A friend of mine, who had been everywhere and knows everyone in the Philly dining scene, was recently asked who is the best chef/restaurant in the area. The answer?
***Chip Roman of Blackfish in Conshohocken PA***
Prompted by this very bold statement, nine of us headed off to Blackfish on 2 consecutive nights last week to sample their wares…
Night #1: “A Tasting of Venison”, paired with Super Tuscans and a Napa Cab
30 year-old Chip is a former Sous Chef at Le Bec Fin (and also Vetri alumnus), and describes his cuisine as “seafood-centered, progressive American cuisine with French influences”. Given how good the food is, I’m a little surprised Blackfish doesn’t get more mention on this board, especially given it’s 'burb location (although it is #10 on Philly Magazines Top 50). This evening was one of their weekly Tuesday night special dinners focused on a single featured ingredient. Many of these are not surprisingly about seafood, but my friend has been begging for the past 2 years for a repeat of a New Zealand venison dinner, since it is such a good red wine match, and tonight was the night.
Blackfish is a small, narrow, 2-room but attractive restaurant on Fayette Street in downtown Conshohocken. A convenient public parking lot is less than a block away. Despite the small size (and I didn't find noise a problem in the back room), I liked that their tables although squeezed in were not too crammed to be uncomfortable and that there was plenty of room on the table for our considerable collection of wine bottles and 4-5 Bordeaux-sized glasses for each person, which is not the case with many trendy BYOBs these days where the comfort of patrons seems to be forgotten. Service was both invisible and impeccable.
Venison tartare with warm frisee, deep-fried egg and Mediol dates
~This must have been from the filet, since it was so utterly tender. Lightly seasoned with green onions, pepper . A wonderful dish, simple yet elegant.
Chocolate papardelle pasta with venison ragu
~A distinct chocolate aroma, but not much chocolate taste, this went well with the wines, but was no match for the amazing papardelle on Night #2. Great match for the Tig.
Slow-cooked New Zealand venison loin, with charred brussels sprouts and quince (see photo)
~Rare+ and very tender, with (if I remember correctly) a perfectly matched huckleberry sauce. The sprouts were sliced before charring, which made them more elegant and is an idea I plan to steal. Outstanding with the Ornellaia.
Cheese course of Tallegio and a French bleu Fromage de ? that I didn’t catch the name of but was similar to Gorgonzola, apple preserve, and a dollop of chocolate sauce
~A special request, not part of the venison dinner, this was a welcome chance to resample and discuss the excellent wines everyone brought before moving on to dessert. I should also mention that the restaurants stems are quite good (they can also provide decanters), although I didn't like their dessert and Champagne glasses, so it is probably not necessary to bring your own.
Pumpkin tart with cinnamon ice cream
~Tiny and airy-light on a gingerbread crust with delicate home-made ice cream, went better with the sherry than the Moscato. Desserts seem to be reasonably strong and less of an afterthought than many places.
$45/person (without cheese) + tax/tip, which I consider a good deal for the quality of the food and the excellent service (not to mention the excellent wines everyone brought). Corkage was $2/bottle. $70/person everything included.
Wines (in serving order):
NV Tarlant La Vigne d’Antan Non Greffee (interestingly, one of only 2 Champagnes that are still made from ungrafted vines)
1990 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (double magnum)
1997 Antinori Toscana Tignanello (my last bottle!)
1995 Fattoria Le Pupille Toscana Saffredi
1997 Fattoria Le Pupille Maremma Toscana Saffredi
1998 Poggio al Sole Toscana Seraselva
1999 Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia
1996 Castello Dei Rampolla Toscana Vigna d’Alceo
2003 Tua Rita Toscana Giusto di Notri
NV Alvear Pedro Ximenez Montilla-Moriles Solera 1910 (375 mL; with cheese)
200? Iscardi Moscato d’Asti La Rosa Selvatica (with dessert)
A fantastic dinner, but stay tuned for an even more amazing Night #2…