On my recent trip to the US I stopped for a few days in Chicago to visit my College roommate and check out what Chicago had to offer. Chicago has an abundance of good restaurants and an innovative dining scene. It’s also home to some of the top restaurants in the USA if not the world (Alinea, Next etc.). Unfortunately my quest to get tickets to Next Restaurant was unsuccessful thanks to a lack of understanding and a billing system that doesn’t accept foreign credit cards (tsk tsk it’s 2011 get with the program). Instead I had to ‘settle’ with going to a few different restaurants to sample the variety available in Chicago.
The French Market
Before lunching at Blackbird KC and I wondered around admiring the red brick buildings. We wandered into Chicago’s French market to admire the baked goods and see what kind of produce was available...
Blackbird is the flagship of the James Beard Award winning chef, Paul Kahan, a Chicago born and bred culinary master. Its fit out is very modern and light filled with non-offensive white façade and white/grey and dark wood interior. Despite the modern touches, the main dining room is charming, no doubt assisted by the sunshine streaming in from outside (lunch visit) to warm diners accompanied by extremely competent staff that one would expect at a michelin starred restaurant.
Upon entering the well oiled machine that is blackbird, KC and I were made extremely welcome by our server. We chose the extremely good value $22 (plus tax & gratuity) three course prix fixe.
We began our meal with brilliant cocktails ($12). Blackberry Betty: a sophisticated short cocktail combining Plymouth Gin, crème de violette, basil, blackberry and lime.
Blackbird Orange: a sweet, sour and caramelised concoction of Moon Mountain Coastal Citrus vodka, Punt e Mes vermouth, orange marmalade and ginger beer.
Very good sourdough with cultured butter.
An entrée of chilled vichyssoise with parmesan gourgeres (croutons) and ginger cream was poured at the table and deliciously creamy.
The other entrée of charred baby sepia (cuttlefish) with green tomatoes, blueberries, chamomile almonds and cynar was beautifully presented and an interesting combination of flavours and textures.
A main of roasted chicken and sausage with lime onions, tamarind and smoked cucumbers was also impeccably presented. The roast chicken was deliciously succulent and well accompanied by the cubes of tamarind and smoked cucumber; however the sausage was quite dry.
The wood grilled sturgeon with chantarelles, kohlrabi, plums, thai poppy jam and brown butter fish sauce was good, the only discordant note for me was the poppy jam.
For dessert my highlight was the vanilla parfait with blackberries, saffron honey and milk meringue. The milk meringue was extremely light and combined wonderfully with the berries, honey and parfait.
The milk chocolate mousse with grilled corn and silk, frozen peaches (sorbet) and mesquite was also delicious. The slightly off beat flavour combinations corn, chocolate, peach and mesquite worked well for me but scared KC a bit.
Rating: highly recommended
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