Tuesday, April 20, 2010

#63 - Blackbird

We love Blackbird because it's delicious.

We love Blackbird because the staff is spectacular.

We love Blackbird because it always surprises the hell out of us.

For us, when discussing the best restaurants in Chicago, it begins and ends with Blackbird.

Last night reaffirmed those notions and may have even upped the ante. Best experience yet.

Starter bubbly: French brut rosé

A gift. Weren't told the specific wine. Strawberry notes with a nice delicacy and vibrant bubbles. Not on the list.

Amuse Bouche: Asian carp with black garlic

I'm guessing Asian carp (from Google searches). Didn't hear what it was and didn't ask. Very soft fish with a refined punch of black garlic. Tasty.

Appetizers: Crab tail and duck sausage with mortadella

Alaskan king crab tail with ricotta mayo, sunchokes, smoked paprika and pickled parsley paired witha glass of 2007 Regis Cruchet Demi-Sec Vouvray

Charcuterie plate of duck sausage and mortadella with lobster roe vinaigrette and almond yogurt (?) paired with a glass of 2008 Domaine Ostertag Alsace Riesling

The Vouvray was different than other demi-secs we've had. Solid fruit with very pleasing dried flowers but it seemed to enter and finish in the opposite order than other demi-secs in my experience, starting with dried flowers and finishing with an expanding fruit and honey note. Good stuff and a solid pairing. But freakin' genius with a parsley bite.

The Alsatian Riesling had a stylish and elegant purity to it that felt almost ethereal. Flowery with candied stone fruit notes and only a wee hint of sugar. Minerals and a hint of herbs. Loved it. And liked it well enough with the duck sausage (which was spectacular) and mortadella (which was the best I've ever had - can't beat fancy bologna).

Intermezzo: Half-order of crispy black bass with green papaya, dandelion greens, walnuts and charred beef vinaigrette

A gift. Great browning on the fish and terrific, julienned green papaya. We were hesitant to order it as an entrée, mainly due to the dandelion greens, which we had a few times during a very brief phase about a year ago and went "those are awful!" These were hidden. Iffy to say if we would have loved it as an entrée but both of us thought it was insanely balanced and infinitely tasty. The sort of glazed walnut clusters really elevated it as well.

Paired with a Napa Chardonnay that our server - who shall remain nameless but is our favorite server in the city by far, always gives us interesting recommendations, lets us try stuff, gives us way too much free stuff and is just overall 50% of the reason Blackbird rules - was trying at the bar and gave to us in a futile attempt to get us to open up to Chardonnay. Nope. Still don't get the allure.

Entrées: Lamb Saddle and Wagyu Flat Iron

Roasted colorado lamb saddle with white asparagus, vermouth, fromage blanc and spring pea falafel

Grilled wagyu flat iron and warm bone marrow with pickled cippolini onions, caraway crumble, chickweed and pomegranate molasses

Lovely lamb, mild and sweet and gamey and lovely. Beautifully-prepared piece of tender meat and the best quenelle-ish falafel Mrs. Ney has EVER had (and the second time in a week we've had sweet pea in some modified form). We prefer the bone-in, more gnarly lamb incarnation but it was tasty nonetheless.

Different preparation of wagyu than I've had. A smokiness reminiscent of spectacular BBQ by itself and more dense, less buttery style. But eaten with the shockingly wonderful caraway crumble (I wanted to have its babies), some onion and a little green, I'd probably put it in the top 20 of the best bites ever (that list now has about 72 things on it). The bone marrow was a tad superfluous (and didn't have a chance after Lola's bone marrow appetizer).

Entrée Wine Pairing: 2005 Domaine Gourt de Mautens Rasteau

We're relative Rhône novices and had never drunk a Rasteau before. Recommended by our server to pair with the entrées, it's predominantly Grenache with a touch of Mourvèdre. Small producer, impossible to find.

Rasteau mainly grows Grenache and is located just east of Carianne and north of Gigondas in the Rhône valley.

Purple in the glass with blue edges. Medium-bodied. Meat and pepper right away but after ten minutes or so, this exploded with huge blueberries and a quality background of violets, some earthy grit and a hint of sweet herbs. Kept subtly changing with the intensity of the blueberries fading in and out, changing over to red fruits at times. In its blueberry phase, I would have thought it was strange, wonderful and less dense Syrah. Overall, it was delicious and liked it even more after the bottle was finished and had some time to process it.

If this is Rasteau, I want more Rasteau. It wasn't great with the lamb due to the fact that the lamb preparation was more on the delicate side with softer flavors that didn't match up with the earth and herbs in the wine. Fell just on the other side of the fence of being too big for the dish. With the wagyu, it fell right in line with nearly every note. Heck, the wine could even had been a bit bigger with this preparation of wagyu. Mrs. Ney thought the exact opposite with the lamb being a much better pairing than the wagyu.

Pre-dessert: Rhubarb sorbet with quinoa

A gift. Quinoa and sorbet? Yes. And it's good.

Dessert: Hazelnut and chocolate

Hazelnut dacquoise with espresso, crispy chicory caramel and apricot kernel sherbet

Criollo chocolate with cupuaçu, milk meringue and tonka bean ice cream

The dacquoise (funny word to say) was the better of the two but the chocolate dish had elements like the tonka bean and cupuaçu that I've never had before with everything having a pleasant wild grittiness to it.

But that dacquoise. Wow! Like butter.

The hazelnut dessert was paired with a 2006 Francis Tannahill "Passito" Oregon Gewürztraminer while the chocolate was paired with a darker sparkling rosé, probably a French bubbly left on the skins a bit longer, that wasn't on the list. Both gifts. Had them before and liked them enough.

Everything topped off with double espressos and a Grappa made from Barolo. See you in five years, Grappa. Still don't get you.

But Blackbird, oh Blackbird! See you very soon. Much sooner than the six months in between the last two visits.

And the window seat on a slow night made it that much better.

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