Sunday, February 28, 2010

Restaurant Week Continued

After trying and trying to get a Restaurant Week reservation at Blackbird, I finally scored one, though it wasn't until 9:00p.m.  I was hoping that would mean it wouldn't be terribly crowded, but I was very very wrong.  Blackbird is located at 619 W. Randolph and its website is

I had never even seen Blackbird before, but I have heard some tremendous things about it.  We got off of the Green Line at Clinton and walked the block and a half to the restaurant.  We passed its large plate glass window and saw an extremely crowded front room that was long and narrow.  We entered and told the hostess that we were ready.  She took our coats and started leading us through the crowd toward the back of the restaurant.  I thought to myself, "great, we will get a seat in the back room."  Little did I know a back room did not exist, but I also did not see a table for us to sit at.  However, she led us to a table that I was 100% sure was part of another table since it was so close to each adjacent table.  Since there was no other place to go, I reluctantly accepted the table.

We both ordered the same appetizer, the mussel soup with saffron and garlic.  The mussels were very good, but the soup was a bit spicy.  I enjoyed it, but I did feel like they could have toned down the heat a bit.

For my main dish, I ordered the skate wing with spaghetti squash and orange sauce.  Firstly, it was the most perfect looking skate wing that I have ever seen.  It was like something you would see in a cookbook.  I have cooked skate many many times and have never had it look anything like the Blackbird skate.  It was lightly crunchy, and very juicy, though it had just a touch too much salt on it.  The orange sauce was the perfect complement to cut through the saltiness of the fish.  I really wish they had served it with more sauce since I ran out about halfway through.  The spaghetti squash had some interesting texture but  I didn't feel like it added very much to the dish. 

Michelle had the duck breast with a raisin sauce and sauerkraut dusted potatoes.  The duck, as the skate, was perfectly cooked to a medium rare.  The raisin sauce was deeply flavorful and married with the fatty duck.  The potatoes tasted like a rich man's sour cream & onion Pringle.  I liked the tartness of the potatoes with the sweetness of the duck and sauce.  However, it also came with some sort of house-made sausage that was awful.  The taste was bad, the texture was bad.  It was a bit of a trainwreck.  Fortunately it could be simply taken off so you didn't have to worry about it too much.

We finished off with dessert.  I had a relatively classic flourless chocolate cake with a tonka bean ice cream (tastes like a more complex vanilla).  The cake was soft, had a whole bunch of chocolate flavor, and, obviously, went well with the ice cream.  Michelle had something that could only be described as a rearranged cheesecake.  It had something that resembled a cream cheese ice cream, then it had a bunch of citrus flavors, like orange, to round out the dish. 

The big question is whether I would go back.  I'm not sure if I've ever been less able to answer that question about a restaurant than I am about Blackbird.  It had way too many tables packed into a small area.  I eyeballed about 7" between tables.  This probably would be fine if everyone acted calmly and spoke at a normal volume; however, we got seated next to a jackass who was trying to impress his date with all sorts of obnoxious stories about cruises down the Rhine river and his dry cleaning.  It was awful to the point that I think I would have rather been next to the insufferable children from Nella Pizzeria than this guy.  I think I would go back for next year's restaurant week, and perhaps on a normal day if I could get some guarantee that I wouldn't be nearly sitting at another party's table.

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