Blanco’s staff members are perceptive — they know how to spot a restaurant reviewer. They show initiative and are shrewd operators. But resorting to bribery with a discounted bill should be verboten, especially as there’s no need in this instance.
The restaurant may not go in for the esoteric culinary pleasures of Italy’s regional cuisines, but its menu, which is reassuringly limited, features a decent selection of Italianesque dishes: risotto, pasta and pizza.
Made from rice grown in Taitung, which has a smaller carbon footprint than arborio rice imported from Italy, the lunch menu’s organic risotto with mushroom in cream (NT$270) can be ordered with the addition of black truffle sauce for an extra NT$40. And who wouldn’t? The fungus’ pungent, earthy, meaty flavor and musky aroma can rescue the most mundane fare and turn it into something verging on exquisite.
The organic risotto with shrimp and tomato (NT$290) brightened the table with its yellow/red glow, the result of adding saffron, and tasted sun-kissed.
Three sets are available. The lunch version (NT$220 to NT$320) is served from 11:30am to 2:30pm and includes a choice of soup or salad, a main course and, for the addition of NT$80, a drink or gelato.
The tea set (NT$160 to NT$260), available from 2:30pm to 5:30pm, features a choice of sandwiches, pizza, cake, waffles or, the most tantalizing option, egg with truffle and tomato with basil toast platter (NT$220), and a drink.
For dinner, options include lamb (NT$680), salmon fillet (NT$580) or chicken (NT$480), all with seven-year balsamic vinegar, a choice of salad or soup, gelato or cake, and a drink.
The soup on a recent visit was boring, but the salad, made with lollo rosso, cherry tomato, yellow pepper, olives, frisee, cucumber and romaine lettuce accompanied with a slightly sour cream dressing, while not quite a revelation, put many of Blanco’s peers to shame with their limp iceberg and thousand island dressing.
Address: 19, Ln 112, Renai Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市仁愛路四段112巷19號)
Telephone: (02) 2325-3655
Average meal: NT$350 for lunch; NT$600 for dinner
Open: 11:30am to 9:30pm; last orders at 8:30pm
Details: English and Chinese menu; credit cards accepted
On the Net: www.wretch.cc/mypage/biancotw1
The gelato further sets the restaurant apart. Of particular note are the lemon, chocolate and blueberry flavors, the latter made with tomato, which deepens what can sometimes be a sickly sweet dessert.
Split into a main dining room — walls painted white and green with a dark charcoal ceiling, furnished with white wooden tables, cabinets filled with pottery and X-back wooden chairs upholstered in beige fabric — and the area adjoining the open-plan kitchen, which is completely done out in white, Blanco exudes a cool air of sophistication. A private room at the back of the restaurant seats 10 around a heavy undressed wooden table.
At the front, imported Italian produce is displayed in brightly lit cabinets, including wine (Torre A Cenaia, sangiovese 2006, NT$880; Tosc Torre Del Vajo 2005, NT$1,190), vinegar (Il Grande Vecchio 100 years balsamic vinegar, NT$18,500 for 68g), sauces (Villa Reale Sicilian pesto sauce, NT$290 for 180g), Giuliano Tartufi whole summer truffles (NT$455) and oil (Lorenzo No1 D.O.P. Valli Trapanesi Organic extra virgin olive oil, NT$1,380).
Blanco is located up the alley adjacent to Taishin International Bank Tower (台新金控大樓) on Renai Circle (仁愛圓環).