Blackbird

619 W Randolph St. Chicago, IL 60661(312) 715-0708blackbirdrestaurant.com

Image result for blackbird chicago

The first thing that struck me when I entered Blackbird was that the décor is very white without a morsel of black to be found anywhere, ironically. The other thing I noticed is that while the service is very friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, they are also unbelievably slow, to the point of distraction, taking 40 minutes just to take our order and that was only because I flagged him down. Not even bread or drinks came in this time. And once they did, our waiter dripped the wine all over the table and down the sides of the glass EVERY time he poured it. It was so bad I think I’ve seen less dribbling in the United Center!

Fortunately the wine was good (what was left of it after he dripped most of it on the table) and the Port of Call cocktail is just awesome and it comes with significantly less dripping, unless it’s self-inflicted. Also, I do want to mention that the wine list has some solid, affordable options and the bread was warm and yummy, served with a curried butter.

It was from that point on that Blackbird soared, from a tasty amuse bouche to a trio of incredible appetizers that resoundingly affirmed that this chef de cuisine got game!

The most creative of the three would be the panzanella salad made with sweetbreads and sweet bread. A fun play on words and ingredients, using Hawaiian bread as a sweet counterweight to the savory glands. As was the raspberry vinaigrette. But as good as it was, it was actually the weakest of the three, best by the turnip and foie gras soup. So creamy and rich you should have to pay luxury tax on every spoonful. And my favorite of the three, the endive salad, believe it or not. Served in a stunning bird’s nest (pictured) with a poached egg, crispy potato, basil, pancetta and dijon. Relatively simple, but positively brilliant.

Both entrees I tried were exceptional as well. Completely apples and oranges, but each superb in their own right. The halibut is perfectly cooked and artfully accompanied by peekytoe crab and gooseberries. It was also somehow both decadent (duck fat) and light at the same time. Whereas the beef striploin was a full on savory-palooza, cooked to perfection and surrounded by a wonderful chanterelle moat with additions of quince, horseradish and crispy polenta planks. Masterful!

The only miss of the night was the carrot cake, and by miss I actually mean that it was good, but in comparison to the complimentary eclair and the white chocolate bar I would skip it, because that complimentary duo beats the cream cheese out of that cake 10 times out of 10, and I’ve a HUGE carrot cake fan, so this is saying a lot.

What’s also saying a lot is that not since the Purple Pig have I had a meal this good in Chicago. Granted I haven’t been to Alinea yet, so stay tuned.

4 teeth

Advertisements

Perry St.

176 Perry St. New York, NY 10014(212) 352-1900 • perrystrestaurant.com

perry_st_gallery_028

Jean, Jean, Jean… Is it possible that after SO many restaurants you are finally starting to spread yourself too thin? Not to take anything away from you, because quite frankly I think you’ve done the impossible. I can’t think of one other chef in the Tri-State who has as many truly great restaurants. So give yourself a pat on the back for Jean-Georges, Mercer Kitchen, ABC Kitchen, ABC Cocina and The Inn at Pound Ridge. But not even Babe Ruth batted a thousand, so I am sad to report that Perry St. might be Jean’s first brush with mortality.

Of course I am only speaking in terms of comparability, because Perry St. is still good by all normal human accounts. But no one ever accused me of being normal, and neither is Jean, so when you play the game at a higher level, the bad news is that you have to keep it up. And since Perry St. was listed on many a “Top Ten” list of 2015, the hype bar was set only that much higher.

The knives started falling early as we entered to one of Jean’s least impressive décor’s yet. Sure, it’s clean and contemporary, but it also feels a lot like a trendy hotel lobby and nowhere near as nice as his last three openings. But that’s not even why I’m docking the knives. It’s more because of the flow, or lack thereof. You see, the hostess, while stunning in appearance, is equally stunning-ly bad in seating parties with reservations in a semi-timely manner. As a result, the sliver of a bar area becomes so over-crowded and noisy that it takes away from any attempt at elegance for the surrounding tables, which is about 50% of the restaurant. Then there are the back corners of the dining room, both left and right, which are so secluded that no one would ever want to sit there, especially the one on the right, across from the bathrooms, which have their own issues as well. Now I’m not exactly sure what the hold up was, but let’s just say there’s a bit of a logjam at the ole WC, causing a line so long they actually have a sofa there in case your knees buckle from the wait.

Once seated at our table, however, things did take a turn for the better, thankfully. Our waiter was attentive and the food was good. Sadly not quite as spectacular as one might be led to believe from all the press and Yelpers, but definitely good.

Of the starters I would say Perry went two-for-two, the winners being the Spanish octopus with Romanesco sauce, pickled peppers and potatoes. It’s not quite an Ultimate, but it’s just about as close as it gets. The other winner is the shockingly delicious mushroom dish. In fact, they are so awesome that you owe it to yourselves to get an order in the middle to share.

Equally shocking, unfortunately, is that one of the misses is actually the seared foie gras. Nowhere near as transcendent as it should be for such a guilty pleasure. I mean c’mon, if you’re gonna torture a goose, at least make it worth the ride.

The other miss for me was the snapper sashimi. Not only did I find it to be very basic, the one touch of inventiveness made it feel as if you were chewing on bits of seashell and sand along with the fish.

The entrees rallied strong though with the lemongrass lobster. It’s excellent and worth every pretty penny. As is the duck. The beef tenderloin proved to be the weakest of the three, served with broccoli, broccoli pesto and chimichurri. The steak itself is cooked like a champ. Charred on the outside, moist and pink on the inside. But the flavors of the pesto and chimichurri just didn’t wow, which is especially surprising because the tenderloin is always one of the best dishes at The Inn at Pound Ridge, no matter what the preparation du jour, so I thought I was golden. But apparently I was just bronze.

Dessert also served up a mixed bag, the better of the two being the passion fruit soufflé with passion fruit sorbet. It’s done very well, but doubling down on the same flavor seems like a bit of a missed opportunity. Whereas the brown butter carrot cake was just okay. Nothing I would ever sing about. Not that I should ever be singing with my voice.

So, without a single Ultimate and an admittedly clunky experience I have a hard time giving Perry the thumbs up. But there are many strong dishes to be had, so I can’t exactly give it the Julius Caesar either. Which leaves us with…

3 teeth

Village Social

251 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 864-1255 villagesocialkb.com

10

Once upon a time we discovered Village Social as a plan B, because our plan A had a 30 min wait and we had a three year old in tow. But what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be. So much so that it has often become a plan A ever since. This place is a true jack of all trades, as they manage to do a number of things very well in a host of different cuisines.

Plus, the service is always friendly and accommodating which is another major win. The prices are reasonable- win/win. And the decor is as cool as anything you’d find in the city, so win/win/win. Granted, I know it’s located in a mini strip mall, but once you’re inside you’d never know it.

As for specifics among the varying dishes we’ve had over the years I’d have to give the biggest shout outs to two specials. The first was a burger dressed in a miso marinade with spicy serrano ham and manchego- the combination of flavors was brilliant together. The regular “on menu” 251 burger is good too, but by comparison, let’s just say I wish they’d make that special burger full time.

The other killer special was a carrot cake so wonderful it quite handily holds the title of Ultimate. And I fancy myself a bit of a carrot cake connoisseur (without credentials). In fact I loved it so much that I keep begging them to bring it back. So far, it’s slow going, but if you help me get it on the permanent menu, I promise to share.

The third best gem of the Village is actually on the menu, hallelujah! The scallops. They’re always perfectly cooked and fantastic. Then I’d probably recommend one of the pizzas or the black kale salad.

The short rib grilled cheese is also pretty good, but compared to the sammies at Melts in Armonk, it’s more of a one note deal. A good note, but not quite as interesting.

Another dessert worth getting is the ice cream. It’s SoCo, so no kudos to VS, other then for the good judgement in sourcing, but good nonetheless. I personally recommend the coconut chocolate brownie.

Oh, and speaking of smart sourcing, Alagash White on tap is always a crowd-pleaser. And so are some of their organic wines by the glass. Much better than the usual mediocrity that so often finds its way onto by-the-glass lists.

After that, the drop off gets pretty steep. Lots of hit and miss. Otherwise I’d easily hand them a hearty four knives, but if they promise to bring back that carrot cake and/or the special burger, I promise to up it

3 teeth

Carbone

181 Thompson St. New York, NY 10012 • (212) 254-3000 • carbonenewyork.com

screen-capture-9

Once again, I scratch my head at the Yelping consensus. To give this place less than four stars while scores of lesser restaurants enjoy the same inflated rating for shit that isn’t even worthy of half that praise is borderline criminal. And unfortunately getting foodie legislation passed is slow going, so I will attempt to right these wrongs one review at a time.

Here it goes… If you’ve ever eaten at Il Torrisi, than you pretty much know what you’re in for, more awesome Italian.

The highlights are easily the veal parm (best I’ve ever had… as well as largest) and a special raviolini that was so layered with flavors it took a good 3 minutes of chewing before I felt like I had truly tasted all it had to offer. Definitely one of the best pasta dishes ever to grace my chops.

Also quite toothsome was the wine and the garlic bread with fresh mozzarella.

On the mortal side of things were the stuffed clams and the langoustines, with the only flat out miss being the carrot cake. They should take it off the menu. Along with the napoleon cookies they serve complimentary. Neither are worth the calories, or a knife.

As for décor, I really love the vibe of this place, from the sign out front right down to the colorful, unique plates and blue walls.

And service is solid, knowledgeable, friendly and comfortable- with a touch of New York swagger, which I obviously don’t mind. As a result, the place feels like it’s been around forever somehow. In a good way.

4 teeth