On the arguably hottest day of (the ridiculously early) spring, I decided it sounded like a great idea to ride my bike all the way to Blackbird Kitchen + Bar, a new restaurant in downtown. Yah… not so much. But the fact that I was sweaty, hungry, and in desperate need of something cold to drink wasn’t going to dampen my excitement! I couldn’t wait to try this new spot that looked like it had all the makings for a great new haunt. And let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.
Located on 9th between J and K, you can’t miss the facade. It’s quite stunning, in fact. The mural is at the same time noticeable, and yet not. Okay, so I guess you can miss it, because I rode my bike past it without even knowing it. Then when I crossed the street to park my bike, I was stunned I hadn’t noticed it before. Open your eyes, Quaid, open your eyes. Okay, I know he says “mind,” but just go with me here.
Upon walking in, I immediately felt the vibe of the place: fun, accessible, and, I can’t think of any other word to use… “nice.” The intial “taste” of a restaurant you get is the first person you see when you walk through the door. How you are greeted can set the stage for the entire experience and make or break it for me. On this evening, the hostess was ready with a friendly smile and gave me even better news: we were getting the last table. I guess the patron saint of Women-who-stupidly-think-it’s-a-great-idea-to-bike-across-town-on-a-freakishly-hot-day-in-April was watching over me.
Chef/owner Carina Lampkin gets inspiration from the sea and the local farmers’ market. Which, along with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, just happen to be two of my favorite things. It’s a great place for a pescetarian like me. If you’re a full-on vegetarian… maybe not so much. The vegetarian items include a salad and a soup, which is typically served with an egg. However, if you enjoy the bounty of the sea (try saying that seriously without laughing), then this is the place for you.
Happy hour is a fabulous time to try it out. Their offerings include $1 miyagi oysters, $2 fish tacos, and $5 lobster mini roll. For the drinkers out there, they have $4 glasses of red or white (these supposedly change daily), $4 margaritas, and $3 beer. The full menu is also available, so you can mix and match to your heart’s content.
Today, we decided to go with 6 miyagi, and mix with 4 beau soleil and 4 kumamotos. They’re served with the traditional accoutrements of mignonette, lemon, and cocktail sauce. I really enjoy tasting a restaurant’s mignonette and this was quite good!
As for the other two selections, the aforementioned fish taco and lobster roll filled the bill. The lobster roll is on griddled brioche with upland cress. I really enjoyed this, though wish I could have gotten two. Two for the price of $10 was a bit much for me to swallow, however, no pun intended. The fish tacos were really tasty… fried cod with cabbage and a chipotle crema. The fish was crunchy, without being overly breaded, and the proportions were perfect. Not too much cabbage, not too little spread.
It was a difficult decision of what to get from the regular menu, but we settled on arctic char and dayboat scallops. I was extremely curious about the arctic char after seeing on the menu online and knew I had to get this. It’s served with housemade kimchi, a honey-soy reduction, micro cilantro, and black lava salt.
It’s difficult to properly cook scallops and even more challenging, I suppose, to find scallops that are good enough to serve raw. This dish was served with a green pea puree, pink peppercorns, and asparagus, with lemon oil. The textural variety on this was excellent. The softness of the scallops was perfectly balanced by the crunchiness of the asparagus. There was also a special surprise of a bit of radish to really add more punch to it and balance the sweetness of the scallops.
Moving on to ambience and service. These were both stellar. The server, whom I had known from another restaurant, was spot on with everything. The only negative I could say would be the noise level. We were seated upstairs against the back wall, with sound freely bouncing off the walls. This was only punctuated by the shrill voice of a woman at the table next to us.
I am anxious to go back and try out their cooked items, like the asparagus soup, beer popped mussels, lobster and beet salad, and squid ink fettucini. Oh and the applewood smoked clam and seafood chowder. And the kona kampachi… and the… okay, pretty much everything but the blackbird burger, which, if I ate beef, sounds delish (bacon, avo, onion, white cheddar, pickled vegetables).
Price: $$.5/5 (note: the two non-happy hour plates we got were $9, which is incredible for what you’re getting. Good luck getting the quality and amount at a place like Mikuni. In addition to that, the oysters are very competitively priced.)
Happy hour: Tues-Fri, 4:00-6:00
1015 9th Street
I don’t know if they take reservations or not. But go check it out… but don’t take my table! ;-p
How did I miss this facade?!