before I ordered or ate it - they're apparently the thyroid glands of a deer. It tasted like a gourmet chicken nugget to me, though! Notice how they fit all of those ingredients into one tiny package on the plate:
We all love scallops, so we got an order to share of "seared maine diver scallops with local sweet corn, eggplant puree, early tart apples and lovage". Still not quite sure what lovage is, but this dish was SO GOOD!Laurel got the pinenut gazpacho with soppressata, apricot, spring radish and nasturtium -- yes, there were flowers in the soup. As far as soups go -- and my new obsession with them-- this one was GREAT. Lots of interesting sweet and savory flavor dynamics.

After we were brought our wine (an '05 Domaine Barrod Beaujolais Villages Pinot Noir) and a tiny little amuses-bouche (which was a spoonful-sized portion of salmon on a butternut squash puree), our main courses arrived. The pacing of the meal was great - I was worried that they would rush us though, but luckily they allowed us ample time to sit and enjoy our food and drink. The service was also impeccible - our waitress seemed more like a dinner party hostess and was very well informed about everything on the menu. When they brought our appetizers and entrees, they did it with flair and in groups, almost choreographed so that everyone's plate hit the table at the same time. I loved it.

I got the grilled california sturgeon with oyster mushrooms, spring peas, rye gnocci, guanciale (an Italian bacon) and mustard. It was deliciously salty, and came in a tasty broth. I think the "mustard" was the foam on top. Laurel got the seared arctic char and Leanne got the roasted half grimaud farms muscovy duck breast which were both good as well.
Dessert was DELIGHTFUL, and Laurel's and my plate came with little candles on them, as we let it leak that we were both celebrating birthdays. It was nice.
I got the buckwheat crepaze with rhubarb consomme, candied celery and sicilian pistachio ice cream. I love crepes and rhubarb, so it was a hit.
Laurel got the milk chocolate cremeux with coconut-curry ice cream, cashews and lime, which was also REALLY great, especially the coconut curry ice cream - that's one of my favorite flavor combinations of all time.
Leanne got the marcona almond panna cotta with nougatine, blueberries and chamomile, another home run of wonderful flavors and textures.

All in all it was a truly amazing evening of stellar food. I'm so happy I had the opportunity to go, and I look forward to dining there again sometime.


Galen said...

Blackbird is among my favorite Chicago restaurants. The food is impeccable and the decor restrained and modern (though a tiny bit sterile). But did you notice on the menu where it says "Wardrobe provided by Joseph Aboud." or something to that effect? Tacky.

Kate said...

Yum! I miss you guys and Chicago restaurants! Me & Ryan always wanted to go to Blackbird but never made it there. Now I'm in CA and he went psycho. *tear* Let's chat soon! xo -Kate