There are too many restaurants that toss together meals as if they were on an assembly line – even if you have great ingredients, if not given the care and respect they deserve, the true essence and potential of those ingredients can be lost. It really is inspiring when you have a meal crafted with creativity and compassion. Ingredients that you may have tasted a thousand times suddenly become new and exciting! This is exactly what I found at Blackbird. Blackbird is a must-stop, Michelin Star restaurant in the Chicago Loop. The intimate restaurant created innovative dishes with only the most seasonal flavors and ingredients. Each bite made me stop and savor – the complexity of the dishes made dinner not only delicious but exciting. Every detail of my dining experience, from the service to the cocktails to the bread, was done with such finesse. Let me take you through this unforgettable meal:
Oh, the bread. I could have eaten only bread and butter for this meal and still gone home happy. It was warm, slightly salty, soft on the inside, with an excellent crunch on the crust. The butter was light, fluffy, and sweet. A perfect match! Never have I had bread this unforgettable at a restaurant.
While an extensive wine selection was available, I was craving a “wintery” cocktail with my dinner. I find gin to be a great spirit in winter so I decided to try one of Blackbird’s signature gin cocktails as I knew their mixologist would have a better understanding of drink flavors than I. I always like to ask for recommendations when possible as chefs and mixologists are artists at the end of the day and understand their creations better than anyone. Along with its food menu, Blackbird’s cocktail menu is also always changing to showcase the best flavors of the season.
We decided to try four different appetizers as so many sounded delicious. Blackbird’s focus on seasonality really began to shine through with these appetizers. Two of my favorites were the roasted brussels sprouts and the poached lobster with apple and black truffles. The lobster was so delicately poached that it paired beautifully with the sweetness from the apple. The truffles sprinkled on top were just a bonus! Never would I have thought to combine lobster and apple, but it was like they were always meant to be together! The brussels sprouts were in a category all their own. When prepared properly, brussels sprouts can be really wonderful – it’s unfortunate that so many people overcook them. When overcooked, they turn bitter and soggy. These brussels sprouts were perfect. They were paired with whipped ricotta, toasted chestnuts and get this – grapefruit. Grapefruit! So unexpected, but truly delicious!
This was a hard choice, but based off feedback from our waiter, we ordered the pork belly, venison, and rabbit loin. While all delicious, I want to highlight two for you here. I’ll start with the venison – Winter is such a great time to enjoy venison. Gamier meats, when prepared properly, can be quite lovely. The key to venison is not to overcook or else it becomes tough. Our waiter was kind enough to ask if I was alright if the chef prepared my meat medium-rare, to which I replied, “Absolutely!”. Whenever the chef suggests that your meat be prepared a certain way, it almost always in your best interest to oblige.
The venison was topped with homemade sausage, walnuts, mushrooms, and a licorice foam on the side. While I could have done without the licorice foam, the meat was lovely and tender and the walnuts provided a wonderful crunch.
The star of the meal, in my opinion, was definitely the pork belly. It was paired with roasted squash puree and topped with roasted peanuts and kale. First, the presentation was just beautiful. The color of the squash was so rich that it brightened up the whole plate. The puree was somehow light and airy – not heavy at all. I don’t know the texture was achieved, but it was intoxicating. But the pork – oh the pork! I always say that if there was one animal I had to eat the rest of my life, it would have to be pig. This pork belly only reinforced that belief. It was so moist, tender, flavorful, and had a melt-in-your-mouth quality.
By this point in the meal, I was full. But based off the rest of the dinnerl, I knew dessert was bound to be amazing. We ordered some coffee, the maple pavlova and the spiced doughnuts. The pavlova was gorgeous – rich, but gorgeous. In my opinion, it was a very well thought out winter dessert. Maple is great this time of year, but I would highly recommend having coffee with the pavlova to cut through the richness. It would also be a good option to share with a friend as it was a lot to finish on its own.
Overall, my experience at Blackbird was unforgettable. Just writing this post is making my mouth water all over again!
A big thank-you to chef Ryan Pfeiffer and his staff for welcoming me into your kitchen and for sharing your talents with me and my friends. I will definitely be coming back to Blackbird soon!
619 West Randolph
Chicago, IL 60661
To have your own unforgettable dining experience at Blackbird, make your reservations here.
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