After my last visit to Blanca in Bushwick in early 2016 (see my review then here https://kenscale.com/2016/02/26/blanca/), I called the restaurant the epitome of “Brooklyn fine dining” for its unassuming venue inside the Brooklyn hipster institution Roberta’s and the free-flowing yet sophisticated dining experience that the kitchen offers so effortlessly. Fast forward to two and a half years later, I was looking for a place to celebrate my wife Jun’s birthday and Blanca immediately came to my mind. The dining space with a single counter next to Roberta’s outdoor space did not change much from 2016, with a big fish decoration still on the wall. Just like last time, I did not get to see the menu in advance, but I was ready to be surprised anyways, this time with my beloved wife on the side. While It was another phenomenal meal, with several new dishes from my last visit that Jun and I both had a lot to like about.
The menu format at Blanca has not changed much from 2016 (there is only one single tasting menu); the price, at $198 per person and up from $195 in 2016, has not changed much either. And thankfully, the vibrant creativity of the tasting menu has stayed at a very high level. There is no single culinary influence that defines Blanca’s identity, but that is the beauty of the kitchen’s approach to the dishes. Sea perch that came out as the third dish was more or less perfectly grilled and together with mustard green underneath was a great way to start the meal. One of our favorite dishes of the night was maitake mushroom accompanied by sea urchin and Asian pear. The smoky feel of the mushroom worked beautifully together with the silky smooth texture of sea urchin and the refreshing Asian pear. Jun is not usually a fan of foie gras, but she was happy to try the one that the kitchen put together with corn surrounding it.
The potato that came out looked simple at first, but its texture was quite remarkable, especially with bottarga sauce on the side that gave it a nice bump in flavor. The small pasta series at Blanca has always been one of the most lauded parts of the restaurant’s tasting menu, and it did not disappoint either. The agnolotti with goat milk had a rich and complex flavor that was quite addictive, pici with sea urchin was sensational, especially with a spicy kick, and ‘nduja ravioli with orange was one delightful bite that Jun and I both enjoyed.
One of the more puzzling dishes of the night was a bowl of seasonal vegetables in brodo broth. At first, Jun and I cringed at how sour the broth was; the trick is to have fresh bread (it’s actually more like a pizza dough) with butter that came at the same time as this dish. The bread shockingly neutralized the sour taste of the broth and we were able to finish the vegetables with no issue. The meat dishes toward the end of the savory course were also quite memorable. Both the pork and the beef had wonderfully soft and juicy textures that could rival any top-rate steakhouse, and the clever use of aji dulce pepper next to the pork and, to my great surprise because I don’t even like that fruit too much, watermelon next to the beef was pure genius. The desserts, from the toasted milk with grappa to marigold with plum in a bowl that resembles a cold soup but with sweet flavor, also displayed thoughtfulness and ingenuity of the kitchen.
Getting a reservation at Blanca (available online up to 28 days in advance, and with at least 7 days prior to cancel) can still be a challenge, and not surprisingly the counter was full during our visit on an early Friday evening. Unlike my last visit, Jun and I did not have a separate drink pairing option; I opted for beer and she did for sake to accompany the meal. I don’t remember what the wine list at Blanca looked like last time I visited, but the list today is exclusively natural wines which deterred us from ordering a bottle. I did get a red wine by the glass just to have it for the beef dish, but regretted doing so as it was difficult to overcome its funky taste. The vibe at the dining space still retains that casual Brooklyn vibe which also shows in the diversity of attires from the other diners, from those in T-shirts and jeans to those in fancy blazers and dresses. Nowadays, expensive tasting menu has become out of flavor for its lack of accessibility to the general public and the elitist image it seemingly cultivates, but I find Blanca to be so refreshing in that sense; it shows that serious cooking can still be enjoyed without feeling like the one percent. Blacna, for that matter, should be considered one of the most influential restaurants in NYC.
KenScale: 8.75/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.75/10)
- Creativity: 9.0/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 261 Moore St. Brooklyn 11206
Telephone: (347) 799-2807