Friday, January 15, 2010

Blackbird Dining Establishment - Collingswood, NJ

There are a lot of restaurants in NJ that we have been looking forward to trying, and Blackbird definitely ranks in the Top. Our good Wine and Chowhound friends tom246 and DW have had nothing but great things to say about Blackbird, so let me tell you how excited I was to finally get the chance to visit Blackbird tonight. . Blackbird is a BYO located in Collingswood, NJ, which has quite a few other restaurants that we have tried, and others that we look forward to trying in the future. Chef/Owner Alex Capasso is a Chambersberg (Trenton), NJ native, and has given this restaurant a Franco-Italian flair, with a bit of Asian influence. He makes all of his pasta fresh, and has a menu of items ranging from Atlantic Salmon, to a Wagyu Beef Burger with Foie Gras, to Spring Rolls! The options are plenty, and they all have a very nice flair to them. . Tonight, we arrived and were greeted by Chef Capasso. We arrived a few minutes early as our table was being set up. Needless to say, his staff accommodated us promptly, and they were able to seat us at a nice banquette with a nice high leather back. The leather had a nice pattern to it, and was a gorgeous tannish/brown color that worked well with warm colored walls. . There was a very nice buzz throughout the restaurant tonight, and you could see almost all of the tables taking advantage of the BYO aspect. I thought that the restaurant was very well done, and was very comfortable and cozy, from the copper colored table tops, to the Wedgewood silverware. This too was a very nice touch, and you can tell that Chef Capasso likes to pay attention to the little details. Tonight, it paid off, and didn't go unnoticed. As always, being a BYO is something that we look for in a restaurant, as you all know we like to enjoy the wonderful wines from our cellar. Tonight we chose a 2006 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast, and it did not disappoint. Feel free to read my notes on this wine HERE. As always, kudos to Dan Kosta and Michael Browne for crafting such great, high octane fruit forward pinot noir. These wines can be a real treat! Despite 2006 being an "off vintage" so to say, these wines are still showing nicely, and continue to be a treat. We still however have not tried any of the single vineyard designates from the 2006 Kosta Browne lineup, although we did go 3 deep on them. . Our server tonight was Edward, and the service that he provided us was world class. He came over with menu's, and returned shortly after with nice Rona stemware for our wine. As always, we travel with our Riedel carry bag and two glasses that we selected that night for the wine we have chosen, but tonight, the Riedel's stayed in their case. It is definitely a bonus, and a very nice touch to find a restaurant that takes pride in their stemware. These glasses had a nice bowl(not in the Chianti sort of way), and I wish that more restaurants would furnish stems like these. . Edward then read us the nightly specials, and gave us a few minutes to peruse the menu. In the meantime, one of the staff came over with some delicious bread, served with a very light, and wonderful tasting olive oil. I really wish that I knew what kind of olive oil they used, because it was next to perfect. After looking at the menu, and reading about the homemade pasta's that Chef Capasso takes pride in, we figured we had to try at least one of them, so we opted for the half order of the handmade potato gnocchi with fresh mozzarella in a tomato basil sauce. This was an absolute treat, with the gnocchi being nice and light, with a very nice texture to them. These are by far the best gnocchi I have ever had since moving to NJ. If we could make the perfect sauce at home, this would be it. The sauce had a very nice texture, with a creamy, buttery influence to it. It almost had hints of a vodka sauce to it, and was a pleasure to taste. Zelda really appreciated the basil chiffonade, while I appreciated the small cubes of fresh mozzarella. There was a bit of a nutmeg taste in the sauce, which Zelda thinks can be attributed to the basil. I would have to agree. We actually asked Edward if the chef used nutmeg in his sauce, and Edward stated that he would send Chef Capasso over to our table when he got a chance. Needless to say, he did make the time to come over, however, he didn't give up his secret. Can you really blame him? Not a bit. He did however have a bit of an aura to him. I wouldn't call it cockiness or arrogance, but I would call it confidence. Regardless, we both appreciated that about him, and both found it warranted based on the quality of our appetizer. The only gripe that we have about this dish is that it did seem to be just a tad salty for our tastes. Regardless, it wasn't overwhelming in the least, and I did not find it offensive. For dinner, Zelda opted for the Coriander and Rice Crusted Tilapia, served over an avocado salad, with a sweet and sour sauce. She also opted for the seafood wonton add on. I will let her add her comments on this dish in the morning, but here are my thoughts: The fish was absolutely perfect, and the crust on it added a really nice flair. It couldn't have been cooked more perfectly, and it had just the right amount of crispness to it. The rice gave it a very nice crunch, but it is not rice in the way that you are picturing. It is almost as though the rice has been ground with the coriander, giving it a great texture. The tilapia paired very well with the avocado salad, however, Zelda first pointed out that the sweet and sour sauce overwhelmed the fish. It truly gave the dish a different dynamic, and I couldn't have agreed with her more. I would rather seen the sweet and sour Served on the side to go with the seafood wontons. To both of us, the sweet and sour overwhelmed the tilapia, and from the tastes that I had, I preferred the tilapia by itself, or with the avocado salad. Regardless, the main element of the dish was an A+. I on the other hand had a very hard time tonight choosing what I wanted to have as my entree. There were many choices, but it was the Wagyu Beef Burger with applewood smoked bacon, Gorgonzola, caramelized shallot, morel mushrooms and veal sauce with truffled pomme frittes on the side. I know what you are thinking! I too cannot believe that I am visiting an establishment like this and ordering a burger, but this was not to disappoint. The burger came out on a gorgeous bun, and after cutting it in half, it could not have been cooked any better to the temperature of medium. Why so many places struggle with burger temperature is beyond me, but they hit the nail on the head! A lot of people talk about how wagyu and kobe are overrated, but I will be the first to disagree. The flavor that the meat alone had was delicious, and I have never had a basic ground beef that was so flavorful. If anything, the bacon and mushrooms really masked how good the flavors of the wagyu were, but that was nothing that a little scraping couldn't take care of, just so I could get a good flavor for the burger. But the element that the mushroom, shallot, and applewood smoked bacon added to the burger was absolutely brilliant. I cannot think of a better combination for a high end burger. These flavors all melded together so nicely, and the different ingredients added such great flavor to the burger along with the Gorgonzola. I would be hard pressed to come up with a better combination, so kudos to the chef. After dinner, we had zero room for dessert, however, I found it necessary to give something a whirl. When Edward talked about this dish, the Chocolate 3-Ways, I had to try it. I think Zelda gave me a look as though I was crazy when I said we would try that, as we were both stuffed. Regardless, our dessert came out and contained 3 different elements: Chocolate Profiterole, Milk Chocolate Pot De Crème, and Warm Chocolate Cake. I will be the first to say that I am not a chocolate lover, and unlike Zelda, I would rather have something fruity or dessert. This however is a no brainer, and I could eat this over and over. It really gave me a new appreciation for chocolate based desserts! The profiterole was easily my favorite, and had such a great, velvety texture to it. My second favorite was the Pot De Creme, with it's great rich flavors, yet it was light and airy. The creme on top was absolute heaven. Finally, the warm chocolate cake was just that. I could eat these by the handful, and would love to have this again! In short, this is a great restaurant, with a great chef and owner, nice ambiance, outstanding service, and amazing cuisine. I have to say that it has been years since I have left a restaurant so stuffed, and my belly was as happy as could be. There is nothing at all I would change about this restaurant, and I think that they have earned the reputation that they have established. Kudos to Chef Capasso and his staff for giving us such a unique experience! It was one of the best "dates" we have had in a long time, and we look forward to our next trip back to Blackbird soon! Saluti! Blackbird Dining Establishment 619 Collings Avenue Collingswood, NJ 08107 Phone: (856)854-3444


George Veitengruber said...

i'm starving just reading this review

NJFoodies said...

Thanks George! It's a great place, and if you have never been, I highly recommend it! If you guys ever want to go, say the word! I'll bring the wine if you wanna drive! ;-) Cheers!

South jersey Wine & Dine said...

F. Scott

Great review on a restaurant that I have always wanted to try and have no excuse for not having been there as we practically live in Collingswood restaurants on Friday nights.

I will rectify my mistake immediately and make rerservations.

Thanks for the reminder!