So Tomorrow --- Blackbird
I enjoyed a splendid lunch at Blackbird. A wonderful way to end a year of eating. The food at Blackbird really flies. At its best Chef Kahan's cuisine is as creative and accomplished as any chef in town, perhaps less elaborated but with a startling and compelling mixture of tastes and textures.
I began with baby octopus confit with braised chestnuts, empire apples, pea tendrils and sassafras caramel. This construction was as fascinating and wildly textured as any appetizer I have had for awhile. Chewy, crackly, smooth and crunchy. Sweet and just a bit sour. A truly magnificent dish.
As an entree I selected slow roasted duck with fried byrd mill grits, citrus brussel sprouts and puffed wild rice. I was blown away by the finely threaded brussel sprouts - the emotional heart of the dish. The duck, grits and rice, well-cooked, played a supporting role.
Dessert was a beautifully composed mission fig beignet with cara cara oranges, butterscotch and bacon ice cream. I have been rather critical of desserts as late, but not this. Like the appetizer, this was one of the most sensational and brilliant desserts of the year. The bacon ice cream seemed simultaneously surprising and totally natural. What a lovely way to end the year.
Why then is Blackbird not often listed in the company with other four star restaurants, where, by virtue of the food it belongs? When Blackbird opened a decade ago it was sleek and chic. But time has taken a toll on the restaurant. The restaurant no longer seems as stylish as it had once been. The plates don't need to be refreshed, but the tables might be. The room is so 1999! The food is so tomorrow!
619 Randolph Street (West Loop)
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