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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

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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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Blackbird | Chicago

30 Jul

Blackbird’s prix fixe lunch is one of the best lunches in Chicago. Grab it for only $22 prix fixe.

Chilled White Onion Soup with Sturgeon Belly (4.5/5) – Nice cold texture. A single plop of fish. Makes use of the “drowned world” soup plating technique, where a mini-Atlantis of ingredients is smothered at your table with soup.

wood-grilled sturgeon with green cabbage, enoki mushrooms, walnuts and kaffir lime (4/5)

Interesting sour walnuts (I thought them pickled walnuts). Enoki mushrooms were fried and added crisp. Sturgeon was bland, but easily disguised by heaping the generous kaffir lime mayonaise on top.

Blueberry Buttermilk Affogato with Blackberries and Cinnamon Basil (5/5) – Fantastic buttermilk biscuits, with blueberry sorbet and cinnamon basil ice cream. Drowned in blueberry sauce. Deserves to be mentioned with Charlie Trotter’s Thyme-Glazed Brioche with Georgia Blueberry Compote & Lavender-Blueberry Sorbet (5/5).