Bloomberg News

Four Stars for Blanca’s 25-Course, $700 Food Fest: Review

December 12, 2012

Blanca

Diners at a 12-seat chef's counter at Blanca, where chefs prepare four-star food. Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

During the final hour of a 25-course meal at Blanca, a bearded patron approached the communal record player and put on Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning.”

Such heavy-metal mayhem would raise eyebrows if we were burning cash at cushy Per Se.

But at our newest four-star restaurant, it somehow felt right.

We were in a converted garage in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. The music accompanied the grilling of American Wagyu, which came out suffused with the aromas of earth and pan drippings.

It’s a startlingly great steak and Blanca, from the chef behind Roberta’s next door, is one of New York’s great restaurants. Other selections that evening included chicken- fried sweetbreads and spaghetti-like glass shrimp.

There’s no printed menu, and the bread course is timed to arrive around the 90-minute mark of a 3-hour grand tour through chef Carlo Mirarchi’s prodigious culinary repertoire.

So even if the music -- not too loud, by the way -- isn’t to your taste, Blanca will be. Its 12 extremely comfortable counter seats overlooking the kitchen are booked a month out.

Your meal will cost $180 plus $85 for the beverage pairing, plus tax and tip. That’s about $700 for two.

Subway Down

Dinner begins at 6 p.m. except on Saturdays, when it might start as early as 4:45 p.m. Show up late and you’ll find the meal already in progress. Lesson: The subway gets you to Bushwick in half the time of a very expensive cab ride.

Mirarchi kicks off the meal with a dollop of golden osetra from Germany. The pearls are firm and nutty, more like expensive Caspian roe. What’s the trick? He adds a dash of parsnip cream. Brilliant.

This goes down nicely with a few fingers of Pierre Moncuit Champagne, if you’ve chosen the beverage pairing. You should, since it eases the stress of matching wines with more than two- dozen plates. Otherwise, the bottle is reasonably priced at $82; good rieslings are available for about the same.

Maine sea urchin is next. The musky maritime gonads, orange and engorged, sit a pool of tart radish yogurt, another winner.

Then comes a plate of oily raw fish: a few rich bites of herring, some crimson bonito with smoked skin and a warm sardine with tiny dots of finger lime. To keep you sharp amid all these omega-3’s, you’ll be sipping a floral Dassai 23 sake.

White Truffles

Blanca is about minimalism. Few ingredients, intense flavors. Neither the palate nor the eyes are confused. The front-row view allows you to watch Mirarchi shave white truffles over pine-nut agnolotti. Some restaurants would levy a $175 supplement for such fungi. No hidden fees here.

Japanese Wagyu comes with the meal as well. The beef’s silky, striated fat all but melts into the sweet kohlrabi broth it’s finished in, like shabu-shabu.

And then you have the game-changing pasta, a raviolo filled with soft nduja sausage. The spice of Calabrian chile ignites the pork in your mouth. It’s a humble dish made luxurious via perfection and scarcity -- you’re only allowed one.

The grilled Iberico ham course is the opposite of scarcity. Once you finish the nutty, medium-rare meat, Mirarchi offers a few more bites and the sommelier pours another splash of fragrant Moser Moscato Giallo.

Later on, there might be chicken in a seaweed-spiked vegetable broth or rare-roasted yearling with a crystal clear mint jelly.

La Tur cheese is creamed into a soup with hints of bitter rind and citron. It needs honey, which appears in liquefied form as a Ronchi di Cialla dessert wine.

Want more cheese? Treviso ice cream comes next. The finale is an earthy, sweet hemp-flavored marshmallow. No, this is not Le Bernardin, Daniel or Jean Georges. It’s four-star, Brooklyn- style.

Rating: ****

The Bloomberg Questions

Price: Tasting at $180, pairing at $85.

Sound Level: Never quiet, never loud. About 70 decibels.

Date Place: If you got the scratch and your friend’s a gem.

Special Feature: Wines on the pairing list are available by

the glass for $14 to $32.

Inside Tip: Reservations taken the first of the month.

Back on My Own Dime: About once a year.

Blanca is at 261 Moore St. Information: +1-646-703-2715; http://www.blancanyc.com.


What the Stars Mean:

****         Incomparable food, service, ambience.
***          First-class of its kind.
**           Good, reliable.
*            Fair.
(No stars)   Poor

Sound-Level (in decibels): 51 to 55: Quiet enough to converse. 56 to 60: Speak up. 61 to 65: Lean in if you want to hear your date. 66 to 70: You’re reading one another’s lips. 71 to 75: You’re yelling. 76 to 85: Ear-splitting din.

(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Manuela Hoelterhoff on life and Amanda Gordon on N.Y. Scene.

To contact the writer of this column: Ryan Sutton in New York at rsutton1@bloomberg.net or qualityrye on http://twitter.com/qualityrye

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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