Blanca

261 Moore St. Brooklyn, NY 11206(347) 799-2807blancanyc.com

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Had I never been to Momofuku Ko prior to my visit to Blanca, I’d probably be swooning even more than I’m about to, but unfortunately the concept does come off a bit as a copy cat (without the affordability hook). A high-end, chef’s tasting only offered to a dozen stools overlooking the kitchen amidst a purposefully pompless dining room.

What’s different is that it’s Italian and if you’ve ever been to Roberta’s for pizza, than you’re probably already drooling, because you kinda know what this chef is capable of. Then again, you also kinda don’t, because Carlo Mirachi is about to open a can of culinary whoop-ass on you that you’d likely never come to expect from a pie slinger, slinging around Ultimates instead, as if they were going out of style.

To get here, there are few things you need to know. First, make a reservation fast, because as I mentioned above, there aren’t many seats and there are only two seatings a night. Second, be willing to eat when you normally wouldn’t. The first seating is at 6pm and the second is at 8:30pm. I recommend the earlier one so you have time to digest. I also recommend booking during Passover when you weed out about half of the competition to get a table. Third, be prepared to drop some coin, because you HAVE to get the “wine” pairings. I use quotes because many of the pairings are not actually wine (more on that later). And finally, to get to the dining room itself, you must first check in at the front desk in Roberta’s, where they will then escort you to the back corner of the ever-expanding Roberta’s compound, to a nondescript building set apart from the rest of the hullaballoo.

Kicking things off, they get you in the mood with a pallet-cleansing sip of Evil Twin “Blanca Biere de Table” yes, beer of all things. But nice touch on the “blanca.” Well played.

First on the food docket comes a little taste of glass shrimp with sprinkling of kohlrabi and black sesame, paired with a crisp Hugues Godme Extra Brut Champagne. It’s a nice, light start to set the mood, artfully balanced and just understated enough to give them something to build to.

Unfortunately, the second course kinda dropped the baton. A house-cured pancetta that was as white as ghost, both looking and tasting like a pure ribbon of fat. It was easily the worst course of the night and so off-putting that I honestly recommend skipping it entirely and saving more room for the brilliance to come.

And Johnny come quickly, with an early Ultimate, served in the form of a cold soup, made with garbanzo beans and autumn olives, which that alone is impressive, because let’s be honest, it’s not like garbanzo beans are a treasure trove of flavor, so to get that much pizzazz out of it is easily worthy of a golf clap.

Chasing that was a bit of a wasted bullet with a ginger-soaked apple and macadamia shavings. Nothing to write home about, and not much to blog about either. And sadly, neither were the next two courses, the sweet potato with buttermilk and the peas with ramps. All paired with a Rose and not a one worth remembering.

But just when my faith was failing, BOOM another Ultimate. The lamb carbonara is balls out jaw dropping. Sporting a healthy, peppery kick this carbonara kicks some serious ass. And adding to the ass-kickage is the pairing with a vermouth from Hammer & Tongs that is so inventive that it is only bested by its complementary perfection with the pasta.

Then, right on the heels of such pasta brilliance, they do it again with an agnolotti filled with a smoky lapsang souchong (Chinese tea). And while I would love to wax poetic about it, the next pasta course managed to blow them all away. A spicy blood orange nduja (pork sausage) ravioli that is so fucking good that it will make you angry that they only give you one of them. But perhaps the most shockingly amazing thing about this pasta is that the pairing deserves an Ultimate unto itself. A stout beer with the most badass name in history, Siberian Black Magic Panther Imperial Stout. I don’t even know what it means, but what I do know it that it goes hella good with spicy blood orange nduja ravioli.

Sadly the rollercoaster returned, however, as the stracciatella with beef lardo and the king crab with bottarga brought me back to Earth. But barely did my feet even touch the ground before being swept into the stratosphere once again by the “bread and butter,” also known as pizza crust and homemade salted butter. I know it sounds so simple that it teeters on lame, but if lame tastes this friggin’ good, then sign me up for a lame-a-palooza.

Back to blah was the loin of wagyu beef and the pork with grapefruit, proving out a theme, if you ask me, that the meat dishes, across the board, proved to be the biggest misses of the night.

Fortunately the hits were so strong that it made up for it in spades, coming in every shape and form, including even a palate cleanser, such as the pineapple, cilantro sorbet.

Then, capping the night, we were met with a finale of desserts set to the theme of a late harvest Riesling from the Finger Lakes in New York. The first of the lot being sourdough gelato with yuzu crème. So inventive. So good. You really have to try it to understand.

After that, the sunchoke with cardamom, the cashew coconut cake and the chocolate peanut butter cookie were much more in the mortal realm, but after such heights I think it was probably prudent to ease you back into the real world.

4 teeth

Allium

Four Seasons Hotel 120 E Delaware Pl. Chicago, IL 60611 •  (312) 799-4900 •  alliumchicago.com

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I suppose it should come as no shock that the restaurant in the Four Seasons is excellent, because after having now eaten at five of them (New York, Toronto, Atlanta, Istanbul & Chicago), the only shock would be if it wasn’t superb. After all, that’s just how they roll- four knives or better, or four get it. And unFOURgettable it was (okay, I’m done with the “four” puns). A farm to table tour de FOURce (I lied) that would make the Department of Agriculture proud.

Feeling a bit chunky, however, I didn’t go all in, deciding to keep it lite with choices like the white asparagus gazpacho accented with marcona almonds, grapes and smoked trout roe. It was one of the best cold soups I’ve ever had and everything I was hoping it would be. Full of flavor, not calories. And as fresh as The Prince of Bel Air.

The other half of my soup and salad duo was a roasted carrot salad comprised of marinated wheat berries, lime yogurt, bitter greens, pistachio and some mysterious form of heat. I’m gonna go with chile. It was like Bugs Bunny’s wet dream on a plate. Ew… I think I might’ve even grossed myself out on that one. But assuming I didn’t just ruin it for you, this is a must get. Trust me. You need this.

Then, wash it all down with an excellent sav blanc from South Africa and you will be happier than Pharrell on Zoloft.

4 teeth

Le Moulin de Mougins

1028 ave Notre-Dame de Vie 06250 Mougins, France • 04.93.75.78.24 • moulin-mougins.com

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Moulin just might be the easiest three Michelin Star restaurant to get a reservation at in the world. We’re talking 24 hours notice on a Friday night kinda easy. Suspiciously easy. Like as in “is this place really as good as they say?” cause if it were, shouldn’t it be harder to get a table? Or is it simply the fact that Cannes goers don’t even have it on their radar? Thinking it’s too far or too expensive, neither of which are true.

Inside the décor is lovely with exposed parts of an antique mill poking through the walls here and there. However, the garden is truly the place to be, set on multiple levels with beautiful flowers triangulating every table. My one gripe would be on the lighting system, a lamp at the table’s center with the cord cutting across the top, dangling over one side. Can’t a brother get a candle up in this bitch? Or drill a hole in the center of the table and run the cord through? Or what about cordless lighting? Or overhead? I know I seem really distracted right now by something so seemingly trivial, but drawing even more attention to this problem was the fact that the lamp was attracting a horde of flies, which doesn’t exactly make for the most aesthetically pleasing centerpiece in the world. But dropping the subject since I can tell you’re annoyed, let’s get on with the review…

At the onset, things definitely started off cold, both figuratively and literally. The cold soup amuse bouche was so unimpressive I didn’t even bother to finish it, which had me nervous for a spell, but then a second amuse bouche hit the table and this one was very good. A spinach, bacon and cheese dip that when combine with their fresh baked fig bread was like a ballet of savory and sweet.

After that the hits were fast and furious with all three appetizers killing it! The seared foie gras with cherry compote and marinated slivers of cherry was excellent. As was the spider fish stuffed zucchini blossom and the asparagus risotto.

The two entrees I tried both rocked it as well. The duck, while served in an inventive, tubular presentation, was regrettably a touch on the dry side, but because it came with the dreamiest Ultimate mashed sweet potatoes, whipped into silk, this sidekick swooped in like Robin to its Batman, handily saving the day (and the dish).

Opposite the duck, the other main course was a moist, citrusy sea bass packed with favor and a touch of sweetness, also made special by it’s companion, an earthy black rice, that when placed together on the same fork was like a happy marriage between land and sea. Which, in a lesser-known ruling that the Supreme Court also legalized last week along with same-sex marriage.

Sadly desserts had the weakest showing of the night (other than the cold soup). The lemon tart was flat out terrible. The macaroon was okay and the chocolate, espresso tart was an imperceptible notch above the macaroon.

But all in all, one of the best means to be had in Cannesland. It’ll make you happier than winning a Grand Prix. Well, almost.

4 teeth

The Ultimate Soup (Cold)

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Momofuku Ko – New York, NY

Let’s be honest, head to head cold soup is pretty much a nonstarter compared to hot soup. The way hot soup warms you to the core, the aromas wafting up from the bowl in ribbons of steam, the way the spices and herbs infuse the liquid as it cooks. And then there’s gazpacho, which is more or less a bowl of salsa in disguise.

Well, Momofuku Ko just proved that gazpacho isn’t the only game in cold soup town with their honeydew melon and avocado soup. Accented with macadamia nuts for a nice textural contrast. It was so creamy and refreshing and about twenty other adjectives I am sparing you from, because this isn’t about my knowledge of the thesaurus. It’s about cold soup finally being hot.