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  • Post #91 - September 16th, 2009, 7:12 pm
    Post #91 - September 16th, 2009, 7:12 pm Post #91 - September 16th, 2009, 7:12 pm
    Thanks, uhockey, for the eloquent, detailed review. It makes me want to return to Blackbird immediately.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

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  • Post #92 - September 17th, 2009, 10:43 am
    Post #92 - September 17th, 2009, 10:43 am Post #92 - September 17th, 2009, 10:43 am
    i am happy to hear that they are still doing the cuttlefish and sturgeon on the price fix lunch menu. I agree, both are outstanding. For $22, I find this to be one of the great food values in town. The $15 lamb burger lunch is also incredible if they are still doing it.
  • Post #93 - May 27th, 2010, 8:01 am
    Post #93 - May 27th, 2010, 8:01 am Post #93 - May 27th, 2010, 8:01 am
    Since the first time I went to Blackbird, which was between my ceasing to post on Chowhound and the launching of LTHForum, and is therefore a meal tragically lost to history, the only time I had been there to eat (as opposed to, say, butcher hogs in the basement) was for the mulefoot pig dinner. Mike Sheerin, the chef Paul Kahan brought in from WD-50 in New York to take over primary chef duties as his empire expanded with The Publican, had only been on the job a few months, and of the five main courses at the mulefoot dinner, his was the one that I was least excited by, which I took to mean nothing more about his abilities than that it was built on enoki mushrooms, which don't do anything for me.  But even with complaints about other parts of the Kahan empire possibly getting stretched thin talent-wise as Big Star opened, the word about Blackbird remained rock-solid, its perch at the top of see-and-be-seen downtown dining undisturbed.  So it was time to check out what Sheerin was up to.  When my 20th wedding anniversary began looming, knowing that it would fall as it always does during the National Restaurant Association show (when tables are at a premium), I decided early on to go to Blackbird, and planned to book a table the next day.

    The next morning, Sheerin became Chicago's only representative among the 2010 Food & Wine Best New Chefs.

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    Ivar the World's Greatest Waiter recommended this bottle from a producer "in the family," as he put it.

    But I snagged a table, just in time, and we went with David Hammond and his wife last Saturday.  And as impressed as I've been in the past with Kahan & co. as an operation, I think the thing that maybe impresses the most about him now is that he's hired someone who has reinvented his flagship restaurant right under his nose, and seems to be fine with it.  (And it's not like it's because he's not around, either; Kahan was on the floor in stained chef's whites for much of our meal, a perfect symbol of Blackbird's chic-meets-meatpacking-district ethos.)

    I summarized what I thought was Kahan's approach to food in something I wrote a year and a half ago (based, admittedly, on more experience with Avec than with Blackbird, and on what he and others said about The Publican's intended approach):

    What Kahan wants to do is serve food that tastes like the best example of that food you’ve ever had, and his restaurants aren’t shy about using every trick in the professional chef’s handbook to make that happen. Dishes are heavily salted (though rarely obviously salty), and you often hear the chefs talking about adding acid to a dish, both techniques for delivering a trumpet blast of flavor in your mouth that seems more intense and dramatic than you could produce at home. Still, there’s a line they don’t cross, the point at which a flavorful meat ceases to be itself; dishes are never dressed up with extraneous flavors, weird combinations for combination’s sake.


    That still seems like a decent summary of the sensibility at work at Avec and The Publican, say. Salty, porky, bright and snappy deliciousness that invites you to order another beer or glass of wine and makes you full and happy. But Blackbird under Sheerin seems to taking a subtler, more delicate turn. Even when you ate something cured or brined or pickled, it was balanced with something else, so it wasn't a trumpet blast on its own. A couple of times, it even approached the level of playfulness with food that you associate with places like Alinea or Graham Elliott, which would be in line with Sheerin's training at WD-50— though only a couple of times (and it is worth noting, the most extreme example was the very first course of the tasting menu, as if to get that over with quickly and get back to Blackbirdian no-nonsense-ness as quickly as possible). Overall, though, what you mainly take away is a sense that although Blackbird didn't need wholesale reinvention, it did need sharper differentiation from its siblings Avec and The Publican, and that's where it's gone under Sheerin— a little less mad pork love, a little more elegance and refinement.

    Here's what's on the tasting menu right now. I've stopped routinely taking photos when fine-dining out, because so many people do it better than me, especially in low-light conditions. In this case, an early table and placement near the window provided the perfect circumstances for my abilities, so I'm happy to stop talking and revel in food porn to give you the best idea of where this seminal restaurant is now.

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    Cuttlefish "noodles" with strawberries and a bit of candied olive.  (The menu also says rhubarb, though I defy you to find it.)  This was the most playful, tricky thing, reminding me of Schwa's jellyfish pad thai; but I just didn't really like the fish-and-strawberries combo.  The candied olive was more interesting, though so tiny a piece in this tasting portion that I can't say I entirely got to taste it.

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    Peanut gazpacho with cured hiramasa, rhubarb (this time, visible), pine, peanut brittle and green peppercorn.  This was a gorgeous cold soup, creamy and complex yet easy to like.

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    Swan Creek suckling pig with apricots stewed in Lillet, a little relish of snow peas and water chestnuts, and beer vinaigrette.  So far as I've seen, Kahan's restaurants don't seem to have much use for Asian flavors, but Sheerin seems to like sneaking Asian vegetables in and letting them just be themselves.  The pork was deeply satisfying, unctuous meat and crispy skin, and the winey apricots a perfect accompaniment, although this was one dish where you really felt like a tasting portion was cruel torment, it cried for a softball-sized hunk to tear into.

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    Foie gras torchon with black garlic dip, green strawberry, and shrimp salt (whatever that means), served with a glass of Sauternes.  Interesting, using the tar-strong black garlic to challenge the more familiar fatty pleasures of foie gras; not the most likable thing we ate, but points for thinking hard and not taking the easy route.

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    Wood-grilled sturgeon, garlic-braised snail, smoked fresh pickles and napa cabbage.  I think this was my favorite thing of the evening, and I'm someone who often finds fish entrees nice but no more; the firm sturgeon was grilled perfectly with just the right degree of smokiness, and the snail was very well done too, but what made this dish at least as much as the fish were the pickles, lightly briny and sweet (was rice vinegar involved in the brine? I suspect so), and the napa cabbage, with its crunch and slightly brusque flavor.  The contrast of all of these was so much more than the sum of their parts.

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    Another fine fish dish, a delicate golden trout with shaved asparagus, ground ivy (!), white sesame, and a little banana puree which was subtle and liqueur-y, plus an unbilled cameo by lavender, I guess.  Interestingly, if you ate the shaved asparagus on its own, you didn't really get an asparagus flavor, it could have been zucchini or something.

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    Duck breast with porcini, favas, Worcestershire brown butter and cinnamon crisps; now we were into the savory meats part of the tasting menu, and I liked this a lot although the cinnamon thing seemed out of place, like French toast at the wrong meal.

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    While the accompaniments for this little chunk of wagyu beef could have stayed home, this was all about the deeply flavored, mineral-y beef.  Interestingly, the description mentioned marrow here, but we were mystified where it could be in the dish; we finally decided it must be holding the "caraway crumble" together.

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    This was also my first exposure to Blackbird's new pastry chef, Patrick Fahy (aspiring pastry chefs, go read Fahy's bio at the Blackbird site; the answer to How to Get a Job at Blackbird is, apparently, work everywhere, usually two or three at once).  I loved the first two, "fruit of the cocoa sorbet" (tasted more like citrus to me, but what do I know), with great little candied cocoa nibs (and having tasted uncandied nibs, trust me, they need candying), cilantro allegedly somewhere in there, and a banana sauce which, again, managed to avoid being too banana-y; this was a wonderful palate cleanser dressed up to go out.

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    Even more impressive, not to mention playful, was this construction.  The sponge at left is a spongecake, apparently cooked in the microwave so it explodes ("Three minutes ago this was batter," said Ivar the World's Greatest Waiter); the white square is a white honey parfait with wonderfully tart and gooey passion fruit in the center, and the spiral is caramelized white chocolate.  This was a mindblower, lots of textures and flavors that went beyond expectations, a total delight.

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    I'm not a great fan of coffee desserts, or coffee anything besides a hot cup first thing in the morning, so I just kind of admired this last one technically; Fahy's experience at Lutz here in Chicago comes out in the classic-looking hazelnut dacquoise with espresso and chicory flavorings, but it was the apricot kernel sorbet, with its little crunchies of something (don't know what the kernels actually were), that I liked best.

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    And finally, a little plate of, I think, apricot jellies (really wonderful) and dark chocolates with a liqueur center of some sort (not my thing, usually).  We also finished with teas from Roderick Markus; I skipped the $150 pu-erh and had a simple, but really quite impressive and three-dimensional, Japanese green-tea sencha.

    (Now, one question: should you do the tasting menu?  Clearly it's less something that Blackbird developed organically (as it is at a place like Alinea, where the entire evening is carefully structured as a series of novel experiences in small portions) than something they started offering in response to customer expectations that every restaurant have one.  And everything on it (except maybe the cuttlefish) can stand up to being a full portion.  So at the very least I don't think doing so is essential to the experience, well, unless your vision of the experience involves writing and posting a lot of tasty photos, as mine inextricably does.  If you'd rather just tear into a big hunk of that pork or the sturgeon, I wouldn't blame you.)
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  • Post #94 - May 27th, 2010, 8:17 am
    Post #94 - May 27th, 2010, 8:17 am Post #94 - May 27th, 2010, 8:17 am
    Gorgeous meal, thanks for posting. I haven't been to Blackbird for regular dinner in ages, but this certainly has me motivated to go back.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #95 - July 31st, 2010, 5:53 am
    Post #95 - July 31st, 2010, 5:53 am Post #95 - July 31st, 2010, 5:53 am
    You know you're an LTHer when...you have a delightful lunch at Blackbird with the Loop Lunch Group, but, even with photos, the details of the meal are hazy because your tablemates reminded you that it's papalo season at Cemitas Puebla, and there's a filet covered in jalapeños being served in your neighborhood that you have not tried, and all you clearly remember from the lovely lunch is what you must get to eating before the weekend is over.

    This is the pretty food we ate:

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    Hopefully, my compatriots can fill in the details...
  • Post #96 - July 31st, 2010, 6:34 am
    Post #96 - July 31st, 2010, 6:34 am Post #96 - July 31st, 2010, 6:34 am
    happy_stomach wrote:
    Image

    Hopefully, my compatriots can fill in the details...


    Would love to know what this is.
  • Post #97 - July 31st, 2010, 9:36 am
    Post #97 - July 31st, 2010, 9:36 am Post #97 - July 31st, 2010, 9:36 am
    chezbrad wrote:
    happy_stomach wrote:
    Image

    Hopefully, my compatriots can fill in the details...


    Would love to know what this is.


    Pairs4life's Parmesan-ricotta dumpling with asparagus, whole wheat, mustard and cured egg yolk

    I wasn't able to stay for the desserts--my loss, obviously!
    The bouillabaisse was mine, and as tasty as it looks. I also had some of those pomme frites that came with turkob's 'Croque madame'. Thanks, turkob! They were delicious.

    Great photos, great food, great company.
  • Post #98 - July 31st, 2010, 10:09 am
    Post #98 - July 31st, 2010, 10:09 am Post #98 - July 31st, 2010, 10:09 am
    chezbrad wrote:
    happy_stomach wrote:
    Image

    Hopefully, my compatriots can fill in the details...


    Would love to know what this is.


    The little speckled bits are ricotta dumplings, Parmesan-ricotta dumpling with asparagus, whole wheat, mustard and cured egg yolk. I had them. They were really really good.

    It was weird because the portions were tiny but I was full. Didn't eat again (nada, nothing, none) until after 8 pm at the Urban Burger Bar.

    It reminded me that I really should serve more courses at home. I always like a bunch of tastes and flavors going on and courses lends itself to doing tastes of several things. Shockingly, without working out aside from walking back from Blackbird to Block 37 to pick up the car, I lost a couple of pounds. :mrgreen:
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #99 - July 31st, 2010, 2:20 pm
    Post #99 - July 31st, 2010, 2:20 pm Post #99 - July 31st, 2010, 2:20 pm
    pairs4life wrote:
    chezbrad wrote:
    happy_stomach wrote:
    Image

    Hopefully, my compatriots can fill in the details...


    Would love to know what this is.


    The little speckled bits are ricotta dumplings, Parmesan-ricotta dumpling with asparagus, whole wheat, mustard and cured egg yolk. I had them. They were really really good.

    It was weird because the portions were tiny but I was full. Didn't eat again (nada, nothing, none) until after 8 pm at the Urban Burger Bar.

    It reminded me that I really should serve more courses at home. I always like a bunch of tastes and flavors going on and courses lends itself to doing tastes of several things. Shockingly, without working out aside from walking back from Blackbird to Block 37 to pick up the car, I lost a couple of pounds. :mrgreen:


    Sharon's pictures alone were worth the $22. I think of buying a meal at Blackbird as purchasing a work of art on the plate. The flavor combinations are not all hits, and you may need a $5 Al's Beef or Fast Track hot dog supplement to be full, but you've had an aesthetic experience from a kitchen that really cares about composition and making you feel special - even part of the artistic process, by your choices. As nicinchic aptly identified, some plates were missing an acid dimension (especially the fluke ceviche, really needing some citrus), but contrasts in texture and color made even the smallest bites interesting, and I found the meal very worthwhile, even beyond the excellent company. Thanks to Ava for organizing.
  • Post #100 - July 31st, 2010, 4:23 pm
    Post #100 - July 31st, 2010, 4:23 pm Post #100 - July 31st, 2010, 4:23 pm
    My God the photos are spectacular, put a quarter next to that piece of sturgeon I had!!!....I got home and told
    jman I had the amuse bouche lunch. That lunch was ridiculous in portion. I wanted a do over and pissed that I didn't order a sandwich. Pairsforlife, that brownbutter cake was the size of a vanilla wafer! C'mon! you certainly couldn't share it! For $40, including a $12 cocktail that was the only redeeming quality of that lunch, I will not be taking my friends there or making a return trip. I appreciate Eva's effort for making it happen, and without a doubt, the company made that lunch. Thank you Ruxbin for nourishing me for dinner.
  • Post #101 - July 31st, 2010, 4:55 pm
    Post #101 - July 31st, 2010, 4:55 pm Post #101 - July 31st, 2010, 4:55 pm
    I think I'm missing something here. You paid $28 for an amuse bouche lunch. This will come across as snarky but you understand what an amuse bouche is, right? Only a bite? There were eleven by my count. For everything you get and by that I guess I mean the experience of dining at a restaurant the caliber of Blackbird, I suppose you could've traded it for four Big Mac meals.
  • Post #102 - July 31st, 2010, 5:50 pm
    Post #102 - July 31st, 2010, 5:50 pm Post #102 - July 31st, 2010, 5:50 pm
    hoppy2468 wrote:I think I'm missing something here. You paid $28 for an amuse bouche lunch. This will come across as snarky but you understand what an amuse bouche is, right? Only a bite? There were eleven by my count. For everything you get and by that I guess I mean the experience of dining at a restaurant the caliber of Blackbird, I suppose you could've traded it for four Big Mac meals.


    This was a $22 pick-three (app, main, dessert) lunch for four of us, and an a la carte meal for two of us; the pictures are of everything on the table, and the portions were not (remotely) designed for sharing.
  • Post #103 - July 31st, 2010, 6:49 pm
    Post #103 - July 31st, 2010, 6:49 pm Post #103 - July 31st, 2010, 6:49 pm
    Santander wrote:the pictures are of everything on the table, and the portions were not (remotely) designed for sharing.


    Not quite everything. There were two pieces of very good bread served to each of us when we first sat down and butter with a touch of salt/pepper/thyme. Obviously it's not a pig-out meal, but I certainly didn't feel that I wasn't getting my money's worth.
  • Post #104 - August 1st, 2010, 8:04 am
    Post #104 - August 1st, 2010, 8:04 am Post #104 - August 1st, 2010, 8:04 am
    Thanks for clearing that up for me. I have an upcoming dinner reservation and now I'm rethinking it. I have a lot of respect for chef Kahan but I would like to get fed at dinnertime. It's still hard to process that that amount of food was meant to feed a group of four. Are he and G.E. in a contest to see who can feed us the least?
  • Post #105 - August 1st, 2010, 11:05 am
    Post #105 - August 1st, 2010, 11:05 am Post #105 - August 1st, 2010, 11:05 am
    I've eaten there at dinner and never felt under-fed or over-charged (nor did the DH). It may not be everyone's cup of tea, however.
    Leek

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  • Post #106 - August 1st, 2010, 2:21 pm
    Post #106 - August 1st, 2010, 2:21 pm Post #106 - August 1st, 2010, 2:21 pm
    I guess I was being a bit snarky,I know what an amuse is! I wish I had eleven bites, I had the three course fixe. My husband would have laughed his head off he was served that meal. The fluke was about two bites, and I tried to make it last by going three, the sturgeon was as big as my finger, I put my fist out to measure it. Seriously, look at the parsley flake and look at the fish portion. The polenta dessert would have been the perfect size, if I had something substantial to eat for lunch. It was a lovely, trendy place, and my sturgeon worked, but I would have liked an actual piece, not two flakes. My $12 Blue Holland cocktail was the best part of the lunch and made it easier to pay the $40 including tip.
  • Post #107 - September 27th, 2010, 5:50 am
    Post #107 - September 27th, 2010, 5:50 am Post #107 - September 27th, 2010, 5:50 am
    "Congratulations goes to our own David Posey who’s taken the reigns as the new chef de cuisine. " And so we learned but a few days before going, that Mike Sheerin is no longer the chef, although the restaurant's website says that he " will continue to maintain his formidable presence at Blackbird as Private Dining Chef but with vigilant focus on opening his own project." Posey has already begun remaking the menu, though it's hard to know how long this transition has been in process.

    Now I had been to Blackbird but once, many many years ago, for lunch. And what with one thing and another, had never made it back. So when I discovered that the Lovely Dining Companion was taking me there for my birthday, I was quite looking forward to returning. Remarkably enough, when we arrived at the restaurant it suddenly dawned on me that the place I had lunch, lo these many years ago was, in fact, not Blackbird. As it happens, I've apparently never eaten at Blackbird at all! Surprise of surprises. All the more reason to be thrilled with her choice. And so I was.

    We had an early reservation, 6 pm, and were seated at the two-top next to the front window, against the wall. LDC had asked for a quieter table (recognizing that "quiet" is a relative term at Blackbird). In the event, it was likely the quietest table in the house and it turned out I was particularly glad we started early. the two-top behind us, next to the maitre d's stand was eventually populated by four women who stood out for the volume of their conversation, even in a noisy restaurant. I was extremely pleased that we were just finishing as they were just starting.

    Reading the menu was my first hint that things would be a little different here (more of which, anon). The choices are not extensive but quite intriguing given their number. We both found a number of dishes that appealed, but not before we considered--and eventually decided against (for this visit, anyway)--the tasting menu. One appetizer and one entree each. Since we usually share bites (or more) with each other, choosing dishes involves at least some element of negotiation. And so it was here. But since the options were generally quite appealing to both of us, it wasn't exactly a chore.

    Moments after ordering, we were each served a beautifully presented amuse bouche: lardo with Asian pear. We are neither of us particular lardo fans (yes, I hear the shocked, collective intake of breath out there in LTHland). The lardo was...piggy but delicate and the pear, delicate as well. The difficulty with Asian pear is that, even more than the pears we may be used to, it has a very high water content. Its contribution is textural more than taste; and in this instance, the slight sweetness of the pear didn't seem to do much for the lardo (or vice versa), though the textural counterpoint to the fat was appreciated.

    We ended up with two quite different appetizers: an endive salad for LDC and sweetbreads for me. The menu description is straightforward: "Salad of endives with crispy potatoes, basil, dijon, pancetta and poached egg." The description alone made us both salivate a little but, ah, the presentation! This may be the first time ever when the presentation managed to exceed the deceptively simple description. The potatoes were shredded into what amounted to linguine, then shaped into a very attractive large cup and deep-fried. The salad was artfully arranged inside, reminding me of the care that great flower arrangers take with some of their creations. Really lovely.

    Sadly, the person who brought this course (not our server) couldn't do his job quickly enough; he took but an instant to demolish what the kitchen had so lovingly created. I should point out that, after we had ordered the apps, our server had specially placed a separate knife and fork by the side of LDC's regular dinner silver, presumably for her use later on. After the gentleman who brought the salad put it down, he reached across LDC to pick up the silver that had been put there (for LDC's use?) and then proceeded to wreak havoc. (Okay, dramatic hyperbole. In fact, he was doing an excellent job of cutting everything for easier handling and mixing it all together, much as one prepares a Caesar salad tableside. On the other hand, if this was his job, why was the additional silver placed next to LDC's regular silver? Why didn't he bring his own?) I had no time to get a picture; hell, we didn't even have a moment to enjoy the beauty of the dish.

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    (Deconstructed) endive salad

    I find this little incident appalling. In the first place, he rushed to do his job before we had more than three or four seconds to take in, much less appreciate, what the kitchen had done. In the second place, he didn't tell us what he was about to do or ask if it was okay. In the third place, as should not be surprising, in his haste to do his job, a few pieces of salad (and poached egg) went flying. In the fourth place, I am astonished that the restaurant wouldn't let a customer do this for themselves--or at the very least ask if they would prefer to do it for themselves or have it done. Mostly, it would have been nice to have more than an instant to appreciate the effort that went into creating it. The server's rush to get through his job ruined what could have been a superb presentation and opening for the dinner to follow. It is more the pity since LDC rhapsodized about what was, in essence, a simple farmhouse salad. Unfussy, simple ingredients prepared perfectly.

    Moving on, this is probably the place to expand on my comment above that merely reading the menu intimated that this was likely to be an unusual dinner. The combinations of ingredients is simply too noteworthy to overlook. I offer as Exhibits A, B, and C the following descriptions of appetizers copied directly from the menu:

    "Swan creek farm suckling pig with lillet-stewed apricots, snow peas, water chestnuts and beer vinaigrette"
    "Braised octopus confit with pickled ramps, baby romaine, malt and candied red onion"
    "Coffee-scented fluke tartare with lemon cucumber, saffron, and bread sauce"

    We don't eat out a lot, but we do range fairly widely and I am used to seeing unexpected and unusual combinations. But most of the items on the menu here struck me for their wackiness--and I mean that in the most positive and complimentary way. Seriously. Beer vinaigrette, octopus with malt, coffee-scented raw fluke with bread sauce? My choice of the word "wacky" does not mean wrong or crazy or freakish. It means beyond the unexpected, extraordinarily (at least to me) startling, even bewildering. But the combinations, no matter how unforeseen or unforeseeable, ultimately matter only in the tasting. If it works, bravo! And many of what at first seemed bizarre combinations worked exceptionally well. In fact, I found that the combinations at Blackbird were often so well-chosen that they highlighted the focal ingredient in ways I would never have thought possible.

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    Sweetbreads with lime onions, tamarind, and fried chocolate

    Case in point, my appetizer. I chose the glazed veal sweetbreads with lime onions, tamarind, bee pollen and fried chocolate. The lime onions were shredded onion marinated, I presume, in lime juice. At least that's what the flavor evoked for me. The fried chocolate was a mica-thin sheet, used as decoration as much as flavor component. The sense of tasting chocolate--as in candy bar--was barely there. Think mole, instead. In any event, I suggest that you would have to look far and wide to find any restaurant in Chicago or indeed, in the United States, that pairs sweetbreads with any of those other items. I've ordered sweetbreads all over the U.S. and abroad and I cannot recall ever having a dish that so remarkably focused attention on the sweetbreads themselves. This dish highlighted their texture and unique flavor. I've had some superb presentations and, truth be told, some I've enjoyed more than the Blackbird version. But I've never had one, ever, that made me sit up and take notice of sweetbreads the way this dish did. Then, when set in the context of all of the other items, the interplay was profound. It called to mind similar revelations at Alinea. It made me rethink sweetbreads and anything that can prompt a reaction like that has to be extraordinary. Indeed, the experience goes far beyond "did you like it?"

    Entrees had presented another opportunity for indecision. The LDC found herself in a quandary: Roasted sea bass accompanied by green papaya, dandelion greens, walnuts or "slow-cooked" halibut and brandade with chinese broccoli, angelica and pickled cherries. The wagyu tri-tip was the dark horse (as it were). We discussed, considered, mulled, and finally she consulted the waiter. He paused, pondered, and finally made his recommendation, which LDC took. The kicker and what decided the choice? The bass was dressed with a "charred beef vinaigrette" and that, it seems, contributed greatly to its success. LDC professed herself quite happy with it. As with my entree, the whole achieved its success from the contribution of unusual and unexpected parts. A tribute to a chef--was it Sheerin or was it Posey?--with not only a great palate but a wonderful vision of how things work with and play off of each other.

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    Sea bass with green papaya and dandelion greens

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    Skate with peach molasses and eggplant confit

    I ordered sautéed skate (standing in for turbot, which is the fish listed on the internet menu) with peach molasses, slices of peach, and eggplant confit "breaded" with chamomile. Now then: this again illustrates the point I made above about the startling combinations. Peach molasses? In the event, I found the brushstroke of molasses to be more like a peach preserve reduction but who cares? It complemented the skate wonderfully. By the time the entrees were finally brought--there was a very long delay (15-20 minutes) between removal of the apps and entrance of the entrees--I had completely forgotten the eggplant element of the dish. And so was completely befuddled when I tasted it. The chunks of eggplant looked, for all the world, like sweetbreads. But the taste was absolutely indefinable. I couldn't tell whether I was eating a vegetable, fruit, meat, or something else entirely. I finally had to ask our server who pointed out that the eggplant was cooked very low and slow and then coated with the chamomile. Once I knew what it was, I recognized it, but the way the eggplant was cooked (I have to presume) gave it a somewhat funky taste. Texture wasn't an issue but the flavor, while not off, was off-putting. The chamomile helped, marginally. For me, this was an experiment that didn't really work, but the peach molasses and slice of fresh peach brought out the sweetness of the skate (which was beautifully crusted and perfectly done). Not all experiments succeed, but I was very happy with the skate.

    (A side note here about the bread service. One bread, a multigrain of some sort. I don't know because the bread server couldn't have been any more rushed when he delivered it. He slapped down two pieces each, a serving of butter with some sort of herb, and rushed away. Had I not asked for more bread later in the meal, we would never have seen him again. Though the selection was non-existent, the bread itself was crusty and very flavorful. We both enjoyed it but were both taken aback by the server's immense rush to deliver the bread and get away.)

    Dessert? I couldn't resist the sweet corn ice cream with bacon brioche, some candied pecans, basil and maple syrup. The LDC went with brown butter cake with raspberries, borage and goat’s-milk caramel ice cream. Once again, fascinating pairings and wonderfully successful dishes. The corn was surprisingly (to me) strongly corn-flavored. I expected "corn flavor" and got "CORN FLAVOR." The brioche was studded with bacon bits and the cylinder of ice cream rested on a highway of crushed pecans. The ice cream itself was impressive but every time I succeeded in getting all of the elements on a spoon, the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. A triumph.

    Image
    Sweet corn ice cream

    Image
    Brown butter cake

    LDC's dessert was both a success and a disappointment. Reading the description, one expects to find, in some fashion, form, or way, a chunk of brown butter cake. Look at the picture. See that small square in the middle of the bowl. That's it. No matter how good, such a small portion of what appears to be the focal point of the dessert is disappointing. I at least received a lengthy cylinder of sweet corn ice cream. LDC was impressed with all the various elements and each one's contribution to the whole. Except for the cake. We'll skip over the fact that it wasn't particularly redolent of brown butter. Those of you who know her, know she is a small person with an equally smallish appetite. This portion wasn't enough even for her. And it's a pretty rare occasion when she mentions portion size in a negative light. Dinner ended with mignardises--two truffles and two blackberry gelees.

    Will we return? I look forward to doing so. Criticisms aside, it's a rare chef or restaurant that forces (or allows) me to fundamentally rethink (or at least reconsider) everything that's on the plate in front of me. It's an attractive menu (though I'll be curious to see what direction Posey now takes it) with many tempting things. I'm very eager to taste more of dishes that promise to teach as well as delight.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #108 - September 29th, 2010, 10:04 am
    Post #108 - September 29th, 2010, 10:04 am Post #108 - September 29th, 2010, 10:04 am
    Gypsy Boy wrote:I find this little incident appalling. In the first place, he rushed to do his job before we had more than three or four seconds to take in, much less appreciate, what the kitchen had done. In the second place, he didn't tell us what he was about to do or ask if it was okay. In the third place, as should not be surprising, in his haste to do his job, a few pieces of salad (and poached egg) went flying. In the fourth place, I am astonished that the restaurant wouldn't let a customer do this for themselves--or at the very least ask if they would prefer to do it for themselves or have it done. Mostly, it would have been nice to have more than an instant to appreciate the effort that went into creating it. The server's rush to get through his job ruined what could have been a superb presentation and opening for the dinner to follow. It is more the pity since LDC rhapsodized about what was, in essence, a simple farmhouse salad. Unfussy, simple ingredients prepared perfectly.

    The server breaking apart the Blackbird version of salade Lyonnaise is the general operating practice as far as I know, although I will note that in the several times I have ordered this dish or someone else at my table has done so, the question was asked (at a minimum, a "May I?" and in some cases a "Would you like for me to prepare your salad?" or something similar). I believe in each case, though, it was an owner who had delivered the salad, so perhaps a more refined/practiced level of service. Sounds like it could have been handled better, but I am with you in questioning the need for this to be done by the server generally -- does not seem too difficult to figure out what to do. I wonder if diners have had mishaps in the past or if perhaps it is a chef's prerogative that the dish be mixed/prepared tableside a certain way so as to ultimately present to the customer the chef's vision for the dish as to be eaten.
  • Post #109 - September 30th, 2010, 10:08 am
    Post #109 - September 30th, 2010, 10:08 am Post #109 - September 30th, 2010, 10:08 am
    FWIW, I agree that the standard practice of the restaurant is that whoever serves the salad to break it apart. I wrote the restaurant about our dismay and, to their credit, I received a prompt and thorough response. They confirmed as much and also pretty much conceded my points although they noted that no one had ever really complained.

    Maybe we made too much of wanting to see the creation before it was "deconstructed." Frankly, I don't think so. The kitchen went to a lot of trouble to put it together; and on a crass note, we're paying for it. At the very least it would have been appropriate for the server to ask before acting. The restaurant also noted that, as a result, they were "reconsidering" the method of presentation. Whether that language is heart-felt or merely meant to calm a pissy guest, I can't know. Still, the response itself went a long way toward making us feel like we'd been heard. And these days, that's no small accomplishment.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #110 - September 30th, 2010, 5:51 pm
    Post #110 - September 30th, 2010, 5:51 pm Post #110 - September 30th, 2010, 5:51 pm
    I'd like to hear from Gypsy Boy and Happy Stomach as to how long their dinners took?
    I have a reservation at 5:30 on an upcoming Saturday and tickets to a show at 8:00. Can I fit
    in the tasting menu in two hours?
  • Post #111 - September 30th, 2010, 5:57 pm
    Post #111 - September 30th, 2010, 5:57 pm Post #111 - September 30th, 2010, 5:57 pm
    Our dinner took about two hours--but we didn't have the tasting menu. Service was, by and large, fine, but please note the extraordinary delay between apps and entrees. You may want to make clear when you need to get gone.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #112 - September 30th, 2010, 10:20 pm
    Post #112 - September 30th, 2010, 10:20 pm Post #112 - September 30th, 2010, 10:20 pm
    hoppy2468 wrote:I'd like to hear from Gypsy Boy and Happy Stomach as to how long their dinners took?
    I have a reservation at 5:30 on an upcoming Saturday and tickets to a show at 8:00. Can I fit
    in the tasting menu in two hours?

    I think it's doable if you are clear with the staff. I've never done the tasting menu before the opera, which is when I usually dine at Blackbird.
  • Post #113 - October 1st, 2010, 8:45 am
    Post #113 - October 1st, 2010, 8:45 am Post #113 - October 1st, 2010, 8:45 am
    I've never done the tasting menu before the opera, which is when I usually dine at Blackbird.


    Thanks for the replys. I may nix the tasting even if they could fit it in as it looks as if it would be a lot of food coming at you in a relatively short time.

    How do you drink during dinner and stay awake for the Opera? :lol:
  • Post #114 - October 2nd, 2010, 11:57 am
    Post #114 - October 2nd, 2010, 11:57 am Post #114 - October 2nd, 2010, 11:57 am
    hoppy2468 wrote:How do you drink during dinner and stay awake for the Opera? :lol:

    My motto: No wine before Wagner ;)
  • Post #115 - February 6th, 2011, 9:48 am
    Post #115 - February 6th, 2011, 9:48 am Post #115 - February 6th, 2011, 9:48 am
    Went out for a birthday dinner last night to Blackbird and loved almost everything about it. In fact, we were actually intending to go to Avec, but were a little put off by the host at the door. When we walked in, we stood by the host for a good two minutes while he completely ignored us and ripped up old menus. When he finally turned to look at us, it was clear he knew we were there the whole time, but didn't acknowledge that we had been waiting. It was more like, yes? what do you want? Anyways, we walked over to Blackbird to have a drink at the quieter bar while waiting for a table at Avec (Avec was quite loud) and ended up staying and eating at the bar.

    The service at Blackbird was wonderful. It was a completely different experience walking in, genuine smiles from the hosts and inviting us to stay and drink at the bar, even though, obviously, this is a place one doesn't just wander in to usually. Our server at the bar was very friendly the whole time and dinner was paced nicely.

    The highlights:
    The fluke tartare appetizer was really great. I saw a photo of it upthread. Unfortunately, we didn't take any pictures of dinner. I loved how all the flavors melded together, the fish was great on its own, but was even better with the lemon cucumber and bread sauce. (anyone know what this is exactly? it almost tasted fishy to me, but my fiance thought it might be yeast I was tasting). Also great was the octopus confit appetizer with caviar, citrus, crispy kale, and jerusalem artichoke (both pureed and crispy). My fiance's entree was the best of the meal for him. It was grilled pork shoulder with quince, turnips, charred leeks, and black truffle. The leeks were also powdered to look almost like crumbly cheese, but they tasted good. The truffle was turned into a sauce that looked like pureed black beans. It was so delicious. I tried a small bite, and it took a couple of seconds for the strong truffle taste to register. I also liked my dessert, a meyer lemon and hazelnut tart with sesame ice cream.

    One misstep, that, to me, was quite large: I mostly really disliked my entree. It was described on the menu as a roasted chicken and sausage with maitake mushrooms, cauliflower, and applewood broth with kaffir lime. It was actually a chicken sausage, stuffed back into the chicken skin, with a small amount of actual roasted chicken. The sausage was okay, but with bits of fat, not in a silky fatty good way, but in a gristly way, and a bite of something texturally very unpleasant, like ligament. Some of the chicken skin was crispy, but then it sat in the broth and became soggy. The cauliflower, mushrooms, and broth were very good. The broth was very limey, almost like Thai food. At first, I saw how the lime and veggies cut through the fatiness of the sausage, but after a few bites, the two flavors just didn't seem to go together, the sausage and lime broth.

    All in all, a great first meal at Blackbird. I will definitely go back just to try a different entree. There were a bunch of different appetizers I wanted to try, so maybe we will try to make a meal out of them. Have people done this at Blackbird? I wonder how the server would feel if we went in a ordered a variety of appetizers, but no entrees.
  • Post #116 - February 6th, 2011, 11:24 am
    Post #116 - February 6th, 2011, 11:24 am Post #116 - February 6th, 2011, 11:24 am
    Thanks for the insight on your visit to Blackbird, Laura. I have only been once but really enjoyed both the food and service as well. As for ordering a medley of appetizers and no entrees, I don't see why that would be a problem. Especially at a restaurant as classy as Blackbird, I'm sure the servers would be as accommodating as possible to give you the best experience you can have.
  • Post #117 - April 19th, 2011, 11:47 am
    Post #117 - April 19th, 2011, 11:47 am Post #117 - April 19th, 2011, 11:47 am
    Ate here last night. Don't have time to write a full review now. But basically the appetizers were uniformly great as were the desserts.

    We ordered:

    Skate Wing
    Endive Salad
    Wagyu Tartare
    Elk Loin
    Lamb Saddle
    Cocoa Gateau
    Chocolate Ganache


    The Elk Loin was definitely mishandled, and despite being cooked correctly to medium-rare (per waitress/chef's suggestion) it was overcooked. It should have been served rare. But it happens.

    What really bothered me was how the waitress's attitude changed for the worse after I decided to not finish my Endive Salad. She came up with a shrug, not so much as a "Is anything wrong sir?" I merely stated that I ordered it for the pancetta and poached egg. I did not criticize the dish at all, after all I actually really liked it, but wanted to save room for my main course. I think everything took a nose dive from there. I felt a passive aggressive attitude from that point on. The servers who clearly know how to place a plate on the table with the correct orientation places the plate in front of me with the actual food away from me. They then decided to switch desserts on us in what had become an empty restaurant. At some point I realized that this 3 course meal was nearing 2 HOURS! They place had emptied and there was no real excuse to take 30 minutes to serve the main course after the appetizer. We had placed orders for both the main courses and appetizers at the outset. I almost didn't want to order dessert because I wanted to get out of there, but we decided fortunately to have dessert (which was excellent) but I asked the waitress to bring the check immediately after dessert. We had finished dessert and she was basically conversing with her co-worker for a good 10 minutes before bring the check to our table with the words "no rush" in a sarcastic tone.

    I am the customer and I will decide if I want to stay. I ordered the food and will be paying for it, the food is my property and I will decide which parts of the dish I will eat. I don't need snooty attitude or passive-aggresive responses to how I choose to experience my dinner there. I have never gotten attitude like that in NYC EVER. This happens when restaurants get a lot of press and think that they are untouchable in a market which basically lacks competition in relation more developed food markets. Also I think it happens because they have to meet the expectations of experienced and inexperienced diners alike. Which why the waitress was so arrogant about how she said "medium-rare is that okay?" instead of simply asking what doneness I would like and guiding me. It was more like "I will assume you are midwest hick trash and I will tell you that you better have it medium-rare even if your tendency is to order well-done, just deal." I agreed, but frankly had I been given a choice or had some dialog I would have gone rare. Markets which have serious competition cannot have restaurants afford to give customers attitude. Besides what was the point of the Michelin Star here? To provide extra marketing that lets them drop their chef de cuisine and replace him with a cheaper more inexperienced one? I wish these waiters and waitresses understand that proper service without attitude is required to keep the standards of the restaurant up. Just because a bunch of new press is bringing tourists and suburbanites in and they aren't too many options is not an excuse to treat diners like crap. I chose to not finish my salad big deal. I requested nicely to have my check soon, there was no need for the sarcasm.

    I would give Avec a try next, because the small plates concept is more appealing given that the appetizers were excellent. I think it would be nice to have great food without the attitude.
    Last edited by sr1329 on April 19th, 2011, 1:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #118 - April 19th, 2011, 11:54 am
    Post #118 - April 19th, 2011, 11:54 am Post #118 - April 19th, 2011, 11:54 am
    sr1329 wrote:I ordered the food and will be paying for it, the food is my property and I will decide which parts of the dish I will eat.


    Banner quote?
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #119 - April 19th, 2011, 12:12 pm
    Post #119 - April 19th, 2011, 12:12 pm Post #119 - April 19th, 2011, 12:12 pm
    That will be my mantra before every meal I ever pay for again. I want that on a t-shirt.
  • Post #120 - April 19th, 2011, 12:53 pm
    Post #120 - April 19th, 2011, 12:53 pm Post #120 - April 19th, 2011, 12:53 pm
    Fine. I'll bite.

    sr1329 wrote: I don't need snooty attitude or passive-aggresive responses to how I choose to experience my dinner there. I have never gotten attitude like that in NYC EVER. This happens when restaurants get a lot of press and think that they are untouchable in a market which basically lacks competition in relation more developed food markets. Also I think it happens because they have to meet the expectations of experienced and inexperienced diners alike. Which why the waitress was so arrogant about how she said "medium-rare is that okay?" instead of simply asking what doneness I would like and guiding me. It was more like "I will assume you are midwest hick trash and I will tell you that you better have it medium-rare even if your tendency is to order well-done, just deal." I agreed, but frankly had I been given a choice or had some dialog I would have gone rare. Markets which have serious competition cannot have restaurants afford to give customers attitude.


    First, I'm gonna go out on a limb here - but you have probably lived in NYC at some point before moving to hickville Chicago (what, you couldn't make it in LA???).

    Second, I think you are confusing Chicago was certain other cities (NY, LA) when you imply that the "food market" suffers due to "development" issues. I'd argue that NY (the city I call home) has a glut of really really really shity, expensive restaurants that could give an F about putting out good food. Fortunately for those restaurants, 50% of the people who live here could an F about what kind of drivel they shove down their throats and how much they pay for it.

    Third, the "best restaurant in America" (whatever that means) is in Chicago. This will probably be the case for a long time. I'd say our "food market" is doing just fine.

    Fourth. This a rant. You are a strawman. And I really need to get to Blackbird one of these days so I can have something of substance to say about it.
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"

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