Tuesday, March 25

2014 Chef Week at Blackbird

On the same day Blackbird was announced as a finalist for several 2014 James Beard Awards (Outstanding Pastry Chef: Dana Cree, Outstanding Restaurateur: Donnie Madia, Rising Star Chef of the Year: David Posey, Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America: Paul Kahan) I had the chance to check out their three-course Chicago Chef Week menu. As with Chicago Restaurant Week in February, Chef Week offers three- and four-course prix-fixe menus for $22 and $44, respectively. Several restaurants that do not participate in Restaurant Week often participate in Chef Week. Blackbird was one restaurant I was not able to get a reservation for in February, so it was on the top of my list for Chef Week.

My friend Sara and I met for a noon lunch on a Tuesday and the restaurant was as crowded as you'd expect during the weekday lunch rush. The restaurant is not huge, in fact, many of the tables are stacked fairly close to one another, reminiscent of NYC dining. We were seated not far from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the front of the restaurant, affording us a glimpse of sunlight, something I'm not always fortunate to see during the busy work week!

The Chef Week menu offered your choice of an appetizer, entree, and dessert, all for $22 (!). Blackbird always offers a three-course lunch menu for $25 that is quite similar if you're interested in checking it out.

Sara and I both chose the steak tartare for our appetizer. The portion was beautifully plated with radish, lemon, and a bed of rye berries and a spicy horseradish sauce. The steak had intense flavor and was extremely fresh. I loved how bright the greens were on top of the dish; it added a nice contrast to the blood red color of the steak tartare.

Steak Tartare
We also both ordered the same entree...great minds think alike! The monkfish was simply grilled and topped with salsify, black trumpet mushrooms, buckwheat, and grapefruit. The fish was light but we both weren't fans of the texture. The best part of the dish were the two tiny gnocchi buried underneath the fish. We both saved a gnocchi for our last bite. Would I order this again? Probably not.

Wood-grilled Monkfish
The dessert menu offered two options, a cake and a winter ice cream. For this course, we each chose a different option. I selected the steamed pumpkin cake with toasted coconut frozen custard, toffee peanuts, and sage. Our server poured cream over the cake table-side which added weight to the airy cake. The sprinkled sage on top was an amazing pairing. Who knew such a savory flavor could add so much complexity!

Steamed Pumpkin Cake 
Steamed Pumpkin Cake
Sara tried the winter coupe with mint ice cream, chocolate crumbs, fudge sauce, and fernet whipped cream. This was like a modern, classy version of a Thin Mint Girl Scout cookie, but 10 times better. The mint flavoring was like biting into a perfectly crisp mint leaf, not like that artificial mint you get in a Shamrock Shake. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the mint and chocolate combo.

Winter Coupe with Mint Ice Cream
Our meal at Blackbird was a special occasion, and a great pick for Chef Week. Are the portions small? Yes. Did I expect that? Yep. Would I go back? Absolutely. Just not for the monkfish...

I'm giving Blackbird 4 ghosts for their bright ambiance and complexity of flavors in each dish. Oh, did I mention their servers all looked like they stepped out of the pages of GQ?


Blackbird
www.blackbirdrestaurant.com
619 W. Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60661
312.715.0708
Blackbird on Urbanspoon

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