When filling in the schedule for my short trip to Chicago with Rocky last week, I needed a good lunch spot, and I wanted to return to Blackbird. Since Paul Kahan’s flagship is among the few restaurants in the city on my list that offer lunch service, it only made sense.
Though I didn’t think it would happen, I had inquired about the possibility of us being served a chef’s tasting for lunch. On arrival we were told that the kitchen would happily split and course out anything from the day’s menu for an extended lunch. Perfect. While we were looking over the menu, it seemed prudent to get started with a bottle of bubbles. So we ordered the Paul Goerg Blanc de Blancs. Lively elegance, bright bubbles, and flavors of apple and citrus. A fantastic lunchtime Champagne. Rocky and I made a few choices from the menu, asked for a few suggestions as well, and got a nice little meal lined up.
Green and white asparagus with charred spring onion, goat cheese, cured egg yolk, peanuts, and chamomile. The plate of grilled spears of green with blanched white asparagus and beautiful early onions was a nice celebration of spring. The rich yolk and tangy goat cheese played well as condiments.
Smoked arctic char with ‘nduja, cauliflower, pear, and rosemary. A pretty piece of smoked fish. I loved the cauliflower, served both pickled and fried. The sliced pear was nice for some fresh sweetness. The spice of the ‘nduja pate was nice to enhance the arctic char.
Duck liver sausage with honeyed eggplant, pickled delicata squash, peanut, and dandelion greens. The sausage had a nice smooth taste. The setting was extremely dynamic: the sweetness of the eggplant, the acid from the squash, and the super bitter dandelion greens somehow managed to stay in balance.
Lamb tenderloin tartare with sprouted lentils, cured rhubarb, spicy marrow, and chickweed. The melted chili bone marrow tied together the sweet rhubarb with the strips of lamb. I love eating most anything that is just sprouted. These lentils, some of which were fried, were very special little legumes.
Cauliflower soup with seared tuna, pickled shallots, and toasted pepitas. A great cauliflower soup. The spiced toasted seeds were a lot of fun texturally. The bites of acidic allium were nice surprises amid the richness. The tuna, for me, had no place in the bowl. And some beautiful wild sorrel got drowned in the soup.
Roasted maitake mushrooms with salsify, meyer lemon, and sweet potato. A savory, meaty, wonderfully prepared portion of maitake mushroom over a smooth puree of salsify with red wine mushroom sauce. Sweet potato two ways: batons and chips. With crisp sliced heart of palm.
Goat cheese cheesecake with cajeta ice cream, burnt grapefruit, avocado. Bonus points for Pastry Chef Dana Cree. A nice variety of sensations here. Delicious, lightly tangy cheesecake. A little char from the burnt citrus and toasted meringue. Little pieces of candied grapefruit rind were bangingly sweet and bitter. And the avocado was super cool.
Bittersweet chocolate torte with burnt honey ice cream, tangerine marmalade, toasted sesame, cumin. A decadent serving of chocolate. Fantastic combined with the citrus. Non-coincidentally, a very similar flavor palette to a dessert we had two days prior at Blackbird’s neighbor and relative, Avec.
Overall, a great lunch in a beautiful space. With a beautiful lady.
Also: Bread service. A kick ass oolong tea. And a pinot noir from Meursault.
Date of visit: April 1o, 2013
Blackbird. 619 W Randolph. Chicago, IL 312.715.0708 blackbirdrestaurant.com