I've blathered on about Blackbird on numerous occasions. Our last visit in April (#63) was the best experience we'd ever had there.
Last night fell somewhere in the middle of the pack.
To plagarize myself and put it into context:
"Blackbird is consistently innovative, always right on in preparation, never stuffy and always filling. As with every great meal, you remember the little things. The French toast on the sweet corn bourvois, the sesame gnocchi on the short rib, the wine pairing with the pork collar and the fact that the octopus confit made us reconsider octopus, period."
While we had a good meal last night and our waiter (half the reason we go there) was his usual great with some fantastic recommendations and conversation, it was the little touches that we missed, if only the slightest bit.
Both of us thought that in our experience at Blackbird, it's always been the fall menus that made us wet our pants. In the fall, a chef is allowed to mess around with bolder, more intricate and layered flavors instead of making sure to first keep it light, which usually leads to a lot of in-season fruit and veggie play with only accents of darker, more brooding flavors. It's about the freshness; that's nice and welcome and this was. It just wasn't as memorable as other times (and seasons), something that has translated to other restaurants in town as well for us.
Summer seems to box in even the best chefs in our food world, at least with regards to what we typically want, which usually is a surprising freshness popping up instead of 'fresh and bright' being the obvious, overarching and immediate theme.
That said, great meal, great service, good time. Blackbird will always be something we look forward to with a giddy intensity.
Started with two glasses of NV Marguet Pere & Fils Grand Cru Rosé Ambonnay. Mouth-wateringly delicious and is becoming an anticipated flavor from the restaurant. Just beautiful with an elegant touch of rose petals and strawberry skin. 65% Chardonnay/35% Pinot Noir and the pinot essence really shows up for the party.
Glazed veal sweetbreads with with lime onions, tamarind, bee pollen and fried chocolate
Swan creek farm suckling pig with lillet-stewed apricots, snow peas, water chestnuts and beer vinaigrette
Succulent sweetbreads and not so succulent suckling pig. Fell a touch flat. The accompaniments to the sweetbreads sounded great but the bee pollen may have been too subtle and the fried chocolate was maybe too delicate to offer something darker. Both were delicious enough but I honestly had to pause and think of the sweetbreads' party friends as I wrote this.
Intermezzo of pork loin with beets and apricots.
Tasty pork and the thinly-sliced swirled beets added a bright earth and textural contrast. Darn good stuff with the wine, which I'll get to.
Stuffed bobwhite quail with black cumin sausage, charred avocado and house-made giardiniera
Grilled wagyu tri tip with artichoke, figs, sprouting granola and cassia bud
The stuffed quail balls were the star of the night. Perfectly cooked and just danced. The charred avocado purée with the quail = freaky great. A bite of everything came off like the one of the best taco fillings I'd ever had. Quail tacos? Seems like a lot of work but bet they'd be delicious.
Both of us wouldn't have known the tri-tip was wagyu if we hadn't read it on the menu. Wasn't great. Good, just wasn't great. The sprouting granola and cassia was inspired but couldn't lift the beef out of the ordinary.
Pre-dessert of cherry sorbet with cocoa nib and bruléed banana
Fried polenta with klug farms blueberries, lemon verbena and smoked brown sugar ice cream
Dark chocolate gateau with cocoa nib crumble and caramel schmear
Dessert heaven in many ways. Served with two glasses of Barros 1977 Colheita Tawny Port which...23 year-old port...come on...that's decadent. All subtle caramel and fig with a delicately syrupy texture with a kick of alcohol at the end that gently and gracefully disappeared.
Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault. Grenache-heavy and dominant. Great pure fruit here showing the typical Grenache red raspberry flavors with a hint of cherry serving as a consistent supporting actor throughout. Pleasing spice with cinnamon/nutmeg and a fruitcake note (which I realized, "that was it!" after reading a description). Medium-bodied with a incredibly long finish that constantly changed throughout the meal.
As a pairing, it served admirably with virtually everything. Oddly, the wagyu tri-tip might have been the best. For a medium-weight meal, a wine showing a medium weight and pure juiciness really couldn't have been better. Added a lot to the overall experience and even picked up some elements by the back of their pants to help it along. Seek it out. $50 retail right now for a pretty great Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Can't beat that.
It was a good meal, a fine meal, a meal I would probably eat next week and be entirely happy and full.
I just don't know if I'll remember much of it a month from now.
Expect for the wine...and stuffed quail balls...which is fun to say.