Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Blanca - 08/01/2008

3420 Via Oporto
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 673-0414

I decided to try Blanca at the strong urging of one of my coworkers. Truth be told I didn't have high expectations for the restaurant since I figured it catered to the Newport crowd rather than serious diners. The restaurant is located directly on the waterfront and from our table we actually had a good view of party boats docking and disgorging hordes of drunken revelers.



The restaurant specializes in crudo, an Italian take on raw fish that relies more heavily on external flavoring. I believe that raw fish should be enjoyed as simply as possible to get the natural flavor of the fish. Still, my friend and I decided to try everything on the crudo menu. The only thing we missed was the sea urchin which ran out earlier in the evening.

Amuse: Cured Sockeye Salmon Belly - lemon olive oil vinaigrette, micro fennel, baby tomato
A surprisingly good start to the meal, I thought the smoky flavor of the salmon blended harmoniously with the accompaniments.


Bread - ricotta, balsamic
Blanca strikes again, the bread was fairly standard but the use of ricotta and balsamic was a welcome change from the standard butter.


01 Kusshi Oysters - mango mignonette spheres, micro tarragon
I enjoyed the sweetness the mango imparted on the oysters, definitely a nice change from the traditional pairings. The oyster itself was solid but not particularly noteworthy.


02 Albacore - Espelette pepper, crispy Serrano ham, gazpacho vinaigrette, parsley sprouts, prawn salt
I liked the Albacore and ham combination, but I thought the gazpacho was a bit too intense for the fish. Overall this was a very complex crudo that worked much better than I expected.


03 Arctic Char - lemon zest, capers, fennel oil, shaved olive, micro fennel, fleur de sel
In one word, horrid. The combination of capers olive and citrus gave this fish a bitter flavor that reminded me of Chinese medicines my mom used to make me eat as a kid.


04 Big Eye Tuna - avocado, grapefruit gelée, puffed wild rice, coriander olive oil, Maldon salt
The moment of truth, I can't remember how many times I have had raw tuna overpowered by the ingredients paired with it. Thankfully, the use of avocado and grapefruit provided flavors that complemented the tuna and the olive oil was used sparingly preserving the natural taste of the fish. The addition of puffed rice was particularly noteworthy since it added a nice contrast texturally.


05 Diver Scallops - truffle marinated Shimeiji mushrooms, black garlic, truffle salt
A fairly safe and common pairing truffles with scallops. The truffles provided a strong aroma, but still let the natural sweetness of the scallops through. I only wish the scallops were a touch firmer but I still thoroughly enjoyed this course.


06 Kampachi - basil seeds, lemon oil, basil sprouts, Filipino salt
I actually had a Kampachi and basil seed combination a couple weeks ago at Providence. The flavors were more well developed at Providence, but I thought the lighter sides made Blanca's a bit better texturally. Hard to say for sure which one I prefer.


07 Sockeye Salmon - capers, raisins, Spanish coffee oil, Murray River salt
I actually find sockeye salmon to be a bit soft for my tastes, and the addition of rasins and capers didn't really work for me.


08 Suzuki Sea Bass "D.I.Y." - Himalayan salt, Indonesian lemon vinegar, chive blossoms
Probably the most beautifully presented dish of the night. The sea bass came resting on a block of salt with three seasonings placed to the side. In keeping with my preferences, I found the fish tasted better alone. Even the salt block was a bit much adding an unnatural saltiness to one side of the fish.


09 Lobster Salad - burrata cheese, asparagus, hazelnuts, truffle vinaigrette
I had fairly high expectations for this dish and it did not disappoint. The contrasting flavors of the lobster and asparagus work well together and the creamy cheese provided a nice base for the flavors. The hint of truffle from the dressing complemented nicely but did not take center stage.


Baked Manjari "Grand Cru" Chocolate Mousse - toasted almond ice cream, olive oil semifreddo
The texture was thick but very uniform and smooth on the tongue. The flavors of the chocolate were subtle and nuanced reminding me of the chocolate I had at Lola. Easily one of the best chocolate desserts I have ever tasted.


Harry's Berries "Zuppa di Bacca" - goat cheese ice cream, balsamic
This is my second experience with Harry's Berries and I can't get enough. This dessert was phenomenal, the goat cheese ice cream had a tartness to it that reminded me of frozen yogurt, nice and refreshing especially when taken with the fruit and balsamic.


Formaggi - Saint-André, Boucher Blue, Taleggio, Vacherin Mont d'Or
A nice cheese presentation, I only wish they brought it out before the other two desserts.


Mignardises - Chocolate Truffle, Strawberry Macaron, Strawberry Gelée, Butterscotch Caramel, Madeline
A fitting close to a surprisingly good meal.


I am happy to report Blanca exceeded my expectations. For the most part, the fish wasn't overpowered in the courses we tasted. It is clear to me the kitchen cares about the quality of the food. Given this experience, I'd definitely come back for the desserts and next time I'd like to try the cooked food as well.

12 comments:

Aaron said...

Avoid the dover sole

Tangbro1 said...

I don't see that on the menu I took home. Do you know if it is crudo or an appetizer or entree?

DanGarion said...

Wow you got so much there! I wasn't able to try the crudo when I went there a couple weeks ago for dinner put on by my main site advertiser.

But it was pretty good. I had flank steak.

Tangbro1 said...

Hey Dan,

I split all the courses with a friend so it isn't as bad as it looks. In general we taste as many courses as possible to get a more comprehensive experience.

Wayan said...

Can you tell me more about the basil seeds? They look like they are suspended in a gel like papaya seeds. I've only known basil seeds to be loose and dry like the majority of seeds. Do they have much flavor?

H. C. said...

RE: the dover sole, Aaron and I were in a big party prix-fixe dinner. It was an entree and I wouldn't recommend it either -- or their steak.

But looks like what you had was superb, too bad the chef had a falling out with them recently. (at least according to chow.com post here), hopefully his next venture will be nearby!

Anonymous said...

after 2 hours being there they told me that i could not order my entre because the kichen was close!!!wahoo i just order some appetizer and i paid 200 hundred dollars with no dinner!!! order a second botle wine and had to wait 20 minutes!!!!need lot work on the service!!

Tangbro1 said...

Wayan,

The basil seeds are pretty mild. As for the gel around the seeds, I believe that is done by soaking the seeds in water. A couple other restaurants I have been to have done something similar.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil#Basil_seeds

Tangbro1 said...

H.C.

Thanks for the update on the sole and I appreciate the heads up on the steak.

Too bad about the news, I thought Blanca had some promise. Like you I'll be waiting to see what Chef Weber does next.

Tangbro1 said...

Hey Anonymous,

Sounds like you went recently. According the chowhound link in H.C's comment seems like the restaurant has had some financial trouble lately. Maybe that was the cause of your poor experience.

http://www.dailypilot.com/articles/2008/07/30/business/dpt-blanca073108.tx

Dazy said...

We don't go dine-in there regularly since it is not close to our place. I make it a point to come every time I'm in the neighborhood. We get filled up and usually have leftovers to take home.

Tangbro1 said...

Dazy,

Thanks for reminding me of this place. I recall them having trouble and closing a while back. I haven't paid them much thought since. I should check if they've reopened and how the place has fared.