Friday, January 28, 2022 Jan 28, 2022
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Bar Review

The Rare Pours and Moody Digs of Blackbird Society

In Deep Ellum, a manga-inspired speakeasy broods behind sibling bar Neon Kitten.
By  | |Photography by Owen Jones
Black Bird Society
Owen Jones

Named after a manga series and imbued with a mystical feel, Blackbird Society is the moody counterpart to Bhuvanesh “Bob” Khanna’s Neon Kitten, the bright cocktail bar on Main Street through which you enter to find the former behind a bookshelf door. If Neon Kitten is an electric spot for dim sum and izakaya-style bar food—which, it certainly is—Blackbird Society is its introverted polar opposite: darkly lit, mysterious, clandestine. 

“Experience is very important to me,” Khanna says. “It’s all about interactions and not about transactions.” 

World-building, essentially. The world of Blackbird Society, then, nods to the manga series for which it’s named. In the graphic novel run, Khanna explains, a Japanese princess must kill the devil, and she finds him lurking in a dingy place called Blackbird, where all the evil spirits (get it?) hang out. I won’t spoil the end. All that is important, for us anyway, is the intentional dichotomy of Neon Kitten and Blackbird Society.

“The whole idea is the yin and the yang,” Khanna says. “I’m a big balance guy. I believe in balance in life and in business and in everything.” So, too, of course, in his drinks. 

Blackbird’s cocktails play to the arcane theme, with menus inspired by tarot cards. The Empress is a gin and sake tipple with hints of citrusy yuzu. The Magician is made tableside in a burbling cauldron of smoke. The bartender extracts oils from a flaming ribbon of orange peel that are infused into Hibiki whisky. For all the pizzazz, the drink is quite mellow. 

Aside from elaborate libations, you’ll find Japanese spirits only—gin, sake, rum, vodka, whisky.

And they’ve got the good stuff: Suntory Hakushu 18-year single malt, Yamazaki 12- and 18-year, three aged expressions of Teitessa. Save for a few high-end restaurants, there aren’t many places in town that have these bottles on their shelves.

“If the bottle is gone,” Khanna says, “the bottle is gone.” 

Author

Rosin Saez

Rosin Saez

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Rosin Saez is the online dining editor for D Magazine's food blog SideDish. She hails from Seattle, Washington, where she…