Oh, Brooklyn…you’ve won me over within one corner block in Bushwick alone. I rarely write restaurant reviews but this place made me so happy in my soul that I had to share it with all of you. Blanca and Roberta’s are sister restaurants run by the same chef with vastly different vibes. The juxtaposition between the two (and the foodie internet radio station sandwiched in between!) is absolutely irresistible…read on for a photo journey through my experience at both a 2 star Michelin restaurant and an amazing hipster pizzeria. Be forewarned, this is going to get you revved up and hungry for your next trip to Brooklyn…
First up, Blanca…a truly one of a kind restaurant. Blanca opened in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn in 2012 with a 12 seat chef’s counter and a 20+ course tasting menu. Did I mention that you have to walk through it’s sister pizzeria to get to it? In fact, the host that you check in with for your Blanca reservation is actually the host at the pizzeria (with an oh-so hipster vibe), Roberta’s. Oh, and it’s also managed to earn itself 2 Michelin Stars for the past two years in a row. I mean really…do you expect anything less funky and fun from Brooklyn? Let’s get eating!
A mild, delicate first bite. So mild and delicate that it had me worried for a second there…worried that perhaps this would be one of those high end meals where everything was so simply and beautifully prepared that it was borderline underwhelming. But then I tried it with our first beverage pairing* of the night. My worry turned into confidence…this was going to be an amazing meal and I was going to make friends with the sassy woman pouring our drinks.
The next plate comes out and I’m thinking that while I love pancetta how unique and amazing can just a single slice of pancetta really be? If you’ve ever had lardo, I mean really high quality lardo that you get in Italy you’ll start to get a sense of where this is heading. Soft, buttery, melt in your mouth with a beautifully developed pork belly richness.
Quick time out to appreciate our view…one of the things that I love about Blanca is that there is no bad seat in the house. All 12 diners are sitting at the chef’s counter with a full view of the kitchen, up close and personal interaction with the intimate, attentive staff and sometimes tantalizing previews of meals to come. Like the duck seen above.
Another delicate dish…and while I thought the star was going to be the squid it ended up being the almond water. Who knew squid with almond water and a zing of citrus would be so surprisingly delectable?!
Ok, I love soup…so I’m a little biased here. But this was incredible. Creamy, rich yet light all at the same time. And the crispy brussel sprout and hibiscus flower powder garnish was a stroke of genius.
Need I say more? Shaved foie gras. Fatty, unctuous, meaty but with a texture like you’ve never had with foie gras. If that wasn’t interesting enough, the homemade sunflower seed butter beneath the shaved foie gras almost gave you the same sensation as what you would expect from a traditional foie gras preparation. Genius! Such a unique preparation that I wasn’t sure would work but it really, really did…especially that little kick of heat and sweetness from the Calabrian chili dusted apples. Divine.
I’ll be honest, when this one came out and was explained to us it kind of sounded like the typical vegetarian dish that we’re all supposed to like but deep down we’re all just ready to get back to the real deal. Surprise (or rather maybe I should just stop doubting them at this point)…not the case here! The purple sweet potato could almost be mistaken for a flourless cake and the macadamia nut curd was to. die. for. Like to the point where we had an in depth conversation with the staff about it and were all proclaiming that this would replace peanut butter for us forever. What I would do to get my hands on some more of that curd!
SavoryGirl gets pretty excited when the pasta courses start arriving…and when the first one up was a carbonara I was thrilled. Oh…and by this point have you noticed their gorgeous dishes? They’re all made by a local Brooklyn artist specifically for Blanca…so realistic that we had an honest debate (ok we’re quite a few drinks in by now) about whether they were made from real shells or not. Spoiler alert…they’re not. But amazingly gorgeous. Anyway, back to the food…lamb carbonara. Rich, tender and perfectly seasoned. When they came to take my plate away I legit asked if I could get a bucket of the carbonara to go. I’m still hoping.
This was incredibly unique, although not one of my favorites. Lapsang souchong is a Chinese black tea and what I did really like about this dish is how much the tea came through. Sometimes a dish is described to you and you’re left really searching for the unique flavors they described, but even if you didn’t know what lapsang souchong was you would definitely know that there is tea in this and it worked quite well!
People go nutty over this dish…so much so that I think it’s pretty much always part of the tasting menu. One of our servers actually told us she loved this dish so much she’d like to wear it. Like skin. We’re in Brooklyn, people are quirky! But I have to admit, after tasting it I kind of understood what she was saying. The spicy, spreadable Calabrian sausage filling within the ravioli was so intensely flavored but perfectly balanced with the orange zest and amazingly fresh, perfectly cooked ravioli. Holy yum. Why oh why are they so stingy and only giving us one of these? Oh, right…19 courses.
This was an incredibly fun dish. But I had to try eating it a few different ways to really try to understand what they were going for here. And I have to say that I tended to enjoy most of the elements individually (especially the beef lardo) or paired with just one of the other elements vs. eating them all together in one bite.
This is another legendary one that people go gaga over. It is a nice big chunk of perfectly cooked king crab and the bottarga butter to dip it in is luxuriously evil. Fabulous and decadent.
I spy with my little eye…bread course coming! But not just any bread course. Blanca’s bread course is actually pizza dough from their sister restaurant next door, Roberta’s, that they bake more like bread than pizza. Holy fuck-balls. Excuse my language. But it’s necessary. This bread, and the artisan butter that they serve it with, is so delish that it immediately makes you start thinking about the pizza next door despite being incredibly happy with the fabulous meal you’re already eating. Stay tuned…more to come on that soon.
Mmmmmmm. That’s all. Mmmmmmm.
Let the meat courses begin…and they begin with a bang! Oh this fat cap. Don’t get me wrong the Wagyu beef loin is absolutely perfect itself but the fat cap steals the show. I don’t care if you don’t normally eat fat like this…eat this fat. That’s an order, and you’ll thank me for it.
Rarely do palette cleansers blow my mind but I love grapefruit and this worked so well. I’d like a tub of this at home please.
Yes, yes…deconstructed is a bit passé these days, but honestly now that we’re past everyone overusing it I don’t know why especially after eating this dish. That duck that was eyeballing us from the kitchen earlier did not disappoint and my dining partners couldn’t stop talking about the pie crust. I, however, was obsessed with the fresh horseradish. So smart…I’m definitely incorporating horseradish into my next pot pie adventure!
I’m not the biggest yuzu fan, but the sourdough gelato was so great. It was like eating bread ice cream! That hit of sourdough was insanely present, but with the cold creaminess of the gelato it was like a weird, delicious puzzle in your mouth. Super fun.
This was one of my favorite dishes of the night! I love sunchokes and the sunchoke flavor in the cake was so strong and the texture was so perfectly moist yet crumbly. God I loved this little sunchoke cake. Cardamom is also one of my favorite flavors so all around this dish was making me a very happy girl.
This was another one of those dishes where each element was phenomenal on it’s own, but they didn’t quite work for me all together. Loved the cashew gelato though so nutty and flavorful.
Last, but certainly not least…man does Blanca know its way around nut butters, gelatos and curds. Between the macadamia nut curd, the cashew gelato and now this homemade peanut butter I was ready to stock up. Maybe a grocery store should be the next addition to their delicious little empire! I’m pretty picky about peanut butter but this was delicious and the chocolate crisp was so dark and pure. Gourmet peanut butter cup anyone?
Now that the meal has come to an end we take a minute to admire their classy yet oh-so Brooklyn atmosphere. Great record collection which they actually use for more than just prop…to the point where we were all grooving and singing along a couple times throughout the meal. How many times can you say that at a 2 Michelin star restaurant? No stuffy, formal atmosphere here!
Wait, what? Scene change! Ok…so time for me to fess up. The night before we came to Blanca I went to Roberta’s by myself to check it out and eat. I had heard such good things about both restaurants I just had to fit them both in…and while I joked that I’d go to Roberta’s after Blanca for my “20th” course I was worried that wouldn’t really happen. But guess what? Roberta’s was so amazing the night before that I convinced my other three dining partners that we absolutely had to go there after Blanca for a 20th course…and they fell for it. I’m a persuasive, persistent, gluttonous foodie!
What I love almost as much as the pizza at Roberta’s? The atmosphere…totally laid back, hipster vibe. And I mean hipster in a good way here…because that’s not typically my scene. It’s warm, inviting and feels like you’re a part of the community even though I know I’m a food obsessed tourist and not part of this scene at all. But wait! It gets better…connected to the restaurant is the Heritage Network Radio Station which records in a shipping container sandwiched between Roberta’s and Blanca. And I just happen to be there on a Tuesday night while they are taping their weekly Roberta’s Radio show. Like does it get any cooler than this? A hipster pizza spot, a two star Michelin restaurant and the pioneer internet food radio station all living in the same spot, riffing off each other beautifully and making a complete foodie heaven that I honestly don’t ever want to leave.
But the pizza. Oh, the pizza. I got the inside scoop from the bartender my first night there and he was spot on. The famous original pie is basically lie a NY style margherita pizza sans basil. Seriously might be the best pizza I’ve ever had. I ate a whole one by myself the first night and convinced my three dining partners to go get another one with me after I had already eaten 19 courses of amazing food next door. Thank god I live 3000 miles away from this place…so good it’s dangerous!
Whatever you do, next time you’re in Brooklyn don’t miss the Blanca/Roberta’s experience. And yes…I suggest you go hardcore and do them both and (do not miss the drink pairing* at Blanca…so many unique wines and ciders). I couldn’t possibly choose one over the other and you should’t either. Go ahead, splurge…you deserve it…and Blanca/Roberta’s is beyond worth it.
*Blanca has an amazing beverage pairing to go along with their tasting menu…I don’t always recommend doing this but I strongly recommend it here. We got 11 tastes in total which is the perfect amount in my opinion but they also come around and refill anything that you really like. A few of my favorites are listed below:
Eve’s Cider: Mapache Lives, Finger Lakes NY
Rebholz: 2014 Pinot Blanc, Pfalz DE
Millstone: Cherrykriek, Monkton MD (a cider brewed with sour cherries)
Evil Twin: Freudian Slip Barleywine, Brooklyn NY
Claire Naudin: 2012 Viola Odorata Cotes de Nuits-Villages, Bourgogne FR
Tissot: Macvin Blanc , Jura FR (fortified wine)
Wolffer: No. 139 Dry Rose Cider (this was at Roberta’s)