Cleveland Park’s Little Blackbird Is a Playful Delight
By September 21, 2023 0 1142•
Ashok Bajaj’s Cleveland Park wine bar, Little Blackbird, doesn’t take itself too seriously. Of course, the Mediterranean food is top notch, and the international wines one won’t find elsewhere are interesting and well-priced. But, as chef Ryan Moore explains, the bar wants their customers to “have fun.” Thus, the menu includes some “playful pairings” of snack food like Cheetos with a sauvignon blanc, Twinkies with a sauternes and Oreos with cream sherry. Moore swears the combos “work well” and hopes customers will try them at home.
Little Blackbird is a svelte, sophisticated yet approachable redo of one of Bajaj’s Indian street-food venues. Dressed up in olive tones with wine displays, an open kitchen and a splashy floral wallpaper brightening the room, it is made-to-order for informal get-togethers with friends.
The menu invites sharing, with a long roster of small plates. Moore, a Jose Andres veteran with wide-ranging experience, enjoys the challenge of matching food with the restaurant’s affordable, uncommon global wines. In doing so, he is making good use of the kitchen’s pizza oven. Roasting whole fish and hanger steak for entrées, he offers a roster of sharable hearth-roasted vegetables, fruits and seafood. Lamb is his specialty, here served pan-roasted with a fava bean puree.
Moore is especially proud of the hearth-roasted haloumi small plate. It is inspired by a breakfast sandwich he used to get at a McDonald’s in Dubai. He uses a technique that he learned from a Cyprus chef: brining the squeaky cheese – imported from Cyprus – in hot milk to soften it, before finishing it on the hearth.
Soccas – flatbreads made from chickpea flour and olive oil – are dressed up with olives, tomatoes, onions and herb salad, or decadently topped with lobster and mascarpone. Desserts are indulgent, too – notably a butterscotch pudding that is “finished” with a last-minute shot of peaty scotch.
Little Blackbird’s wine program is designed to be price-friendly and encourage experimentation. For example, diners can request three- or six-ounce pours of the wine-by-glass offerings. This lets them enjoy several different wines with any meal.
Little Blackbird is located at 3309 Connecticut Ave. NW. For more information go here.