REVIEW #7

Blanca

We must admit that we were prepared, in nearly every way, to dislike Blanca.  The bad taste still lingering from the herculean effort required to obtain our reservations, we trekked out to the remote neighborhood of Bushwick, distinguished principally for its urban blight.  We opened the door to Roberta's, the magnificent pizza parlor from which Blanca sprung, Athena-like, fully formed, and smacked into a buzzing hive of tattooed hipsters.  It seemed inconceivable, as we wound our way out to the patio and garden, that this could be the location of one of New York City's best restaurants. 

We cannot deny Blanca's greatness.  In a series of 26 courses, there was almost never a misstep, a remarkable achievement in a menu of this length with so much versatility required (dishes range from crudo to housemade tofu to pasta to grilled meats).  A few dishes were among the finest in their category that we have ever tasted.  No other restaurant in the city besides Momofuku Ko is this inventive without compromising taste.  There is an incredible density and purity to Carlo Mirachi's cooking style, which adopts from Japan a minimalist’s devotion to decluttering any extraneous elements.  Like Cesar Ramirez, auteur of Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, a restaurant Blanca shares much in common with, Mirachi is self-taught.  He is, as Steve Jobs would say, not trapped by dogma, the results of other people's thinking. 

Although Mirachi conceives of the eclectic restaurant as Italian in orientation (the middle of the tasting menu consists of a series of outstanding pasta dishes), it is his grilled meats that are the true star of the show.  All night, an 85 day dry aged American Wagyu steak sits enticingly at the end of the counter, like a harlot on a curb, beckoning to onlookers.  This is entrapment if we’ve ever seen it.  When it emerges at the end of the night, earthy, funky, tender beyond belief, it is but the capstone to a series of remarkable meat dishes.  Midway through the meal, a whole golden Sasso chicken is placed on the counter to let the juices set, before being plated with polenta and nasturtium leaf.  It is one of the two best chicken dishes we've ever had, second only to Alain Passard's at L'Arpège in Paris.  Similarly, Blanca's pork with bergamot juice is one of the best pork dishes we've ever had. 

Blanca is designed in a relatively spare manner, with plain white walls decorated only with the mounted head of a 700lb blue fine tuna.  Twelve leather captain's chairs are arranged around a countertop, and face an open kitchen that consumes the majority of the dining room.  At the entrance, a work table is filled with waiting wine glasses, and a table along the back wall is lined with vinyl LPs next to an antique turntable.  Guests are charged with DJing for the evening, and often bring their own records. 

Blanca has seriously intelligent, original wine pairings.  There is a more heavy reliance on non-traditional pairings than you would find at more traditional peers, such as sake (paired with crudo and pork!), "orange" wine (paired with Japanese Wagyu beef lightly grilled in a kohlrabi sauce), Belgium white beer, Japanese rice beer, Lambrusco (marvelously paired with nduja raviolo), Basque cider and the like.  Not that they skimp on quality:  the dry aged steak was served with a 16-year-old Barolo.  Or quantity:  our glasses were repeatedly topped up, sometimes as many as three times. 

It is rare, even in the finest restaurants, for the service to be flawless.  Not outstanding, but flawless.  Restaurants are a human enterprise, and so we suspect that Blanca, like any restaurant, has its lapses.  But at least in our experience, the service has been without defect of any kind. 

There is one regrettable aspect about dining at Blanca.  Our meal cost nearly $13,000.  "Wait, what?" you ask.  Yes, well, time is money, and a particularly scarce commodity for New Yorkers, who husband it like a miser.  Blanca's reservation system, a misnomer if there ever was one, consists of having to call on only one day a month, at 9am, a single phone line that doesn't take voicemail and repeatedly results in the rejection of a prerecorded message to attempt to obtain one of 12 seats for a dinner that is only served 4 nights of the week.  Over the course of many months, we called over 4,000 times, spending well over 20 cumulative hours trying to secure reservations.  It happens that in our day jobs the market has put a quantifiable value on an hour of our time.  Factoring in the opportunity cost of our time, we paid an awful lot for that meal, magical though it was.  Let that give you pause before you resolve to go down Blanca's rabbit hole.  It is such a magnificent restaurant, with such a friendly and cheerful staff, that a reservation system this disrespectful to diners and their time feels jarringly out of place. 

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INFORMATION

Bushwick
261 Moore St.
(646) 703-2715
Wed-Sat, 6pm-10pm
    Carlo Mirarchi, Chef
    Katy Peetz, Pastry Chef

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