French Restaurant Review: Blanca, Paris

French Restaurant Review: Blanca, Paris

It was when I was growing up in a small town in New England that I first discovered restaurants could be a way of travelling huge distances without buying a plane ticket. West Lake, the Chinese restaurant in downtown Westport, Connecticut, was a Cantonese restaurant so good I’d happily test the mettle of my gastronomic memory of its food again against a knowledge of ‘real’ Cantonese cooking if it hadn’t long since gone out of business. The Apizza Center cooked superb pizzas in a volcanically hot coal-burning oven, which sent me to Naples years before I first glimpsed Vesuvius, and Gold’s Delicatessen gave me a fledgling taste of Eastern Europe long before the Iron Curtain was finally raised.

I thought of this the other day when I met a friend for lunch in an intimate – only 14 seats – Argentinian restaurant about a five-minute walk from the Place de la Bastille and the Opéra Bastille in Paris. Coming through the door into this pretty little place with Spanish tiles and leather banquettes was like suddenly finding myself in a well-run neighbourhood restaurant in Buenos Aires, a city I like enormously.

Shoulder of lamb served with chipotle and fermented carrots © lephotographedudimanche

“I could have opened a second restaurant a few years earlier, but I waited because I wanted it to have a soul,” says Argentine chef Fernando de Tomaso of his diminutive new address. “I found this in my childhood memories of my grandmother Blanca Villanueva’s cooking. She was Basque, and as children she cooked us the most delicious food – piperade with slices of grilled ham, gâteau Basque, her cooking was absolutely delicious and always an expression of love.” De Tomaso opened Blanca with his sister, Violetta Hernandez, seven years after he first arrived in France and opened the excellent Biondi, a restaurant that seduced Parisians with the succulence of South America.

On a rainy winter day, it was a pleasure to tuck into some croquetas filled with wild mushrooms and served with black garlic mayonnaise, an assortment of beautifully-made empanadas stuffed with Beaufort, Comté and onion empanadas and a superb tuna ceviche with guacamole and grilled maize. Next, a juicy Argentine entrecôte with baby potatoes and chimichurri sauce for me, and yellow pollack with girolles and cockles for my friends. Both dishes were generously served and absolutely delicious.

Made according to a recipe by the siblings’ grandmother, the flan with dulce de leche was excellent. They also serve a terrific assortment of South American, French and Spanish wines by the glass.

34 rue Keller, 11th arrondissement, Paris. Tel. (33) 06 03 60 07 98

Lunch menu €18.50, average à la carte €35,

From France Today Magazine

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Lead photo credit : Fernando de Tomaso et Violetta Hernandez of Blanca ©Fred Jagueneau

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Alexander Lobrano grew up in Connecticut, and lived in Boston, New York and London before moving to Paris, his home today, in 1986. He was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine from 1999 until its closing, and has written about food and travel for Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Travel & Leisure, Departures, Conde Nast Traveler, and many other publications in the United States and the United Kingdom. He is the author of HUNGRY FOR PARIS, 2nd Edition (Random House, 4/2014), HUNGRY FOR FRANCE (Rizzoli, 4/2014), and MY PLACE AT THE TABLE, newly published in June 2021.

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