Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blancharu, Elizabeth Bay (2)

Chef Haru Inukai & Blancharu seem to be doing pretty well for themselves. Since my last visit they earned themselves a chef's hat in the SMH Good Food Guide, and it was well deserved in my opinion. My brother had visited the restaurant a few months later and the food was even better than our first time. So when my Dad wanted to go somewhere nice to celebrate my brother's engagement and birthday, Blancharu was an easy choice. It's one of those restaurants that sits in that lonely place between cheap eateries and fine dining, and is a rare but growing niche in Sydney. And it pulls off the Japanese-French cuisine with ease. It's delicious, memorable food for less than $100 a head.
French Onion (front) & sourdough bread (back)

The prices have changed a little since our last visit. The 4 course degustation where you get to choose your own dishes for a 4 course meal has increased from $60 to $70, and this makes the $80 7 course degustation look like much better value now. So we decide to go with the 7 course degustation, with quiet confidence in the degustation menu here (the last time we noted that all our favourite dishes were listed as part of the degustation). We started off with their bread, which is always nice. Everyone at the table got the French onion except for me who felt obliged to try the sourdough. But of course I managed to steal some of the French onion to try - it was SO good. My Mum liked it so much that she asked the waiter for another roll.
Course 1: Pacific oyster with ponzu jelly, Aburi ocean trout with green mango salad and Japonaise dressing

The first course was a combination of two of the entree dishes from the a la carte menu - an oyster with ponzu jelly and wonderfully seared ocean trout. I was so hungry and eager to tuck into this dish that I was halfway through mine before I realised I hadn't even taken any photos of it yet! A little shocking, since I'm so in the habit of taking photos before eating these days, luckily others at the table hadn't started eating yet. The oyster was wonderfully creamy and the jelly had a lovely zesty flavour which enhanced the taste of the oyster rather than overpowering it. The ocean trout was lovely - smoky on the outside and firm but moist in the inside. We were all wishing that we could have another oyster and more ocean trout.
Course 2: Wagyu beef tartare, Tosazu Jelly and Green Beans
There was one person at our table who was a little squeamish at the thought of eating raw beef, but there was no need for it. This beef had been cured and mixed with caramelised onions and it is out of this world. So unbelievably tender, the marbled meat just melts in your mouth and the flavour is sensational. Contrasted with the clean taste of the jelly, made with benito flakes, soy sauce & rice wine vinegar, this dish is a standout. I almost wish we were doing the 4 course menu just so I could eat a full-sized portion of this. Previously mentioned squeamish person licked her plate clean.
Course 3: Beer battered zucchini flower, 'Shinjo style' with Tentsuyu
I was excited about this dish. I love deep fried zucchini flowers, and this one reminded me of the version that I loved at Ju-Rin since it was stuffed with a Japanese fishcake filling, which had cuttlefish in it if I remember the description correctly. It was a little different to the fluffy partially tofu filling of the Ju-Rin version, this was more of a springy firm fish cake, but it was still really nice with that crisp brown batter. The squid ink sauce underneath was visually appealing.
Course 4: Blue swimmer crab spaghetti with tomato and chilli
For a place that is supposedly Japanese-French, it would surprise you to find out that a whole section of their menu is dedicated to pasta dishes. And even more surprising that it's a highlight. They do amazing pasta dishes at Blancharu, and I'm always impressed by them. It takes a lot to please me when it comes to pasta dishes, but somehow they always do. This dish smells amazing, you can smell the crab immediately. It's flavour is deeply infused into the sauce, and it is mouthwatering. It tastes as good as it smells, the rich flavour of crab with a light tomato sauce and just a slight spicy hint at the end. I wouldn't have minded a little more chilli, but I always want more chilli.
Course 5: Poisson du jour - Barramundi with a sherry vinegar sauce, savoy cabbage and bacon
Once again, the fish of the day is perfectly cooked. I don't know how they manage to get such a beautifully crisp skin whilst the fish is still delicate and moist. The savoy cabbage provides some interesting texture, but I find there is far too much bacon in this dish, and combined with the heavy sherry vinegar sauce, it completely overpowers the flavour of the fish. I leave most of the bacon behind so I can enjoy the fish in peace.
Course 6: Wagyu minute steak, sauteed mushroom & yuzu pepper sauce
The wagyu minute steak is very different in texture and flavour to the steak tartare we were served earlier, so it doesn't seem like there is too much beef on the menu. The steak is a lovely, pink slice of fillet, and it is, like everything else on the menu, perfectly cooked. It is so tender and tasty, with that nice charring on the outside. The only pity is that the yuzu pepper sauce doesn't really work for me. It's a little too tart and strong, though the sauteed mushrooms are amazing. I want more than that tiny little mound of mushrooms!
Course 7: Mango pannacotta with a coconut soup and meringue
We are now at dessert. I have to confess now that I was giving half of my mains away to A, since I had just come from an enormous lunch at Ripples and could only really manage a taste of each dish as we were getting near the desserts. But I definitely had to save room for dessert once I heard that it was mango pannacotta. Mangoes are in season so I was expecting it to be awesome. Chunks of fresh mango were dispersed within the dish, which was less of a wobbly, creamy pannacotta, and more of a jelly. It was still nice, especially with the coconut sauce and the crunchy meringue on top. When you had a bit of everything together, the contrasting textures reminded me of an Eton mess, which I loved.
Complimentary Creme brulee
Lucky for us, they happened to ask my brother if the meal was for a special occasion when he was making the booking, and so after our waiter confirmed it, he brought us out a complimentary dessert - a creme brulee with a lovely chocolate message and a candle stuck in it. These candlelit creme brulees seem to be following me around. It was really nice of them, though the toffee top was a little bit burnt. But we weren't complaining since it was free!
They were also nice enough to give us another complimentary plate of madeleines, those little sponge cakes that I am so enamoured with. It was dusted with a little cocoa powder spelling out Blancharu, which I thought was a cool little touch. It's little details like this that make the experience at Blancharu memorable. And at $80 it's pretty great value. Though we did blow the budget out a little by getting two bottles + a glass of wine, but hey we were celebrating!
Complimentary madeleines
I'm sure I'll be back again. The standard at Blancharu is consistent and high. It appeals to me a lot since Japanese and French are two of my favourite cuisines, and they manage to pull of this combination without it being gimmicky or forced. The only pain is the location. The parking around Elizabeth Bay is impossible, and we ended up giving up on driving altogether and caught a train in to Kings Cross Station. This turned out to be pretty good since the restaurant is only a short stroll from the station and then we could all enjoy our wine without any worries. The service is pretty good here, it's welcoming and not too stuffy. I wish there were more places like this.

1/21 Elizabeth Bay Rd

Elizabeth Bay NSW 2011

(02) 9360 3555

mon - fri, sat: dinner from 6:00pm - 10:00pm

fri, sat: lunch from 12:00pm - 14:30pm

Blancharu on Urbanspoon
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  1. Ooh this place is on my list of places to try and now your review makes me want to go even more! It must be good if even you dug into your food before taking photos ;)

  2. Looks like a lovely little establishment with class and repeat-value...much like this blog : )

    Also good to know that there are still high-class dining places which take service seriously and are willing to add those little touches like free creme brulee to make a special night even more special. I like free stuff.

  3. I'll have to pop this on my list too =) Fusion cuisine is one of those delicate things which can go so wrong when not done properly, but your photos look great!

  4. Looks like a good night of good food.

    How funny to get another candlelit creme brulee! It seems to be turning into a tradition ;)

  5. Wonderful review - adding this place to my list!! :)

  6. Blanc Haru is still on my list to try! That meringue looks crazyy and I want that tartare!

  7. Man, this looks like it would have been such a fantastic meal. Sounds it was just the perfect thing to celebrate your brother's engagement.

    The wagyu tartare looks like it's totally to die for! Found one bit of your post odd though. You said "too much bacon". I'm sorry, but I don't understand. There can never be enough bacon. Was it a typo? Just seems like an unusual thing to say :)

  8. Looks like a lovely meal! Blancharu is one of those places that has been on my list for ages but have yet to visit so thanks for convincing that a visit is a must have (and how good does that wagyu tartare look?)

  9. Have been meaning to get to Blancharu for some time now - your account only cements the desire. Had to smile when you mused about the zucchini filling - surely the perfect moment to say "if my memory serves me correctly" a la Iron Chef? lol

    Congrats again to your brother on his engagement and hope he had a lovely birthday!

  10. Jacq - Ooh yes go check it out! I think it's pretty good. I don't often get that enthusiastic about tucking into my dishes!

    The Ninja - Haha you're too kind :) I like free stuff too, if it has a nice thought behind it :)

    mademoiselle délicieuse - Yes do! I totally agree, trust me I've had some weird fusion meals before!

    Conor - I know, it's such a random thing to be following me around!

    Joy - I hope you like it!

    FFichiban - Mmm the tartare was so gooood!

    Simon - Ahahaha! Usually I would never even dream of saying it, but this time it really was too much. For fish :(

    Lorraine - You should check it out, it's really decent. The wagyu tartare was to die for!

    Helen - Hahaha I didn't even realise I did that til you pointed it out. Now I need some badly dubbed voice over to say it for me!


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