My incredibly handsome and amazing boyfriend treated me to Blackbird for dinner on my 29th birthday. I had a very low key day. It was our first day back to the office after the three day Memorial Day weekend. My manager and director were both out of the office on vacation. The wouses and I walked over to Citizen Bar for lunch and I left early to get my hair cut. I chopped off about 7 inches and donated it for the oil spill. Yes, I know that this won’t really make an impact on the spill, but I’m sure every little bit counts.
Ernie planned dinner for 7:30pm at Blackbird. I donned my cute purple graduation dress since I figured it could be a birthday dress too! I think it’s the same group that owns Publican and Avec and I’ve heard great things about the food. We walked up and it wasn’t very busy inside, perhaps because it was a Tuesday evening. We decided to sit on the sidewalk out front under large white umbrellas. The hostess brought me a table hook for my purse which I thought was a nice touch.
A server brought over waters, silverware and some multi-grain breads with rosemary covered butter. I didn’t even notice the bread until I saw Ernie had eaten half the chunk of butter already! I guess it must have been pretty good. Our primary server (who I don't think was wearing a bra) offered us the fixed tasting menu, but at $95 each, we passed on this decadence.
To start, we ordered the Crispy Maryland soft shell crab. It was served with honey custard, edamame already shelled, yuba (what the heck is that?) and soy caramel. It was quite a show trying to order since it felt like the complicated menu wasn’t even printed in English. Everything was written in some fancy description with cryptic words that I’m convinced aren’t even real. At times like this, I feel like I wouldn’t make a very good socialite. It reminds me of this one time when I went to Vegas for work. Not only did we stay in our own suites at the Bellagio (bigger than my entire condo), we dined at the Wynn Hotel’s steak restaurant. When we sat down, I had no idea how to order off the special extensive steak list. I was so embarrassed and uncomfortable having grown up in a middle-class family who would never go for indulgences like a $2000 dinner. I didn’t even enjoy it all that much and just felt guilty that we were wasting so much money.
At Blackbird, thankfully it wasn’t a $2000 meal though it is certainly more than Ernie and I usually spend on food. As you can see from my previous blog entries, we generally go to low-key eateries and only visit to nicer restaurants for celebrations. The outdoor seating was a nice way to enjoy the mildly warm weather, the only downside are the cars zooming by on the street. The server brought our Riesling and the soft shelled crab already pre-split onto two dishes. The crab was delicious and very meaty. Sometimes you can get soft shell crab that’s all shell or over-fried, but this one was nicely cooked with a little rice flour coating and filled with juicy meat. The sauce was light and creamy but not too filling.
For dinner, I ordered the halibut. The menu said “Slow-cooked halibut with uni, black trumpet mushrooms, spring radishes, baby parsnips and ramps.” I didn’t know what uni was, but apparently it’s a white fish and they cut it into cubes and age it for a few days. I also don’t know what ramps are and couldn’t really distinguish what they were on the plate. Nevertheless, the fish was delicious. The portions were quite small and the large white plates made them look even smaller. Even though I finished every last bit, I was actually quite full and satisfied with the portion. The fish was so tender and cooked so the outside was crispy and the inside was warm the whole way through. I couldn’t tell the difference in taste from the halibut to the uni as they were very similar. The vegetables were light and extremely fresh just barely cooked so they were still full of flavor. The mushrooms were the most delish.
Ernie ordered the walleye (we both like white fish!). His dish came with green papaya, dandelion greens, walnuts with charred beef vinaigrette. I only had a small piece of the walleye so I didn’t get a sense of the whole flavor in the dish. The fish, however, was also excellent; it was very light and flaky with a larger sized portion. Don't you love the background of Chicago's skyline behind Ernie?
It started raining just as we finished our last bites so we sat inside at the bar to finish our second glass of Riesling. The décor was very bright, with benched seating along the east side of the restaurant. The clientele was a complete mix of people from a teenager wearing a flat brimmed baseball cap and jeans dining with his family, to upscale business men in suits and several couples of all walks of life.
We debated desert but after looking at the menu, the only gluten-free option was a cheese plate which didn’t sound terribly appealing when we were craving a sweet treat. I watched the bartender mix and shake a few drinks and we closed out our check.
619 W. Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60661