Chicago turned out to be one of the best gastrotourism trips I’ve ever had. Granted it was actually supposed to be an educational trip because of the conference Dumpling Man was attending, I made it my mission to make sure we ate only the very best for our sorta of mini vacation. I did my research and with the help of many recommendations from foodie friends, I was able to plan out a really great line up for eateries. I’ll have to admit that every place we ate at thoroughly satisfied our hunger for the delicious, creative, and inspiring, EXCEPT Blackbird.
Why oh why did you have to disappoint me so? Blackbird came so highly recommended by Triple F and many others. It was also one of the more expensive meals of the trip, and it completely fell flat. Interestingly, it happened to be Restaurant Week in Chicago, and Blackbird was offering up a special 5 course pre fixe for the night. Could that be the reason it was so disappointing? We didn’t know about this until after we went ahead with the chef’s tasting menu of 10 courses, which came at a hefty price tag
Smoke Sable Fish salsify custard, marcona almonds
A smooth custard paired with some pretty smoky fishy fish. The theme of the night was not understanding how a lot of the components played together. The almonds? Not a clue.
Confit Baby Octopus fennel, chestnut, lime, chili
The waiter really made a big deal about the octopus, so of course we were intrigued. It definitely didn’t have the expected snappy texture, which I guess was the whole point. It was tender without being mushy, but I think I prefer my octopus the normal way. It had a nice bit of saltiness to it, but again I didn’t see how the other components highlighted anything.
Butternut Squash Soup char, roe, cured peaches, stout
A pretty good, smooth, sweet, creamy concoction, but the stout was deep, alcoholic, and bitter. I didn’t see how that the salty roe, or cured peaches made any harmony at all.
Seared Nantucket Bay Scallops grapefruit, chioggia beets, peanuts, licorice
I usually don’t like bay scallops because they’re usually so unsatisfying and small. Surprisingly, these had a great caramelization and char on it, which made it more meaty and substantial. Grapefruit? Peanuts?
Sautéed Barramundi little neck clams, parsnip, chorizo, pear
The fish was well cooked. The clams added little. The chorizo was incredibly dry. The pear was so out of place. The sage?
Hudson Valley Foie Gras Terrine sunflower seed, parsley root, spicy pickled lime
The terrine was porky and tasty. I liked the richness of the sunflower seeds. Everything else was just more senselessness.
Dry Aged Prime Striploin rosefinn potatoes, spring onion, miner’s lettuce, smoked bone marrow
Finally the next 2 dishes made solid culinary sense. The striploin was well cooked and had a deep dry aged meatiness that was enhanced by the smoked bone marrow and jus. It was a hearty plate of food.
Chicory Glazed Lamb Belly escarole, crunchy turnip, pine nut hollandaise, preserved meyer lemon
I was so incredibly full by the time this arrived, but the lamb belly was meltingly tender and probably Dumpling Man’s favorite dish of the night. I can’t say the crunchy turnip added much, but the escarole and pine nuts were tasty additions. This was a success.
White Verjus Sorbet smoked grapes, kasha and yogurt mousse
I did not think this added much as a palate cleanser because the the sorbet was too tart and sweet. The smoked grapes were even sweeter. The little grapenut things were hard and got stuck in my teeth.
Espresso Sponge Cake blood orange honey, turnip ice cream
As dry and unappealing as these little cakes looked, they actually weren’t so bad. The espresso flavor was subtle and some chocolatey notes were brought out by the cookie grounds. I couldn’t identify any turnip flavor in the ice cream.
Soft Valrhona Chocolate pistachio pain perdu, buttercream, candied beets
I liked this chocolate dessert better, but ONLY the long snake like chocolate element. The candied beets were totally weird in all of this.
I don’t think restaurant week at Blackbird fully explains why the meal was such a huge disappointment. The problem with food at restaurant week is usually one of execution, undercooked, overdone, food served cold, or usually their more unimpressive dishes served up in the pre fixe. All of our dishes had almost no flaws in execution. The combinations of ingredients were just so clashing and made no sense. Eating the food didn’t fill me with a sense of pleasure, but rather a lot of questions as to “What was the Chef thinking?” when he created these dishes. Aside from the striploin and lamb belly, everything else was just not very good. It was so sad because our expectations were really high and we paid a lot of money. Anyways, I can’t say I’d recommend Blackbird. It’s a good thing the rest of Chicago’s food scene was so better than this place.
619 W. Randolph
Chicago, IL 60661