Foodtrip: Blackbird

Occupying what was formerly the air control tower of the Nielson Airport (the country’s first commercial international airport which operated from 1937 – 1942, and 1946 – 1947), Blackbird might well be the hottest and chicest restaurant in Makati right now and as soon as you enter its doors, you get a clear picture why: a lounge of understated glamour greets you leading up to a well-lit, high-ceilinged dining area with the circular staircase leading up to the tower as a focal point.

Everything inside is simple, and the whitewashed walls contrasting with the black window panes can sometimes evoke a spartan feel. But what I instantly notice is that while you can clearly see all the other diners (no couch sitting here), there is ample space between tables to prevent eavesdropping.

During my first visit, the hubby and I ordered the Blackbird fish pie and leaf salad. The fish pie, had salmon, trout and shrimps heated up in a creamy sauce underneath a hefty crust of mashed potatoes. For a dish that had tasty ingredients, it was a little bland – I had to inspect each bite to determine what I was stuffing into my mouth (salmon or trout?) And drizzle it with lots of salt and pepper. The best thing I could come up about it was that I didn’t get a crazy allergy attack after, which meant the fish and shrimps used were fresh and cleaned very well. The salad, a mix of plain green vegetables with vinaigrette, was ok – fresh, simple, just the way we like it.

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We had originally planned on having tea at TWG or the Pen (which was across the street) since I had been craving scones but we found out that they also serve tea at Blackbird so why not try it, right? We got their cream tea, served with four scones, clotted cheese and jelly.

And which turned out to be such a disappointment I wanted to hightail it have tea somewhere. The scones were dry, tasteless and crusty versions of the beloved pandesal and if not for the cream and jelly, it would probably have gone to waste at our table. It was just such a far cry from the scones I have grown used to. Definitely not ordering this again. And at Php 780, it is rather overpriced.

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I was not quite ready to write off Blackbird given that hubby himself had been raving about this place, so I decided a second visit was necessary.

For starters, we got the crispy soft shell crab, served with cauliflower puree and mint. The crab’s very soft and the mild-tasting puree was a unique foil for it. Serving’s a bit small but if you plan on sharing several dishes, one plate should be okay for two. So far so good.

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Blackbird has several pizza variants which accordin to our server, are all bestsellers, so we picked the safest one on the menu and got the Italian sausage pizza with rosemary and chili. I loved it – the crust wasn’t dry or too thick but it was filling enough and the toppings were sparingly used, ensuring that not one of the ingredients overpowered the others.

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For our mains, we got the grilled pork belly, which was served with noodle salad and chili sauce. This is one of my favorite dishes – the noodle salad with cilantro and fresh carrots and the pork belly is a match made in heaven. Kind of reminds me of my long-ago trip to Vietnam; it had that freshness to it and I would definitely order this dish again.

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My other favorite dish is the lasagna. This version had a healthy dose of portobello mushrooms and asparagus mixed in with truffle oil. While I love mushrooms, having them as the focal point of your dish can be quite tricky because of its strong flavor. But this one just worked so well I wanted to have more.

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Of course, we couldn’t leave without having dessert so we got the date pudding with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. I am not a big fan of caramel in general because it’s too sweet for my taste. And I generally dislike cake sith ice cream because I prefer eating them separately. But somehow when thrown together, they make for one really good dessert. Not too sweet, and none of that “umay” factor.

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Oh, and their coffee is quite good too. Just stay away probably from the tea.

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Blackbird may be a bit expensive compared to the other restos in the vicinity but the ambience, service, and the unique culinary offerings are worth it. I guess my second visit came at a perfect time, convincing me that things are worth a second try. Oh, and the rest rooms are very nice – large with mirrors and flowers everywhere, and seats inside. Blackbird probably has the best restroom in all the restos I’ve been to. And they use Penhaligon’s toiletries (they’re available at Adora, Greenbelt, by the way), which smell oh so good I wanted to just stay there and inhale it.

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