Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night

UPDATE: We had lunch at BB this past Saturday, January 12, and I remembered one of the dishes I liked so much at Max’s … the tiny and light gnocchi in blush sauce. You can go home again. Now back to an earlier review:

Well, it wasn’t night, but it was Blackbird …  Dining Establishment, that is. This is Alex Capasso’s latest try at South Jersey fine dining, the last two being Misto and Max’s, both of which we enjoyed and missed when they closed. Alex’s new restaurant strangely enough is NOT in foodie-land downtown Collingswood but in WEST Collingswood closer to Camden than Haddonfield. My wife’s family used to live in West Collingswood not more than 3-4 blocks from Weldon’s Hardware, which now houses Blackbird D.E.  Interestingly, a new bistro is opening right across from Blackbird on Collings Avenue, an area best known for cleaning establishments, pizza joints and hair stylists. Maybe Chef Capasso is extending the reach and reputation of downtown Collingswood?  One thing is certain, it is easier to park here than downtown … maybe that was the hook.

Judy and I like to go to lunch on Saturdays. Two of our favorite stops are Sapori and Bistro Di Marino, both in Collingswood.  In earlier attempts to lunch at Blackbird we were turned a way because 1) they hadn’t started serving lunch and 2) they were closed for a special event.  After Craig LeBan’s favorable review in the Inquirer we suspected we might have difficulty getting in without a reservation but that wasn’t the case.  The restaurant was busy but not crowded.  Alex himself spent much of our lunch time opening doors, answering the phone and talking with customers (though not us).

Fascinated by what adjoining diners were eating (and what they were eating out of) we asked our waitress what it was and learned it was Blackbird’s take on the Japanese Bento Box ($15), although Thai chicken spring rolls were as close as we got to Japan.  But no matter, we thoroughly enjoyed all five offerings (six compartments – one for mussel shells), including some wonderfully tasty pan seared tenderloin of lamb with fregola sardo, romaine salad with a creamy lemon parmesan dressing, and Blackbird macaroni and cheese, which Judy enjoyed (she’s a H&H mac an’ cheese girl).

For her entree Judy went for the turkey sandwich with tomato pesto and goat cheese ($8), and I had the Blackbird hamburger with gorgonzola cheese, tomatoes, and veal sauce ($9).  Both came with crispy pomme frites and were served on American Harvest rolls. Judy loved her sandwich and I think the Blackbird hamburger deserves to be included in LeBan’s paean to the cheeseburger, “Cheeseburger I Love.”  American Harvest bread is also served warm on the side with a fruity and fresh olive oil. Yumm. We skipped desserts and packed the sandwich portions remaining for the next day’s lunch.  I did have a cappuccino ($5), which was not as hearty as I like it.

We snuck a peak at the dinner menu and noted that most of the items at lunch were available for dinner (though the same items wer in the $25-$29 range).  Lunch is light on fish but Capasso makes up for it at dinner.  I salivated over a polenta crusted halibut that sounded wonderful. We plan to return to to Blackbird again and again for both lunch and dinner.  BYOB (we enjoyed a 2005 Avalon Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon by way of Graton).  619 Collings Avenue, West Collingswood, 08107, 856-854-3444.

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