April 7, 2005
The space is modern. It is rather small. Perhaps there are 50 seats total, with fairly close seating by American standards. White is the primary color. It works nicely to set off the wood touches. It is a fairly narrow room with an open kitchen at the back.
The service here is stupendous: attentive, knowledgeable, and unobtrusive yet friendly. Everything on the menu looked so delicious that I asked them if they would prepare a tasting menu for me. Without hesitation, the waiter came back with a four-course suggestion.
The wine list here is fairly extensive and well selected. There are a number of nice half bottles. The selection avoids an overload of the obvious selections and features some slightly esoteric things.
The first course was a butternut-squash puree, with pancetta, black truffles, and "micro" arugula, a very nice balance of flavors and textures. The sweetness and creaminess of the squash was complimented by the earthiness of the truffles. Both of those flavors were countered by the fat of the pancetta. I almost licked the bowl, but I sponged it instead with some very nice whole-grain rolls covered with sunflower seeds. This was the first time I had ever heard the word micro substituted for baby, but I liked the creative thinking.
The second dish built on the momentum of the first. It was seared Nantucket bay scallops with buckwheat noodles, salsify, heirloom apples, and black truffles. Truffles in the first two courses! Like the first, this course played a nice balancing game: cool noodles and hot scallops, creamy scallops against the acidity of the apples. I could have walked out onto Randolph Street at this point and been satisfied.
But I was glad that I didn’t. Course three was a pave of chestnut polenta and butternut squash with trumpet royale mushrooms, savoy cabbage, and roasted quince, ultra-fresh ingredients and hypnotic aromas. This was similar to the mushroom ragout I had later that week at Central Kitchen in Boston.
The final course was the lamb with winter root vegetables, haricots verts, gremolata, and grilled bread, a fantastic rendition of something simple. One of those try-not-to-screw-them-up types of dishes. Flawless.
Blackbird is a big supporter of local and organic foods. On the menu it says "blackbird supports Chicago’s green city market." Fortunately, for all the foodies crowded in this hip spot, it reveals itself in the food
From journal Blackbird Chicago