The best time to go to a new and trending restaurant located by the beach is when there is a 90% chance of severe thunderstorms. Blanca has been all over my Instagram feed, e-newsletters and websites I frequent, it was almost like they were low-key stalking me and tempting me with their aesthetics, both in terms of their interior and the plating of their food. While Blanca has Nordic roots, with one half of the owners being of Finnish heritage, everything menu-wise speaks more to Mediterranean cuisine with punches of Asian flavours.
I can hear you guys groan already upon hearing about yet another “fusion” story in Sydney. And while I sympathise, it’s an inescapable fact that no matter how far one tries to run, Australia’s multiculturalism makes it hard for us to shy away from a dab of miso on steak, a Hainanese chicken rice burrito, or in Blanca’s case, a lap cheong (cured Chinese sausage) croquette. Embrace it I say, I love both authentic cuisine from pockets of migrant communities that are scattered around Sydney and the delicious bastards that result from a cultural mash not unlike Jay-Z and Linkin Park’s Collision Course. It’s a wonderful time and place to be alive to experience invention, that is, if it’s executed well.
Salmon rice cracker $6
The first section of Blanca’s menu is all snacks, individual servings designed to tempt tastebuds. It’s hard for me to pass up the salmon rice cracker when I agree with all of its components. Cubed salmon tartare, squirts of dashi mayo, bagna cauda (a creamy anchovy dip) and bottarga made for a very pleasant seafood umami bomb. If it looks small, it was, but for ingredients like this, I thought it was the perfect size for any larger and it might be a bit overwhelming.
Blanca Black Bun $9
I can’t resist baos and any variations of them whenever I see it on the menu. The Blanca black bun was no exception especially when the menu item promised crispy soft shell crab, XO mayo and a spicy red cabbage slaw. The black made for a very pretty picture when juxtaposed against the white plate and the white everything else that is the decor of Blanca. It doesn’t do much flavour-wise but it’s worth noting that the bun was indeed very soft and fluffy. The crab was crunchy and not oily (which they can be sometimes) but personally I would have liked more soft-shell crab to go with it all especially when it’s priced at $9 a piece. The spicy and tangy red cabbage served its purpose to cut through all that fried-ness. A good bao, but doesn’t hold a candle to Sydney’s greats like Belly Bao and that time Lucky Suzie had that phenomenal Prosperity Bao.
Grilled Fremantle Octopus $26
We’ve now sauntered into mains territory and first up to bat was the octopus. I’m not entirely sure what made me want to order octopus, as much as I like it, it’s not usually a top favourite of mine. It turned out to be the best of the night as we were greeted with springy octopus flesh (not tough, chewy or rubbery) and a romesco sauce (made out of nut and red peppers) that was the highlight of it all. Octopus doesn’t have much of a discerning flavour which is what makes it the perfect platform for a strong tasting dressing like romesco. The carpaccio is the thinly sliced mosaic of circles above, a really nice touch to the plating while adding a slightly different texture.
Roasted Snapper and Mussels $27
I didn’t expect the snapper dish to be so saucy but was pleasantly surprised at how much flavour there was in this. The base which was a white wine and nori jus with hints of yuzu kosho, (another nod in the Japanese cooking direction) played out to be like a seafood stew. The fish was perfectly cooked as were the mussels. Although not stated on the menu, there were even some calamari elements to this. In terms of value for money, this is probably a better bet compared to the aforementioned octopus because of how hearty it is. However the flavours aren’t as clean.
Crispy Blanca Potatoes and Aioli $14
Feeling like our orders so far aren’t substantial enough, we opt for the carbiest side dish on offer, the potatoes. Super fluffy on the inside with crisp edges and my favourite seasoning ever, furikake, makes for a super tasty outcome. I know a certain Sarah who would have loved it.
I like Blanca. There is so much more to the menu too that the only solution is for me to go back with hordes of hungry people so we can order one of everything and more. The portions are on the small side but at a place like this, you’re paying for finesse of flavour rather than quantity. And even with that said, I walked out of there feeling comfortably satiated as well, rather than my usual hold-my-sides-because-I’m-about-to-burst full. To avoid disappointment, make sure to either book your table well in advance or walk-in on the cusp of torrential rain.