It was the last dinner we were having in Chicago, and considering all the restaurants I had been eating at the past couple of days, it was hard to imagine that a meal at Blackbird would be able to stand tall with the bunch. I have to admit that after reviewing the menu online, I didn’t feel that excited so my expectations weren’t very high. In fact, if it weren’t for the heaps of praise that I heard from my friends, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to try it. Thankfully, I was able to get reservations somewhat last minute (aka about a week beforehand), and it was definitely a dinner that didn’t disappoint. In the end, I ended up having dinner with Pdho, ElleC, and Vuieee. Vuieee actually lives in the Chicago area and is a busy mother of two little youngin’s including a newborn baby girl, so it was very nice of her to take some time away from the kiddies to drive in and meet up with us.
The restaurant has a very clean, bright feel to it and in spite of being rather small, the stark whites from the walls to the furniture somehow made the space in the restaurant feel bigger.
The amuse bouche was a small slice of duck prosciutto. It was an interesting way to start the meal, because I’m used to having something that is a little more subtle in terms of flavor. Instead, this was a small punch of salt with some distinct smoky flavor. I enjoyed it.
I was not quite sure what “torchon” in Foie Gras Torchon meant, but after looking it up, I believe it refers to the particular preparation of fatty liver by wrapping it tightly in a some cheese cloth or towels. I’m not sure if it had to do with the preparation, but this particular foie gras was the softest, creamiest piece that I’ve ever had. The characteristic taste of liver was also quite subtle yet still very rich, but the sweetness of the mandarinquat jam helped balance the flavors out. I think that even if you didn’t like foie gras, you still would have loved this.
The Tempura Soft Shell Crab was served on a bed of braised celery with some figs and toasted jasmine rice. The soft shell crab was a little bit too hard which obviously sounds odd, but it’s true. I am not sure if it was something in the batter or the crabs were fried a little too long, but they were so crunchy that you really couldn’t taste much of the crab. The aioli served on the plate added some much needed flavor to the little crustaceans.
The Spring Pea Soup was supposed to be served with some bacon-cured hamachi, eucalyptus and crispy yogurt, but there was seriously like a teaspoon of hamachi on the side. Quantity aside, the hamachi, what little I dared to take for fear of not having enough for the group, tasted fine, but it was the smooth and rich flavor of the pea soup that I really liked. It was thick without being too heavy.
Pdho ordered the Veal Tenderloin which we were all expecting to be one of the better tasting items on the menu. It was miso-glazed and served with some artichokes and apricots. The meat was quite tender which is to be expected with veal. It wasn’t bad, but the consensus around the table was that it was kind of plain. Nothing particularly interesting about the taste or execution of the veal.
My choice was the Aged-Pekin Duck Breast which was complemented on the plate with some golden beets and chestnut soubise. The duck was well-cooked and tasted quite good. It was well-seasoned without overshadowing the distinct taste of the duck meat. Some people probably don’t like that gamey taste, but it doesn’t really bother me. I also appreciated that the duck was not too fatty, relatively speaking.
I really didn’t expect much from the Alaskan Halibut, because most of the time I’ve had halibut, it’s been pretty dry and almost always kind of bland in taste. I was absolutely blown away by how this dish was prepared mainly because the halibut was so moist and quite tasty. I think the braised rhubarb provided a nice complement of flavor to the halibut. It had a tangy almost pickled taste which balanced well against the more neutral halibut.
My expectations were actually quite low for this dish in spite of the fact that Vuieee’s very positive compliments on the sausage. Surprisingly, instead of dry flavorless chicken, it turned out to be extremely moist and markedly flavor, especially for chicken breast. The sausage really was also quite tasty and provided a nice accent of flavor that managed to highlight the chicken without overpowering. Words can not fully captured how tasty this chicken turned out to be.
The Banana Pain Perdu turned out to be one of the most surprisingly delicious desserts I’ve had. Never being a fan of banana bread, I was quite surprised how delicious the bread turned out to be and the combination of flavors from the butterscotch, malt, pine nut and bourbon barrel wood ice cream all made for a very delicious dessert. They all added a slightly different twist of sweetness which did not overpower one another. It was so good that we all decided to order another one.
The Frozen Parfait was served with campari, satsuma tangerines, caramelized white chocolate and a milk meringue. This dessert was fruitier, and although it did not seem to bowl over the rest of my party as the Banana Pain Perdu, I still liked it. It was creamy parfait with its tasty graham-cracker like crust that I really enjoyed.
Overall, I was extremely impressed by the food. Not only were the flavor profiles of most of the dishes quite complex and interesting, I felt like many of the dishes were equally well-executed. The chicken, being so tender and juicy, was probably the best I’ve ever had, and the combination of flavors on the fish plate were different yet tasty. The desserts were above average and really surpassed my expectations. I highly recommend this place for a thoroughly excellent tasting meal.
619 W. Randolph
Chicago, IL 60661
PAFO Ratings for Blackbird:
Price 4 stars
Ambiance 3½ stars
Food 4½ stars
Overall rating 4 stars