The last time I was in Chicago was about a year and a half ago, when my brother was still at school there. We tried a number of great restaurants, and he still ribs me for never posting on our amazing dinner at Alinea (I swear, it’s coming one day!)
This time, I was in Chicago for two quick days of meetings, and it was coooold.
My first day, I had a little time in between meetings and was checking if there were any interesting restaurants around… and fell across Avec and Blackbird. I have been reading about these two restaurants, next door to each other, for a while, and really wanted to try them each. As Avec only opens around 3pm, it was a non-brainer, I headed over to Blackbird.
I sat at the bar and was going to get one course (so as not to fall asleep in my meetings), but the prix fixe menu was too tempting, and the waiter convinced me, telling me that the portions wouldn’t be too large. (Let me just say, the prix fixe is a real deal, it’s $25 for three amazing courses.)
So I started with the charred broccoli, with walnut pesto, a roasted garlic polenta (that you can’t see very well in the picture) and a peppers.
The broccoli was certainly charred, and had a mildly bitter taste because of it. This was nicely complemented by the very soft and almost milky polenta (not grainy, as you usually get), the sweet apple, and the vinegary peppers (they were a bit too vinegary, but certainly cut the richer tasting pesto and bitter broccoli). This was quite a dish.
But it was nothing compared to the duck that came next… I had the duck confit with a buttermilk spaetzle, fennel, orange and fermented squash.
This is one of the best duck confits I have ever had, hands down. Maybe the best. It was the perfect mix of confit’ed, while still having a crispy skin. The fennel was sweet, and the spaetzle was delicious. I had forgotten exactly what was being served with the duck (the spaetzle), and to me, it tasted like the large latin american pieces of corn that taste almost popped… firm outside, sweet and softer inside. And it was delicious with the orange (not too orangey, more creamy and subtle). I practically licked my plate.
Finally, for dessert, I had the choice between a concord grape ice cream and a fig ice cream… The waiter strongly pushed the grape, and I’m glad that he did! (As a quick note, he was lovely, gave great recommendations and was chatty enough, as I was sitting at the bar, but not invasive. Great staff overall at Blackbird).
I had the concord grape sorbet surrounded by a tahini fudge, honied kefir and rosemary on a sesamed croquant. The grape sorbet was great, it tasted like Welch’s grape juice, full of flavour. The tahini fudge, I defiintely thought was peanut butter, but was also very good… and was nice served with the slices of grape (that themselves had almost zero flavour!) There were tiny bits of dried herb that I tried to place… turns out that they were rosemary and went really well with the rest of the dish… all served on this sesame croquant (which the waiter said also had some nougat in it).
This is one of the best meals I’ve had in a while, not because I haven’t been eating well, but because it was exceptional. Every dish was unique, had a variety of flavours that worked very well, and as the waiter had promised, I didn’t walk out of the restaurant feeling overly full. I can’t wait to come back again, either at lunch or dinner, and try… well, every other dish that they serve!