Monday, January 5, 2015

DINING | The Blackbird at the Nielson Tower

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The spiral staircase inside The Blackbird at the Nielson Tower.

Last Christmas Day after driving home from Malabon, Kwittiegirl and I dropped by the Ayala Triangle for early dinner. After finding out our target restaurant had long been supplanted by a different one, we tried The Blackbird at the Nielson Tower instead.

For several months now what used to be the Filipinas Heritage Library--that in turn used to be the Manila International Air Terminal, or Nielson Airport, from the late 1930s to the late 1940s--is now a fancy restaurant. Yes, we've heard all the hype but we're not really the type who actively seek out new places to try. Nevertheless, at least we were finally able to try this one out.

Architecture and ambiance
Much to the relief of heritage enthusiasts and conservationists, The Blackbird has practically retained the old air terminal's Art Deco architecture. Except for a little sprucing up inside, it was more or less the same as I remembered when it was still a library--sans all the books and shelves, of course.

Moreover, the old library's warm and homey feel gave way to a bright, airy, and swanky ambiance. With white walls, windows everywhere, and minimal decor, the place does look classy. Indoor and alfresco seating are both available, as are a few tables in the tower part of the building. There's also a sleek bar and lounge area at the lobby.

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The restaurant's main entrance.

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White walls and windows all around. It's a nice and airy atmosphere here.

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Limited seating available upstairs at the tower.

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The building's Art Deco style is practically untouched.

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Outdoor seating.

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The outdoor bar.

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The bar by the main entrance. Sorry, I had to crop out the customers.

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Sit back and relax as you take a sip from your cocktail. This is the lounge area next to the bar.

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Even the restroom looks just as posh. It's really dimly lit, though.

The food
With items on the menu that range from around Php 300 to north of Php 1,500, The Blackbird isn't exactly a cheap place to dine. Naturally expectations are high when it comes to what matters most: the food. Unfortunately we were underwhelmed.

Kwittiegirl had seafood bisque and their dry rubbed Wagyu hanger steak while I ordered grilled pork belly and noodle salad. The steak was good but it just wasn't outstanding. I mean, we've had much better steak elsewhere. My pork belly, which were served in skewers, were very tender and flavorful, but the noodles were just okay.

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Seafood bisque, fennel, prawn (Php 380).

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Dry rubbed Wagyu hanger steak, mustard butter and fries (Php 980).

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Grilled pork belly, noodle salad, chili sauce (Php 640).

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I had to really mix up my noodles until they soaked in the flavor of the dressing.

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Really tender pork here.

To be clear, we weren't really disappointed with the food; we were simply underwhelmed. Good thing we stayed for dessert because we really loved both creations we tried. That burnt butter ice cream that came with the apple nougatine tart was divine. I also liked how the apple tart was not overly sweet. I guess the shaved almonds also helped neutralize the sugar there.

Intrigued by "peppered strawberries" in the menu, we tried them, which were served with roasted rice ice cream (another intriguing item) and a coconut biscuit. Never mind that I found the pepper flavor wanting because the ice cream and the coconut biscuit were so good.

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Apple nougatine tart, burnt butter ice cream (Php 340).

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Peppered strawberries, roasted rice ice cream, coconut biscuit (Php 340).

Service
The waitstaff here were generally pleasant, efficient, and unobtrusive. However, except for the soup and the dessert, our orders took a little while before they arrived. But then I guess the kitchen wasn't fully ready yet at the time because we arrived way before the restaurant's first seating at 7pm.

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Will be back for dessert...

You can check out more of their menu here.

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In hindsight
Despite being underwhelmed with our orders, I think The Blackbird at the Nielson Tower is still worth a try. Its classy ambiance definitely provides a great venue for special occasions and service is practically good. That said, I really would urge you to try their desserts.

Will I come back? Yes, but mainly for dessert and coffee.

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The Blackbird at the Nielson Tower is located right next to the Ayala Triangle Gardens along Makati Avenue. It's just right across the Manila Peninsula Hotel.

For more info, go to blackbird.com.ph.
Call +632-828-4888 for reservations.

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