Blanca: Tasting Menu from Roberta’s

5 Mar

I have been hearing amazing things about Blanca for a while now.  Blanca is a small dining area behind Roberta’s in Bushwick.  We actually toured Roberta’s “garden” as a potential wedding venue, and enjoyed some of their pizza. It was great, but a bit too hipster for us.  But one thing that is never too hipster for us?

Going to Bushwick for a 25+ course taste menu at a kind of hidden dining area with 12 seats, behind a trendy pizza place, and with chefs cooking right in front of us.

They book up quickly and take reservations on the 1st day of each month. (Right now, March is fully booked and they plan on opening up their reservations on April 1st.) Mike managed to secure us a reservation for 4:45pm on March 2nd.  They ask you to be there at 4:30 and if you arrive late, you join the meal wherever it is. Not wanting to risk missing a single bite, and never knowing how long a trip on the L Train will take, we actually arrived at 4pm.  We looked around for a place to kill the time, but it’s a bit of no-man’s-land out there so we just decided to get a drink in their (heated) outdoor tent.

We walked in and were seated at the dining bar with 10 other dining adventurers.

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They quickly informed us that they do not allow photos or cell phones at the table. (Poo!) I do understand though. While I do love documenting my meals so I can share them here (and relive them forever), there is an element of surprise to a tasting menu like this that  I was glad to not know what to expect.  That said, I did write down each and every course so I could remember it.  So if you are thinking of going, please just check out this next picture (which I was allowed to take since it was before the food started coming out) and don’t read any further beyond the pic.

All you need to know is this: It was a great, epic experience. One I am very glad I had. Each and every bite was fantastic. There really wasn’t a stand-out dish (though we had some favorites) and we have been more wowed by other tasting menus, but it truly was a sensational meal and we agreed it was in the Top 5 of all time.

For $180 per person, it is not for the faint of wallet (I was thankful for a kind tax return and this was my self reward). And while the wine pairings looked great (we wound up participating half way through), for $92 per person, it’s a whole heck of a lot. But for a special occasion, it truly is very special.

Once again, if you are thinking of going and want to be surprised, I have no idea how much they change the meal every night, but I am about to post a spoiler list, so this is your moment to check out the kitchen picture and then come back for the next blog post.

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So without further ado, here is what we ate (or as much as I was able to record without taking more than a few seconds away from enjoying the meal) with a bit of commentary in parentheses.

We decided not to do the wine pairing at first, trying to be smart about it and not risk stumbling out of there just to get stuck finding our way home from Bushwick (for those that don’t know New York, we half kid about and half fear Bushwick. It’s not known as being a very safe neighborhood, but there are gems throughout it, like Roberta’s, that bring us there every once in a while). So we chose an Orange Wine (something we discovered as really awesome recently when we ate at Riverpark) called Donkey and Goat.  Orange wine is a very interesting wine. It is fermented with the skins on, so it is a more complex wine than most whites, yet not quite as rich as reds. It has a complex, “funky” flavor that we just love.  And this one hit it out of the park (and went well with every bite).

Immediately, the food started coming out, all in tiny little bowls with a bite or two in each (so while there were over 25 courses, we actually didn’t feel over-full in the least when we walked out)

  1. Caviar with parsnip. (A lovely bite to start. Nice blend of salty and sweet.)
  2. Glass shrimp with celery root and poppy seed. (The glass shrimp were slippery to chase around the bowl, but they were absolutely delicious and the slightly sweet poppy seeds on top really created a great flavor combination.)
  3. Maine sea urchin with yogurt and brussels sprout. (This was served with a chilled spoon, which was a nice attention to detail.  As soon as I took a bite, my first comment was “Thank you, Maine!”  This was an awesome combination of flavors, the the brussels sprout was a single charred leaf that was just a great flavor and perfect foil for the urchin. Awesome.)
  4. Veal sweet breads with lime. (I don’t know why thymus gland tastes so good, but it does. And this was cooked to absolute perfection with a slight crisp. The lime was fantastic with it.)
  5. A crudo course with 5 different types: Needlefish (ever so slightly fishy and a very nice bite), Geoduck with lardo (FINALLY I got to try geoduck. I have been so curious to try this for years but have yet to see it on a menu. It had a bit of the bite of calamari but without any chewiness. Very nice, sea flavor and the lardo complimented it well), Herring with horseradish (The horseradish was so mild that I didn’t even bat an eye, even though I am usually not a fan. The herring had great flavor.), Mackerel with apple (again, a winning combination), and Sea birch (I’m not too familiar with Sea birch, but after this lovely little bite, I hope to become better acquainted.
  6. Japanese wagyu beef with green garlic, turnip, and kohlrabi broth. (Intense umami flavor and great beef)
  7. Grilled oyster with celery root and sea grape. (At this point, the very nice and very knowledgeable sommelier gave us a taste of the wine that was on the pairing since it was Orange Wine, which we already identified as one of of favorites. I liked this wine but our Donkey & Goat was even better.  It did go very well with the grilled oyster, however, this was my least favorite bite of the tasting. Don’t get me wrong, it was very, very good. But I find grilling oysters just takes away from them a bit. Give me a raw oyster any day!)
  8. Tofu with apple broth and grilled traviso (like radicchio) and tuna flake. (The dried tuna was kept in a box used for making bonito and the flakes of dried tuna were very nice on this dish. But that apple broth. Holy cow! It was like someone liquefied the freshest, most flavorful apple and gave me a spoon to eat it with.  It was great with the mild tofu. Very memorable bite.)
  9. Squid with shiso salsa verde and tangerine. (Mike’s version had peppers, so I got a different version without it. Now that I’m remember that, I wonder if it was really shisito salsa verde rather than shiso. Either way, it was a very, very good bite, both with and without the peppers.)
  10. Lovage, cardoons, kumquats, and strawberries. (Two things I hadn’t heard of, but cardoons are in the artichoke family and had a mild resemblance in flavor that I really liked. This was a very nice palate cleanser.)
  11. Pine nut agnolotti with black truffle. (Agnolotti are like small ravioli. I loved the pine nut flavor in this and add that to the black truffle and you have a really flavorful dish.)
  12. Pici with squab. (Pici is a very fat spaghetti. It was very nice with the squab.)
  13. Enuja ravioli and Orecchiette with goat meat ragu. (I have n0 idea what “enuja” is, so I assume I did not write it down correctly. It was also spicy, so I couldn’t have it. Instead, I got the orecchiette with goat and it was fan-freakin’-tastic.  The goat was really delicious.)
  14. Salt roasted potatoes with watercress juice, buttermilk, and chrysanthemum leaf. (These potatoes were awesome. I think there were different kinds, like a blue and a yam or sweet potato. They were crispy and soft at the same time.)
  15. King crab with plankton butter sauce. (Holy wow. King crab is so good and this was just a perfectly sourced, perfectly prepared leg. Totally awesome.) **At this point in the meal we were sad that our wine was gone, and we were easily arm twisted into joining the pairing (which included sake, wine, and beer… though we had missed all the beer ones). And by arm twisted I mean they asked and we said yes)**
  16. Celery root gelato with lime gelee paired with Summer sake. (This was a palate cleanser and was really, really good. I love when gelato is made out of more savory elements, and the celery root was a great, slightly sweet ingredient that really wowed us.)
  17. Pork with bergamont and 3 radishes: daikon, watermelon radish, and black radish paired with Domaine dela Tournelle.  (The red wine was from an area near Burgundy and paired insanely well with this pork dish. There was an incredible saltiness on the pork that brought out the flavor in a really satisfying and intense way.)
  18. Butter (that is made on premises with a yogurt culture) and assorted breads: baguette, wheat, buckwheat walnut, and semi white (rustic bread).  (You could taste the salt crystals in the butter, which is one of my favorite things in the world. There are few better things in the world together than butter and salt. Add this to 4 really awesomely baked breads, and you have a happy camper in me!)
  19. Chicken with polenta and nasturtium paired with Vin Jaune (sp?). (Unfortunately, I missed the description of the chicken. Fortunately, I didn’t miss this bite. It was insanely good and one of the most memorable of the entire evening. There was a good amount of crispy skin that made this already good chicken dish sensational. The wine was a white wine that was like a cross between sherry and white wine that was aged in barrels for 6 years with an open vat fermentation process and a veil of yeast. What all that means is that even though it smelled like sherry, it is not fortified like sherry is, which probably led to the slightly milder yet still very enjoyable flavor)
  20. Meyer lemon marmalade with meyer lemon ice paired with Castello dei Rampolla. (This was a palate cleanser. Probably due to the amount of wine at this point, I remember almost nothing about it. But I did write down that the wine was from Tuscany)
  21. Beef with persimmon, wild onion, and miner’s lettuce paired with Vincotto (I have no idea what vincotto is. I wrote it down as the “grape” and I think it was the sauce rather than the wine, but not promises on that.  The beef dish had a very memorable fatty piece that was salty and awesome. Very rich and very, very good.)
  22. Cheese course paired with Ronchi di Cialla OR Veruzzo. (The Ronchi wine was desserty and sweet, very honey-like and with a really awesome flavor. I LOVED this wine. It was sweet without being too much and even our neighbor who was a self-proclaimed dessert wine hater liked this one. Then we also had a Verduzzo which was nice, but I do not recall which one actually went with this course. (WHOOPS) The cheese itself was a la tur cheese with yuzu and we were informed to “scoop it from the bottom.” I have very little recollection of what exactly it was, but I do remember enjoying it.)  To add some confusion to the whole which goes with what (silly drunk brain), we were then served a Yellow Tea (The tea was from China and was like green tea but they let the leaves oxidize more and then stop the oxidation process by cooking them in a wok,)
  23. Cara cara orange sherbert with rye berries and rye foam paired with a Moscato di asti.  (I loved the way the rye berries added a nice richness and crisp to the sherbert and the sparkling Moscato was a really like pair with it.)
  24. Sunchoke cream with sunchoke chips, apple ice, sunflower seed brittle powder with Alcyon Tannat Dessert Wine. (This was a fuckin’ awesome dessert. At this moment, Cat Stevens’ Wild World started playing. And it was just perfect for that moment. Our entire corner started singing along while everyone did their own version of the happy belly dance to this dessert and wine.  This was my favorite bite of the meal. Great way to end. And the Alcyon was from Uruguay. I really want to try this again!)
  25. Hemp Seed Macarons. (These had a slightly green taste that really made for an excellent last bite. And I just love me a good macaron!)

WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW! What a meal.  It was really, truly amazing.  And even though there were 25 courses, we had wrapped up in under 3 hours. Every bite was enjoyable and it was a great meal adventure.  The entire Cat Stevens album continued to play as we wrapped up, and it was like a nostalgic journey that a lot of the diners commented on enjoying.

We just revisited our Top 10 Noms of all time, and when we looked it all over, we slotted Blanca in at #5 (just barely below Blue Hill at Stone Barns and above Bottega in Napa Valley). For reference here is the Top 10 as of March 2013:

    1. Eleven Madison Park
    2. WD-50
    3. Colicchio and Sons
    4. Blue Hill at Stone Barns
    5. Blanca
    6. Bottega (Napa)
    7. Momofuku Ko
    8. Le Bernadin
    9. Daniel
    10. Ai Fiori

Even though we tried not to at first, the fact that we were pretty drunk by the end definitely made for the last few dishes being a wee bit foggy. But still great. The service was also really fantastic, and we especially admired the sommelier who had quite the amazing pairings and knowledge about each and every sip.

Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10

9 out of 10

 

And we really loved both of these wines and I would like to try them again in the very near future (maybe when a bit less inebriated):

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2 Responses to “Blanca: Tasting Menu from Roberta’s”

  1. Brocka March 5, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    For someone so privileged to have all these food experiences & (thankfully) sharing them, i wish you were a better writer. You use the word ‘perfect’ at least 10-15 times in each post. Try a thesaurus. Read other food writers for inspiration. Somethin. Else. Please.

    • NYC Nom Nom March 5, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

      Thanks for your constructive feedback. Just went through and changed some of my “perfects” in this post after reading it back through with a more critical eye. Then again, sometimes things cannot be called anything else but perfect if they truly were.

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