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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Blanca - Review #1

Blanca
3420 Via Oporto
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 673-0414

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Date of Visit: December 11, 2008

Where Food Trumps Strange Vibe and Atmosphere

Here's another guest review by Judy "the Foodie" Asman about a meal we shared together a couple months ago on Lido Isle.

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If the Spanish word "Blanca" translated into "strange," then the name would be most fitting for the Via Lido restaurant. Boasting a wide-ranging tapas menu, gourmet ensaladas, entrĂ©es, and fine wines, Blanca—one can assume—is named for its white motif. Should this be the case, then "Blanca" only partially captures the experience of this oft talked about eatery.

Thanks to a friendly invite from Christian Z, I dined at the dockside restaurant earlier this year. Originally anticipating enjoying a late-afternoon meal in what many consider to be one of Newport Beach's most quaint settings, Christian and I were disappointed to learn the restaurant opened at a later hour than we thought—shooting down our plans to take pictures of our dishes in afternoon sunlight.

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Meeting up in the parking lot of a local grocery store, Christian and I found ourselves in a Via Lido reminiscent of an old Western town that was recently abandoned by residents seeking the next gold rush. Off a downtown street both empty and quiet, we stepped onto the platform leading to the various rooms that are the whole of Blanca. Passing what was obviously the full bar on the left, Christian and I turned the corner and opted to sit on the deck alongside the harbor, while the few white tables and white puffy booths inside remained empty the entire time we were there.

With only a few servers tending almost no other customers, Christian and I were surprised to have waited as long as we did for menus and water. In the end, our service was courteous and friendly—but that didn't stop us from observing the strangeness of our experience as the night went on.

With colorful lighting in a somewhat dark atmosphere, and a friendly waitress who went through a number of outfits and hairstyles before landing on one that looked more like a club cocktail waitress outfit, Christian and I put it together that—for that evening anyway—Blanca seemed more focus on appealing to its late night club crowd, which we gathered would start piling in during the later hours.

When Christian and I finally ate, we were pleasantly surprised. At that point the atmosphere was nothing to speak of. Practically no customers came in while we were there, except for a group of college boys who seemed to be reuniting during the close of the holiday season. Our service left a lot to be desired despite our server's best efforts. So it was monumental that when we were served our food—we actually enjoyed high-quality dishes prepared to savory perfection.

I ordered the Posole, which was not only a very recession-friendly price of about $6 or $7, but it was soothing, flavorful and elegantly presented. The bowl was delivered on a white base plate bearing all of the garnishments and spices in small dainty doses—a couple of lime slices, cleanly cut radishes, chopped cabbage and oregano. The soup’s broth was most pleasing, and the ingredients were fresh. Although the dish does not appear on their current menu (according to their Web site www.blancanewport.com), its possible this was the Soup du jour, listed as $4.95.

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Christian expressed equal satisfaction with his meal—barbecued tiger shrimp with a sweetly flavored glaze. I seem to remember he had a nice rice pilaf alongside his shrimp, but the current menu online only lists a similar dish as "Coconut and Graham Cracker Battered Shrimp" ($11.95) with purple cabbage slaw and sweet and sour sauce.

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After listening to me rave about the Posole, Christian couldn't help but ask our server for a sampling of some. He enjoyed it quite a bit, he would tell me later. Even though after dinner, while standing in the parking lot, he would notice our server had charged him for a full bowl! Before going our separate ways for the night, Christian and I mused about how puzzled we were at our dining experience. Looking back to face the empty street, and the enigmatic eatery we came to know as Blanca, there was one thing on which we could agree—the food was not-too-shabby.

Prices:
Appetizers: $6 - $7; Tapas: $7 - $10; Soups and Salads: $5 - $8; Entrées: $7- $12; Deserts: $5 - $7; Wines: A variety that includes European wines, Australian brands and Californians, $8 - $375.

Thanks for the writeup, Judy. Here's a picture of the flan we shared that was actually three little flans streaked with caramel:

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7 comments:

Judy "the foodie" said...

Ah, the flan. Fabulous. I loved the caramel too!

DanGarion said...

Blanca is actually still open? I had heard they had some weird things go down soon after my last visit with the Foodbuzz folks...

ChristianZ said...

Well, I think it was after our FoodBuzz visit that they changed owners. But they were probably closed down for a little bit.

ChristianZ said...

Actually, I wonder if it changed owners again because their website doesn't mention anything about the Mexican menu we had when me and Judy were there in early December, although the site seems to have the same overall design that it did back then. So, yeah, it's a mystery.

Alonso (from Los Cabos) said...

Looks yummi!

melissa said...

Yeah, I'm confused about this place. It seems they had a hard time getting themselves together, in terms of business practices, ownership, style, service. But everyone has said the food is tasty sooo... *shrug* I thought they had closed as well, but I guess not.

ChristianZ said...

I'd be willing to go again but I sort of want somebody else to go now and see what they say it's like.