Restaurant Review (Chicago): Blackbird
One more thing I didn’t mention about our Chicago weekend was the amazing dinner we had at Blackbird. I’m not quite sure how I picked the restaurant, but somehow I read about it, found it intriguing, and was able to make a reservation.
As it turns out, our meal at Blackbird will be displacing one of the current placeholders from my “Top 5 Meals Ever” as mentioned in another post.
Blackbird was across the river from our hotel in an area called the West Loop. The restaurant itself was very stark. It was mostly white, with a little bit of black, but no other real color to speak of. The meal added the spark. I knew I was in for a wild treat when I didn’t even recognize some of the ingredients listed on the menu.
We started with the server’s recommendation of an endive salad with crispy potatoes, pancetta, and a poached egg. The salad arrived encased in an upright tube of fried potatoes, a spectacular presentation. The server cut the potato container up, which transformed the plate into a riff on the classic French frisee aux lardons salad..
For our entrees, Howard had a slow-cooked halibut with a brandade made from more halibut pureed with broccoli rabe. I chose grilled sturgeon with snails served with pickled Napa cabbage and other pickled vegetables. Both dishes were really unusual and quite delicious.
Finally, we ended the meal with the most beautiful presentation of a cheese plate that I’ve ever seen. I don’t like to take photos of my food in restaurants, so, unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to share. There were five cheeses, and each cheese had its own accompaniment: We also enjoyed a vintage tawny port (from 1977) with the cheese.
- California goat cheese served with pickled rhubarb
- Illinois sheep’s milk cheese served with apricot pate de fruit
- Cowgirl Creamery ‘Red Hawk’ served with mustard genoise (which was funky, but worked)
- 8 year cheddar from Wisconsin served with oat and almond granola
- Bleu d’Auvergne served with honey comb
As a parting sweet, when they brought the bill, we enjoyed little dark chocolates filled with rum.
To top it off, in the latest of the twice-weekly emails I get from Food & Wine listed their picks for the 10 Best New Chefs for 2010, to be featured in the July issue (which didn’t arrive yet). Mike Sheerin, the chef at Blackbird, is one of their choices. Here’s a link to one of his recipes along with a video where he talks about his philosophy of using locally sourced ingredients at his restaurant.
This was a meal that we’ll remember for a long time. It was so unexpected that we picked a restaurant that turned out to be something so special.