Blackfish in Conshohocken featured in Philadelphia Gay News

Posted on Friday, April 10, 2009


Crisp Blackfish serves inspired seafood
by Suzi Nash


There is something rich and soothing about Blackfish, 119 Fayette St. in Conshohocken. Maybe the abundance of painted white wood, crisp linen and minimalist but comforting décor brings back memories of vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard when I was a kid.

Award-winning chef/owner Charles “Chip” Roman describes the fare at Blackfish as seafood-centered, progressive-American cuisine with French influences. Roman has been cooking since he was 3 — and hasn’t grown weary of it yet. In addition to a thriving catering business, Roman also teaches culinary-arts courses at Drexel University, where he earned his business degree while attending the culinary program on a scholarship from Le Bec-Fin, where he worked for five years. Next month, Roman and his business partner, John Sprandio, will open Blackfish Stone Harbor, the seaside sibling to Blackfish Conshohocken.

It’s an order-at-will menu at Blackfish, divided into three sections: two for appetizers and the third for entrées. We started our meal with the mussel cauliflower soup ($9). One of the things our server stressed was that Roman takes pride in creating dishes you won’t find elsewhere. Well, I’ve had cauliflower soup in other places, but it didn’t compare to this. The soup was poured tableside out of lovely silver teapots, silky and smooth with a subtle, smoky undercurrent of mussel. But the best part was getting to the saffron-pickled mussels at the bottom of the bowl.

Blackfish is a BYOB, so luckily I had a bottle of Ruffino Reserva stashed in my car.

To help get us back on track, the chef sent out an amuse-bouche, which translates to “amuses the mouth.” A small bite before the meal, this was a mini portion of carrot, honey and tangerine soup — a lip-smacking, tangy little palate pleaser.

After our server uncorked the bottle, we ordered the Parmesan “panna cotta” ($12) with roasted local beets. Panna cotta is an Italian dessert, but Roman takes out the sweetness and adds a savory touch with Parmesan cheese, red beets, balsamic oil and pistachios.

Our next appetizer was the yellow-tail kingfish ($16), served sashimi-style with a lemon-curry sauce made with yuzo kosho, a zesty Japanese spice; and sansho, a kind of pepper from the pod of the prickly ash; all accompanied by pickled radish and kiwi. This combination created an interesting flavor.

The last appetizer was the house-smoked loch duart salmon ($14). The loch duart is a high-quality salmon from the Scottish Highlands, a region that practices sustainable and environmentally responsible fishing. The salmon was wrapped around a deep-fried egg with sour cream and topped with a potato crisp. Layered atop the crisp was a nest of micro greens from Blue Moon Acres, and underneath was a dabble of crème fraîche — a stirring juxtaposition of tastes and textures.

For our entrée, my dinner companion ordered the bouillabaisse ($32), Blackfish’s signature dish: a large bowl chock full of mussels, shrimp, mahi-mahi, scallops and skate in a saffron-based broth. A long, toasted baguette slathered with saffron-potato mayonnaise rested across the top of the dish.

I ordered the slow-cooked chicken ($28), which was free-range and served with pearl onions, bacon and sour cherries. Roman didn’t disappoint with this unique approach to your average poultry. The chicken was tender yet robust, with a palate-pleasing contrast of tangy cherries and salty jus.

For dessert, my dining companion ordered the warm chocolate cake ($8), rich with a crunchy exterior and filled with what our server Ed called “molten chocolate love,” and paired with a scoop of homemade chocolate ice cream. The ice cream was served on a mound of malt (as in Whoppers malted milk balls) and the cake was served atop a layer of chocolate sauce and sprinkled with powdered sugar. A single raspberry completed the ensemble.

I ordered the beignets ($9), which are basically fancy doughnuts but without so much grease. The beignets at Blackfish were a sight to behold: a small tower of delicious orbs piled high and sprinkled with powdered sugar. They were light and fluffy, yes, but what put them over the top were the sides: two small bowls of chocolate sauce and crème anglaise made for dunking.

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