Friday, 28 December 2012

Blancharu, Elizabeth Bay

Blancharu does simple French-Japanese fusion with strong emphasis on 'Japanese' and 'simple'. It's not to say that the food isn't tasty, but it's lacking in many respects. My reaction at the end of the night? "It's alright. Nothing memorable about it."

Blancharu's location in Elizabeth Bay doesn't help, either. There is limited street parking, and if you're willing to pay for the fairly steep rates, the Kings Cross Car Park can be quite convenient (it's a couple of minutes' walk away). But there, you can see part of the problem. If the food is excellent, people are more willing to overlook the difficult location. If the food is only mediocre, it can be more trouble than it's worth.

The process of locating Blancharu might be a little tricky, as the signage is a little small and street numbers aren't very prominent. Look out for the blackboard, the wall of glass, and the zen-like water feature on the side.

The service is unobtrusive and respectful. I made my booking online and received confirmations via email as well as, on the day we were expected, over the phone. Our glasses of water were refilled before we noticed they were empty and it was easy to get the attention of the staff. Though a couple of the waitresses had limited English, they understood enough to take notes of our dietary requirements (a frustrating and, at times, life-endangering process).

Our table decided on the 5 course degustation for $49, refraining from the 7 course menu as we weren't willing to fork out the additional $39 for 2 courses in foreign territory.

Prior to the first course, a waitress came round with a tray of complimentary bread. They had 2 types of buns on offer - sourdough and french onion. I prefer my bread plain, so I selected the sourdough. It tasted more like white bread than sourdough but it wasn't bad. It was also sadly quite small - it would have been nice if we were offered another round of buns.

Sourdough bun
The first course was cold eggplant caviar (which I later learnt is the name of the dish) with crab meat and avocado, served up in a small ceramic mug. The mini croutons and crab meat complemented the moussey texture of the dish, and it was pretty tasty. There was a fairly strong taste of crab, though, so my friends who were less favourably disposed to seafood did not enjoy it. Personally quite liked it.

Eggplant caviar with crab and avocado
The second course was my least favourite of the night. The gazpacho was a cold, sour tomato soup which, aside from the salt content, tasted pretty much like a pureed tomato. The 'summer vegetables' didn't taste like part of the dish (as if they were tossed on top as an afterthought) and consisted of a cherry tomato and bits of bean, corn, onion and broccoli. The pea mousse was creamy but only slightly offset the sourness of the tomato gazpacho, which I had to swallow quickly (tomato really isn't a favourite of mine). I think their use of  two cold soupy entrees in a row was overdoing the summery theme - if they really wanted to stick with two chilled entrees, it would have been more palatable to make the second course a dish with solids - like sashimi. Thankfully the food improved.

Gazpacho with vegetables and pea mousse
 One of my friends was allergic to nuts and apparently the gazpacho contained them. She was offered a choice between prawn and scallops. She chose scallops and I think she got a better deal than us - presentation-wise, it's a lot more impressive.

Aburi scallops and Yuzu dressing
 The third course was a fish of the day - steamed John Dory with cauliflower puree and balsamic vinegar sauce. As awful as balsamic vinegar sounds with fish, the sauce was sweet and didn't taste like the usual balsamic vinegar that you have with garden salads. The presentation wasn't great but the fish was tasty, falling apart easily yet retaining some firmness.

Steamed john dory with balsamic vinegar sauce
The fourth course forced me to whip out my phone to do a quick Google search on some terminology. That night I learnt that 'yakitori' = skewers and 'sansyo' = pepper. It was nice to have warm food in the belly, and the tender quail paired with the miso sauce was pretty mouthwatering. I can't say that the pile of vegetable with sesame seed on top did much for the dish though.

Yakitori quail breast with miso sauce and sansyo
The photo below looks deceptive because the dessert was actually pretty small - relative to a mango, the bowl would only have been slightly larger. So what was in the bowl? The dessert was (very melted) coconut ice cream with chopped mango, a bit of light cheese and meringue that tasted like honeycomb. It was sitting in a deliciously chilled orange glaze. The dessert was tasty but something that made you feel like you could replicate it easily at home - a bad thing when restaurants are expected to churn out extraordinary desserts.

Dessert of the day
All in all, the simplicity of each dish made me feel like the meal was not worth paying $49, even though there were five courses in total. The portions are also fairly small, resulting in it taking a long long time before feeling fairly full. The menu is skewed towards chilled dishes, which means that the menu is probably for the more adventurous to sample. Having said that, the dishes are pretty ordinary, so it would be nice to see more skill invested in the food. Will not be back.

Blancharu on Urbanspoon

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