Pirates and sharks out. Buddhas and cherry trees in. Blackbird, the swinging new upscale Pan Asian restaurant in Jupiter, offers flavors of the Far East in a surreal setting.
I’ve been dining at this location for decades as it morphed from the rustic Jupiter Crab Co with Blackbeard statues and a great white shark hanging overhead to the Shipwreck Grill with more of the nautical same.
But doubt the crab eaters of yore could have imagined what the two-story building houses now. The tricked-out, reimagined, elegant funhouse of Blackbird, named for the Paul McCartney song, is pure theater with cuisine that lives up to the hype of the design.
Blackbird Modern Asian is the catch of the year by 3 Amigos LLC partners Scott Frielich (also with Subculture Group), Angelo Abbenante of Lynora’s, Cleve Mash of Clematis Social, and executive chef Tim Nickey. The combined expertise of these partners has totally zeroed in on how to create a first-class restaurant to redefine modern dining in this once sleepy town that now boasts several celebrity restaurants.
The two-story, 5,500-square-foot space has 150 seats and cozy banquettes, three dining areas, a happening cocktail bar in the main dining room, and an even more happening alfresco bar and lounge on the second floor. It has stunning views of Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and the Loxahatchee River.
The dining party starts at the entrance as the courteous staff greets you in brocade cheongsam dresses for women, and blackbird t-shirts for men, and leads you to your table.
The main dining room is a stunner, with a custom 12-foot bronze Buddha sculpture backed by bamboo stalks blessing the whole room with a golden vibe. A massive life-size cherry tree twinkles with ever-changing lights enhanced by a twirling disco ball. Local artist Amanda Valdes created the unusual painted mesh screen with Asian beauties that hangs over the bar.
Our table had views of all of it, as we enjoyed fruity cocktails and starters of creamy hot Crab Rangoons with scallions and a sweet and sour sauce. We then ordered Tuna Poke atop crispy rice, tart, and flavorful. Other standouts include Wok Charred Edamame and Spicy Marinated Korean Pickles.
Choosing a main course was tough as there were many delicious choices. Our helpful waitress suggested Miso Black Cod with tender baby bok choy and a sizzling soy sauce vinaigrette. We also ordered Garlic King Crab Noodles. These came with two split king crab legs atop richly flavored lo mein noodles, lump crab, garlic, and sauce. Both were generous portions and totally delicious.
Other highlights include Shanghai soup dumplings, Australian wagyu tomahawk with truffle ponzu butter sauce, and sweet and sour pork with chunks of pineapple and dragon fruit.
Desert chef Denise Elrod has outdone herself with the flavors and presentation of sweets.
Yuzu Key Lime with cinnamon graham cracker crumble, yuzu key lime custard, vanilla bean, and white chocolate ganache whipped cream is served in a covered bowl that when uncovered billows with dry ice clouds across the table.
As I ate, it occurred to me that 20 years ago my meal here would have been a heap of steamed crab legs on a plate with melted butter and a slice of key lime pie. This version is years and an Asian world away from that Florida staple.
My dining partner had Thai Tea Crème Brûlée ‘The Riley’ has black sesame tuile, seasonal berries, and vanilla whipped cream served in a long oval bowl.
If you have a large table of diners and really want to indulge, opt for the chef’s selection of assorted desserts, petit fours, seasonal exotic fruit, and chocolate served in a large bowl of ice with sparklers and flowers. It’s a sweet beauty.
Blackbird’s service is outstanding as managers and servers frequently visit the tables to ensure patrons are satisfied.
Actually, Scott Frielich came by and told us a funny story about the former décor resident – the enormous 300-pound shark that came with the place when he took over.
“It took five guys and a flatbed truck to get that thing out of here,” he said laughing. “I don’t know where it went, we’re just glad to be rid of it.”
There is really no detail overlooked here, from the super stylish décor to the wide-ranging menu. Craft cocktails are a standout at daily happy hours. A taste of their Japanese sake in the second-floor outdoor mezzanine bar with views of the Jupiter lighthouse is a unique experience.
Finally, as you leave, a visit with Zoltar, the turban-wearing fortune teller in a box awaits at the exit. Will he tell you that you had one of the finest meals in ages?
More fun than a fortune cookie! He knows, sees, and tells all…so bet on it.
Blackbird is at 1511 N. Old Dixie Hwy, Jupiter, 33469. Online at blackbirdmodernasian.com