Finnish chef Tomi Björck teams up with local Sam Cole to bring an excellently executed east-meets-west menu to Bondi Beach.
Tomi Björck is no stranger to international cuisine, and with a slew of his own restaurants in Scandinavia already under his belt, Blanca is the Finnish chef's first foray into Sydney's more-global-than-ever gastronomic scene. Co-owner, co-head chef and Wollongong local Sam Cole is no newbie on the scene either, after stints around the world on luxury yachts and a residency under Heston Blumenthal. By their powers combined, they've pulled together their breadth of experience to create a menu that's influenced by their travels, their work and the flavours of both the Orient and the Mediterranean.
They've described the restaurant and bar as a blank canvas, and they've used that canvas to create something quite unique. Occupying the space that used to house Ribs & Burgers on Hall Street, Blanca leans heavily on a black and white colour palette, and utilises tables and chairs of varying heights to create a multi-levelled space that fills up the smaller venue without overcrowding it, and creates a welcoming dining area that's at once private and communal.
This ideal of east meets west is particularly evident in dishes like the croquetas ($5), which feature a stunning combination of Chinese sausage, a subtle bite of harissa and very smooth, very rich manchego cream. The texture is the best part of this dish; the crumbed outside of the croquet has a hard crunch that gives way to the soft goodness within. This attention to texture and mouth-feel sticks around throughout the entire menu, particularly with the beef tartare ($6). The beautifully-aged soft beef is enveloped in a crunchy sesame leaf and helped along with a touch of pickled radish and a healthy dose of wasabi mayo that cuts through the flavour profiles.
The more substantial dishes feature items like a perfectly cooked Fremantle octopus ($26) with thyme, garlic, romesco and a yuzu brown butter that I was pretty much drinking like a soup — it's that damned good. The dressing also features on the pork ribs (which are cooked in miso caramel), the succulent fillet of miso salmon, and a dish of delicate slices of bonito pastrami ($24-27).
It's often the case that the desserts on offer are the emblem of the ethos of a restaurant — the final full stop that ties everything together. Cole and Björck take this to heart, and have created some incredible final courses that show off the influences they've infused throughout the whole menu. The matcha tea mousse with meringue includes fresh strawberries and the delicate mint flavour lent by shiso, as well as a nutty almond cake that gives an added textural layer to the dessert ($14). Then there's the Bondi Sands ($17), a decadent chocolate and pannacotta ice cream with caramel, mascarpone, vanilla and praline. While it doesn't take a helping hand from the Asian flavours like the rest of the menu, it's a little homage to its new home.
It's good to see that Blanca doesn't go completely over the top with the drinks list. There's a brief selection of cocktails and wines that cover all the varietals without confusing the diner. Instead, they offer a wide selection of sake, whisky and gins as alternatives, and it's a solid idea that's executed well. Just like everything else on the menu, the drinks list is all about creating a holistic dining experience where everything works together; flavours, textures, and mouth-feel are all considered as equally important.
After many years travelling the world, trying new foods and creating new ideas, we're pretty happy Björck and Cole have settled in Bondi to open Blanca — a restaurant idea that was initially conceived in Barcelona. It's well thought out, excellently executed, and it's a damn fine place to fill your face with the flavours of the world.