since my delicious visit to the publican ages ago, i added blackbird on my restaurant wishlist. what they have a common is paul kahan. paul kahan is also the mastermind behind avec and big star, all of which have built quite a loyal fan base of their own. morever, two of my friends recommended the food at this michelin guide one star restaurant so i was more than thrilled to include blackbird on my food itinerary when ryan came to visit me in chicago.
it was a monday afternoon. blackbird offers a three course prix-fixed lunch menu on weekdays for $22 but we decided against it and ordered from their regular menu.
the fluke tartare had a very light flavor with the occasional rich notes from the fish itself. the crunch of the chip and the seasoned cucumber were nice additions of texture and different flavors to weave between the bites of the smooth fish which almost seemed like it melts in my mouth. ryan thought he was underwhelmed by the flavors. i liked it, he thought it was alright.
entree | blackbird classic bouillabaisse . daily selection of fish and shellfish. fennel . potato . saffron . garlic . thyme . grilled crouton . ($15)
the only other bouillabaisse i've had was from cafe des architectes and the two were very different. i guess i had my expectation before this dish even hit the table. this is a much lighter interpretation and soup is thinner with a predominant fennel flavor. since the seafood included are daily selections, the fresh ingredients were cooked perfectly - flakey fish and the mussels were cooked well. and the shrimp was sweet and succulent. the element that i really love was the toast with a spread of truffle aioili that gave the richness this dish needed. while this dish was good, i was left wanting something more - somewhat unsatisfied and it felt like something was lacking.
entree | wood-grilled sturgeon . ham hock . red beet . cabbage . smoked dates . walnut consomme . ($15)
this was delicious - probably my favorite dish of the day. it was really awesome, satisfying, succulent played beautifully with complicated layers of flavors from the other elements on the dish. i had one of those case of dish envy and although ryan was willing to exchange this dish for mine, i couldn't bring myself to do it. after one bite to taste and couldn't resist to ask for another. haha. it had some nice grill marks and very subtle and light smoky flavor. one complaint we had was probably that the serving was a bit small.
dessert | cocoa gateau . goat's milk . kola nut . fresno . hibiscus sorbet . ($10)
such a lovely presentation. this dessert was sooo yummy. the rich crumbled gateau reminded me a delicious flourless chocolate cake with some occasional surprise crunch from the other ingredients in the dessert. the hibiscus sorbet adds a refreshingly sweet with some tart flavor which acts like a palate cleanser. a fantastic way to end our meal.
however, the service was left much to be desired. ryan was rather upset because our whole meal took almost two hours which is quite long for lunch. we had a long wait before our entrees got to our table and we were starving by then. the service was quite formal which oddly made me feel a tad uncomfortable but that could just really be something i am not used to. but even with their standard of service potrayed, ryan's glass wasn't refilled for a good thirty minutes (he was waiting to see when they would notice) and that was because he asked for a refill. who knows? maybe we just got unlucky with the service that day.
minus some of the misses, the food at blackbird was delicious. in the matter of if i'd return anytime soon, it's still on the fence for me.
disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others