July 24, 2007

Blackbird [Chicago]

I am quickly ramping up on the Chicago restaurant scene with a lesson in names and faces on the local culinary circuit. At Blackbird, I've managed to acquaint myself with the cooking of Chef de Cuisine Mike Sheerin, who came from WD-50, NYC's answer to molecular gastronomy.

So you ask, what business does a food alchemist have in a seasonally-driven kitchen such as that of Blackbird's? Well a whole a lot, now that Chef Paul Kahan is busy working on a new restaurant. The idea is that Sheerin preserves the integrity of Blackbird by offering a new perspective on how to prepare seasonal food.

The amuse for the night was a watermelon salad, which seems to be a popular ingredient for summertime. It was nice and light, though typical for a watermelon preparation.

Our waitress introduced the Grilled California Sturgeon ($30) as a fish dish for meat lovers. The firm flesh of the sturgeon held up well against the plank grilling, which gave it the texture of pork tenderloin and the flavor of smoked meat. While I found the fish a bit dry, I couldn't keep from devouring the rye gnocchi and guanciale, which was the equivalent of rye mash potatoes (sans the potato) perfumed by lemony, herbaceous caraway seeds. Perhaps it was the guanciale or the oyster mushrooms or simply just a heavy hand, but I found the dish a little on the salty side.

I was looking to end my meal on a on light note, so I skeptically chose the Buckwheat Crepaze ($10), which is essentially a torte decked with layer upon layer of thin crepe batter. You could definitely taste the buckwheat with the candied celery, pistachio ice cream, and rhubarb consomme keeping the flavors of the dish bright. The spongy texture of the Crepaze was perfect for soaking up the rhubard consomme and melted pistachio ice cream.

I also had a chance to try the Venison ($34) and Milk Chocolate Cremeaux ($10) dessert. From what I could make of the single bite of venison, it was stellar. Cooked medium rare, the presentation was beautiful and the flavor profile, incredibly light considering the heaviness of the meat.

I've never been a fan of spiced chocolate, so I mostly stayed away from the Milk Chocolate Cremeaux, which came with a coconut-curry ice cream. Salty-sweet combinations are a trend in Chicago restaurant scene, but the custard, ice cream, cashew, and lime combination was too busy for my taste.

Blackbird Restaurant
619 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 715-0708

No comments: