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Restaurant review: Blanca is not for beginners

Aesthetically, philosophically, it’s all pretty exciting and probably incredibly cool, the culinary equivalent of jolie laye. But taste is an experience of reflex perception, not of the intellect. Both of my dishes at Blanca started off lush, with tiny veins of citrus segments aa Chilean Grenada granita, sweet tart, and pale clarion—and then, digging in with a fork, the diner uncovers one of the tiny fermented Brussels sprouts buried beneath relatively bland little globs of dark, sulphurous mush. The bowl is an exclamation point that becomes an interrobang and then collapses into a question mark. Whenever a course came along that was downright delicious, no dupe – like Blamey’s tortilla al rescoldo, chile bread studded with chunks of chewy pork belly and baked in ash, served with a topping similar to daffodil-yellow cultured butter—I almost felt giddy with relief. (I have to say, the bread is so wonderful—dense, chewy, and funky with lard—that even if you’re a cautious, risk-averse diner, it might be worth the price of admission on its own.) And there are times when the flavor-chemical esoterica looks revealing. A hunk of Spanish mackerel, fatty and rich, sings on a hairy green emulsion of lemon sorrel. Tempura-fried morsels of taro nome (broccoli-shaped angelica buds with a mild chlorophyll flavor) dusted with powdered sugar offer a puffy springtime funnel cake.

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Little is made of dessert at Blanca. After the top savory course – a great game of roast pheasant, on my visits, complete with souvenir feathers, although the kitchen has recently switched to lamb – things never quite sweeten up. You get ice cream, but there might be a pot of parsnip puree underneath and a dollop of salty caviar on top, a callback to the original Blanca, where roe was served with parsnip granita. Then there’s the cheese plate, a light slice of something creamy and a little tart, with honey and some delightfully crumbly oat crackers like homemade Hobnobs, garnished with pepitas. After such a vigorous act of eating, it’s a strikingly homely finish: soft, tender, nostalgic. I kept waiting for something to pop out, twist the joy a little, to ask what the hell was going on: chile whipping? A hint of bitterness? No, it was just beautiful cheese, beautiful honey, beautiful cracker. It was excellent – ​​but Blamey trained me to wish there was more to it. ♦

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