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Blackbird Dining Establishment, Collingswood NJ

t
tom246 Feb 8, 2009 07:15 AM

On this beautiful Saturday, we headed south to do some shopping, see a movie at the Ritz and then went to one of our favorite restaurants, Blackbird Dining Establishment.
Blackbird has a modern, urban feel to it from the hardwood floors, copper top tables to the posters and drawings around the restaurant. Think NYC, soho or chelsea.
There is also an energy and vibe here, people know and enjoy great food.

Sat down to our 7:30 reservation and were promptly brought some crusty bread and some of the tastiest olive oil you can imagine. Cassandra, our server all evening was friendly and very efficient. Water glasses always filled and even though the place was very busy she was able to give us wine service all through our meal. A nice touch.

From the menu appetizers and a few specials my wife chose a special of panko crusted mozzarella on a bed of sliced grape tomatoes and drizzled with a basil pesto. This was a blend of texture and flavor, both adding to the total dish.
Chef Capasso is a genius with pasta, I had the butternut squash agnolotti, pine nuts, golden raisins, brown butter and sage. This was a decadent blend of savory and sweet, I could have eaten these all night.

For entrees DW had seared breast of free range chicken, homemade linguini with wild mushrooms, jus de poulet. Simple but so delicious and the homemade pasta with the entree was a treat. Also had spinach as part of the entree.
I had a special which was a very large center cut pork chop which was cooked perfectly whole and then cut and served with carmelized apples on top of fingerling potatoes with a small amount of merlot sauce. Also had spinach. Very flavorful, rich and a large portion.
Shavings of black truffle are available for all dishes.
All of the food is well put together and presented without being overdone or fussy.

From the dessert menu we shared a expresso creme brulee with two snicker doodles on the side. The cookies were great and the brulee had a crispy thin shell with an excellent creamy expresso flavor. Very yummy. A fresh coffee finished the evening.
A nice Rivers Marie Pinot was also enjoyed with dinner.

Chef Capasso had very successful stints as the chef at Max's in Cinnaminson and more recently at Misto in Cherry Hill but being Chef-owner of Blackbird has given him the freedom to reach out and show all his skills.

One small caveat, the room can be noisy at peak times on the weekend but some planning can avoid that. Plus the cooking here more than makes up for it.
Here is the website and notice that March 22-27 is SJ restaurant week, 4 courses for $35.00. A nice way to sample the delicious food here.
http://www.blackbirdnj.com/

  1. bgut1 Feb 9, 2009 02:28 PM

    Tom - Thanks for the excellent review. Blackbird has been on my short list for some time but I've hesitated as it can be quite the schlep (coming from Monmouth County). One of these days when I'm in the area I'll make it a point to give it a try. Thanks again.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bgut1
      t
      tom246 Feb 9, 2009 03:26 PM

      Hi bgut, I was going to start the review by saying there are disadvantages and advantages of living way out in Western Monmouth County. Disadvantage, not close to anything, advantage, not close to anything :))
      For us its not much different in time for us to get to Drew's (Keyport, east), Blue Bottle Cafe (Hopewell, west), Lorena's (Maplewood, north) or Ted's On Main (Medford, south). It does get us to go in every direction :)
      Blackbird is a few extra miles in Collingswood. From where you live you certainly need to "make a day" of it. We have had several great meals there, Chef Capasso and sou chef Connelly are very talented and have been a team for many years.

      1. re: bgut1
        mschow Feb 9, 2009 06:12 PM

        bgut1: if
        you do want to make a 'day of it', perhaps you might want to check out a few of the local grocery stores. Not far from Collingswood is a new Vietnamese grocery store, a H Mart, a Supremo Shop N Bag that specializes in Hispanic groceries, and a great place for probably the best cannoli you can find (all they sell are cannoli). Blackbird is in West Collingwood, a few miles away from Collingswood proper, where you could spend a bit of time walking around and shopping. You could even have a late breakfast or lunch at The Pop Shop, where Bobby Flay had a throwdown over grilled cheese sandwiches. There is also a fine wine shop, Moore Brothers, a few miles away where you can find some unusual wine selections.
        If you need further information, let me know, and I'd be happy to make some suggested stops to make the trip more worth the hassle.

        1. re: mschow
          bgut1 Feb 9, 2009 07:21 PM

          Thanks mschow. I will definetly take you up on the offer.

      2. h
        HillJ Feb 10, 2009 12:29 PM

        My dh & I really enjoy Blackbird. We've made a weekend trip to Philadelphia and ended with dinner there because we head home in that direction. Wonderful pastas.

        2 Replies
        1. re: HillJ
          t
          tom246 Feb 10, 2009 12:54 PM

          Hillj, it was your post on the "Best Of" thread a couple of weeks ago where you mentioned Blackbird for their pasta's that made my wife and I realize that we had not been for about 9 months. Far too long.
          In the past we have also stopped at Blackbird after a day in Philly though there are also plenty of places we also love in Philly.
          Too many places, not enough time... or money :))

          1. re: tom246
            h
            HillJ Feb 10, 2009 03:31 PM

            So true! In addition to the fantastic menu tom246, I love the vibe. Blackbird is such a cool place to chill :)
            As for Philly .....there aren't enough miles on the treadmill! LOL!
            What a food mecca Philly turned into.

        2. t
          tom246 Aug 9, 2009 06:00 AM

          Couple of weeks ago I read NJ Monthly's top 25 restaurants, some I agree and some I don't. One was Blackbird Dining Establishment which I absolutely agree with.
          After seeing Julie & Julia, good flick and Meryl Streep is teriffic, we arrived for our 7:30 reservations and were able to snag a nice almost private table in the upstairs dining alcove.
          Service here is top shelf, from the consistent bread service to the servers or hostess pouring your wine. Stemware is also first rate for a nice wine.

          Crusty bread was served with delicious olive oil as we looked over the menu. When dining here you must find a way to have a pasta course. Its that good. They just won Best Of Philly for pasta and that includes beating Vetri, the well known Philadelphia restaurant.
          DW started with butter lettuce, jumbo lump crab, tomato, fresh herbs and aged balsamic dressing.
          I had the short rib and eggplant lasagna with tomato compote. Both starters show the diversity of flavors on this menu and both were delicious.

          Wanting to try another pasta, we split a small portion of a special. Butternut squash and peach agnolotti, golden raisins, pinenuts, brown butter and parmesan cheese. Sweet and savory these were little pillows of joy. For us, off the charts good.
          Entrees kept up the pace, sauteed gulf shrimp, creamy herb risotto, provencal sauce, the brinyness of the shrimp with the creamy risotto was perfect.
          I had a large braised lamb shank, Tuscan white bean and escarole ragout. Fork tender and very satifying preparation.

          Pretty full but always room for dessert :) we split a sinfully good creamy polenta cheese cake, honey mousse and berry coulis.
          Our wine choice of a 2004 Kosta Browne Pinot worked well with the variety of flavors.
          If you go, be sure to talk to Chef Owner Capasso. He is often out of the kitchen, walking the dining room making sure all is well. All was very well last night.

          11 Replies
          1. re: tom246
            MGZ Aug 9, 2009 07:56 AM

            I just saw that Top 25. Certainly it presented some debateable choices, but at least they could be conversation starters. Some of the Readers' Choices were just depressing.

            1. re: MGZ
              mschow Aug 10, 2009 10:59 AM

              I don't subscribe to NJ Monthly, or North Jersey Monthly, as I like to call it. According to that magazine, it's as if there are not residents in NJ south of I-195. There is little to no coverage of anything going on in Southern NJ, and sparse restaurant information. Their coverage of the area appears to be limited to Cape May. So, I rarely put much faith in what's printed in NJ Monthly. My parents do have a subscription, so I do read it when I go to their house. However, I haven't seen the most recent issue with the favorites listed. Is Blackbird the only S. Jersey place mentioned?

              1. re: mschow
                t
                tom246 Aug 10, 2009 12:12 PM

                mschow, yes, it is sad but true. Blackbird is the only South Jersey restaurant mentioned. Would be a great new thread to discuss.
                Keeping this thread on topic, Chef Capasso was on top of his game on Saturday. From the starters to dessert. Plus that little dining alcove upstairs made for a more relaxed setting.

                1. re: tom246
                  tommy Aug 10, 2009 02:42 PM

                  Don't they always have 3 categories for their favorites issue? north, central, and south? and every month they seem to review restaurants from all parts of the state.

                  1. re: tommy
                    t
                    tom246 Aug 10, 2009 04:27 PM

                    yes they do but the list I refer to was the "editors critics" choice whatever than means.
                    A simple example. For a few years Capasso was weaving his magic at Misto in Cherry Hill and then Max's before that. Do you think that NJ Monthly gave those places a top 25.
                    Not until Craig Laban of the Inky gave Blackbird a great review did NJ Monthly take notice. One simple example but I could name a dozen others. Just my opinion.
                    I will give them credit for also honoring Fuji in Haddonfield.

                    1. re: tom246
                      tommy Aug 10, 2009 05:54 PM

                      i have to think it has to do with the lack of professional food editors covering south jersey than anything else.

                      doesn't south jersey have their own magazines? hell even bergen county has about 3 or 4 on its own.

                      1. re: tom246
                        mschow Aug 10, 2009 08:01 PM

                        Tom, you are so correct. Leban's reviews carry great weight, both locally and nationally. And, I used to love Max's, and ate there often. Fuji has always had a huge following, even when it was in that beat location on 130 in Cinnamonson (next to the by-the-hour motel!).
                        As far as local magazines in S. Jersey, we do get one free magazine that has some restaurant listings. Philadelphia magazine does cover NJ listings, but imo has become a magazine full of advertisements, in particular about plastic surgery. Not quite the same magazine I subscribed to for years.

                  2. re: mschow
                    care11 Aug 10, 2009 01:44 PM

                    That has always bothered me about NJ Monthly too (and New Jersey Life)...hardly ANY South Jersey coverage! They're pretentious. Stupid...they could really expand their readership and advertising revenue. I will not touch them for that reason. I mean...Allentown, Chesterfield, Bordentown City, Moorestown, Haddonfield, Collingswood...and the list goes on and on!

                    1. re: care11
                      bgut1 Aug 10, 2009 01:51 PM

                      I agree that NJ Monthly should cover all of the state. However, I do recall from living down that way that Phildaelphia Magazine did cover that area in its publication.

                    2. re: mschow
                      rockhopper Aug 11, 2009 03:35 AM

                      mschow, You are a mind reader. If I read your blurb without seeing the attribution I'd swear I wrote it..

                      So, what she said.

                      1. re: rockhopper
                        mschow Aug 11, 2009 08:05 AM

                        rockhopper, you know what they say: 'Great minds think alike'!!!!
                        LOL, thanks!

                2. tommy Nov 23, 2010 07:10 AM

                  I still can't get over this ridiculous name. "Dining establishment"!?!?!

                  1. njfoodies Dec 16, 2010 10:53 AM

                    Heard about this from Chef Capasso when we were at West Side Gravy in late summer, and it's been driving me crazy keeping my mouth shut about this, but here is the e-mail I just got from Blackbird's mailing list. This is exciting stuff, and here is to wishing them the best:

                    "The West Side of Collingswood has been a wonderful place for Blackbird to grow over the last 4 years. However, we are happy to announce that Blackbird will be moving uptown, joining the bustling block of Haddon Ave as it's new location!
                    Blackbird will sit directly next door to our casual eatery,
                    West Side Gravy, at
                    714 Haddon Ave.


                    Blackbird and West Side Gravy will both remain open through the New Year offering fantastic specials for both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

                    Shortly after the New Year, Blackbird will make the official move and we will celebrate the Grand Reopening of Blackbird and West Side Gravy!

                    Chef Capasso is thrilled to be able to continue to offer the
                    Gourmet Fare of Blackbird and also plate up his Favorite Comfort Foods, right next door at
                    West Side Gravy.

                    We are very excited for our big move and want to thank all of our loyal customers in advance for all your support. Whatever the occasion, or whatever your mood...the two restaurants will offer very different takes and menus! We look forward to continuing to provide you with the fantastic meals you have come to expect and enjoy!

                    Stay Tuned for Further Details..."

                    I think this is great news, and it makes total sense! This is a great location, and having both of these restaurants under one roof should do wonders! I really think if anything it will help West Side Gravy get some much need, while much deserved exposure! I can't wait to see how this pans out! Best of luck to Chef Capasso and his team! -mJ

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