Blackbird (revisited) | Chicago | May ’13 | “dessert at one of Chicago’s great restaurants”

25 Dec
  • Address: 619 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL, 60661
  • Telephone: 312 715 0708
  • Hours: Lunch, Weekdays 1130am-2pm; Dinner, Daily 5-10pm; F, Sat 5-11pm
  • Price (after tax + tip, excl. drinks): $30
  • Courses: (3 main) 1 starter / 1 main / 1 dessert
  • Price/Main Course: $10
  • Rating: 17/20
  • Value: 5/5
  • Average Dining Time: 70 minutes
  • Time/Course (total): 23 minutes
  • Chef: David Posey (ex. Alinea)
  • In own words: “a very minimalist plate, which is three or four components.  We try to execute [these components] as best we can. […]  The longer I cook here the more I find that my dishes are simple — a vegetable, a meat, a condiment and a sauce.” [1]
  • Style: Minimalist New American
  • Notable: $22 prix-fixe (pre tax and tip) is one of the best deals in Chicago

____________

Rating: 16/20

Blackbird is one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, and an institution in the city, where it has been around for 16 years. It doesn’t look one bit its age; the interior kitchen is clean, uncluttered – modernist in design. Having been there a couple of times in the summer of 2012 (Chef Dave Posey and owner Paul Kahan have created one of the best value prix fixe menus in the city, for $22, demonstrating that great food doesn’t need to be expensive. It was my go-to fine-dining fix in the Loop), on the prix fixe menu I was most impressed by their desserts. Pastry Chef Dana Cree’s desserts are understated, but elegant. I still remember the beads of condensation that accompanied the “Blueberry Buttermilk Affogato with Blackberries and Cinnamon Basil“, a cool-relaxed dessert eaten in an austere dining room – which aesthetically brought to mind Roy Lichtenstein’s Mirror Portrait. (I had visited the (Art Institute of Chicago) ARTIC’s Lichtenstein retrospective a few days before in 2012).

Lichtenstein_Self_Portrait_1978

Roy Lichtenstein, Self Portrait, 1978

The minimalist “cool” aesthetic at Blackbird isn’t all my own imagination:

What are you proudest of here on the menu?
The thing I’m proudest of is something that I don’t think you can find in Chicago and that’s a very minimalist plate, which is three or four components.  We try to execute [these components] as best we can. At lunch right now we have a duck leg confit that comes with roasted broccoli, a raisin puree and potato granola. Four components to a dish — a Michelin one-star dish — is kind of hard for you to find in Chicago if it’s not like a pasta dish at Spiaggia or something. I think that’s what I’m most proud of. And the longer I cook here the more I find that my dishes are simple — a vegetable, a meat, a condiment and a sauce. – Dave Posey

Another favorite dessert, that I had on a later visit in 2012, was a wonderful peanut brittle based dessert. I thus came prepared for the full Blackbird dessert experience, to savor the talent of the pastry crew at the restaurant.

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Plated using the “drowned-arrangement” soup technique

Inspired by a dish at Jacques Maximin’s restaurant Chantecler, Ferran Adrià began in 1985 to serve soups in an unusual style. A shallow soup plate was set with food in a manner that suggested it was a complete dish.Then, just before the diner would tuck in. the waiter would pour in a soup or broth, drowning the food on the plate, ruining its careful composition and arrangement. What appeared to be a dish in its own right was turned into a garnish for the soup. The surprising twist was an early experiment in challenging the assumptions of the diner. – Modernist Cuisine, Vol 1 p. 52 

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Prix Fixe courses, all great elegant food. Their duck confit is ever-reliable. Blackbird’s prix fixe fish main wasn’t that great on the previous times I was there, and I skipped the fish option for the duck.

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Roasted Peanut Ice Cream (4.5/5)

Carrot-barley sponge, honey mousse, pickled carrot, opal basil

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Roasted Rhubarb (4.25/5)

Cardamom Danish, Whipped Delice, Green Almond, Anise Hyssop

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Goat Cheese Cake (4.75/5)

Cajeta Ice Cream, Burnt Grapefruit, Avocado

Delicious. Cajeta is a Mexican thickened syrup made of cows milk, belying the positive Mexican influence that Rick Bayless has brought into the city. Wonderfully complemented by burnt grapefruit and avocado. A decadent thick cheesecake with the funkiness of goat.

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