After sampling the charcuterie at The Publican, we had hoped to make it a Paul Kahan-Restaurant crawl and score a small bite and drink at his other restaurant Avec. Unfortunately, there weren't any tables available at Avec and the snooty hostess curtly said that we wouldn't even be able to stand around for a drink. Defeated, we walked next door to Blackbird, where we had reservations for dinner. Blackbird has earned numerous awards including a Michelin Star and James Beard awards. The menu and ambiance at Blackbird is much different from The Publican but similar to Avec, although with friendlier service. There aren’t any portraits of pigs on the wall. You won’t have to share a communal table with other diners. The restaurant is intimate, and the service less casual. And the food here is elegant and cooked with finesse. It’s definitely more upscale, and the prices reflect accordingly.
The appetizers looked the most interesting so we decided to split a handful of them instead of ordering an entrée each.
Warm fresh bread was served with soft butter.
An amuse bouche of fluke was promptly served. The cured fluke was served with a coriander and chicory sauce and white asparagus. This was probably my least favorite bite of the night. The fish was not chilled enough and the asparagus had a disturbingly sharp flavor.
Warm sepia noodles were served with spring onion, avocado, green pumpkin seeds and lime. This looked like a pasta dish as the cuttlefish resembled linguine. It was toothsome and flavorful. I'm not an avocado fan but I appreciated the creaminess that the avocado lent to the sepia. The citrus from the lime kept this first course light and refreshing.
Our waiter split the Foie gras torchon with mandarinquat jam, sesame and nasturtium dish for us. I'm glad that he did, as it is always tough to share foie gras. The foie was very rich as expected. It was served with sour mandarin preserve which was an interesting combination as I usually see foie paired with something jammier. I loved the intensely flavored sesame crumble. I liked the restraint on molecular gastronomy techniques used at the restaurant. They weren't showy about it, and only used it sparingly. My only critique was that I wished they served this dish with toasted brioche as the foie gras was too rich to be eaten on its own.
The maple glazed veal sweetbreads was my favorite of the night. It had a light and crispy breading that didn't overshadow the sweetbread. I love that you could actually taste the sweetbreads, not just breading. The sweetbreads were served with rutabaga, granny smith apple and black caraway.
Sauteed skate wing was plated with little gem, almonds, pickled ramps and whipped butter pudding. The skate was cooked perfectly and was well seasoned. I thought the delicate and light fish was paired well with the deliciously thick and rich pudding. The creamy pudding was something that I would have loved to pack home in a jar.
The Smoked suckling pig was perfectly crispy and tender. I really enjoyed the daring and interesting combination with the oceanic plump hama hama oysters. The dish was layered with a tangy flavor from the giardiniera pickled sunchokes. Hazelnuts added a nuttiness and crunch. I thought all the components would not mesh well but the flavors actually came together in harmony.
Salted Caramel truffle ended the night.
Dinner at Blackbird was lovely. There wasn't any crackling pop rocks or exciting offal dishes, but the food was sophisticated and well executed. I liked the unique combinations such as sweetbreads with tart apple and the sepia with creamy avocado sauce.
Hits: sweetbreads, skate, sepia
Misses: lukewarm amuse bouche
619 W. Randolph
Chicago, IL 60661