Carte Blanche opened in mid-June in the space previously occupied by Mudsmith Coffee on lower Greenville Ave. In the evening it offers a fine dining tasting menu and in the day it sells baked goods and coffee. The 4 or 12 course tasting menus are offered Tues – Sat. Husband and wife, Casey and Amy La Rue are the co-owners and chef and pastry chef, respectively. The tasting menu features native Texas ingredients and wine pairings are available. One interesting fact is that he doesn’t serve beef, focusing instead on smaller animals but the menu does stress seasonal items and will change regularly. Inside the large area are well spaced fairly large bare wood tables divided into 2 sides by a huge bar, which holds the pastries in the morning. Exposed ductwork runs across the high ceiling, art decorates the walls and music is in the background. The tables are set with a nice cloth napkin and a wrap of flatware that you chose from during the meal. We had the 12 course tasting and wine pairings however should I go back I would order my own wine. Portion control was good as was pacing, however the meal was over 2 and a half hours.
Before the Snacks are presented they brought a wet cloth. The snacks were a wild rice cracker topped with local goat cheese, lemon and rhubarb alongside a corn and coconut soup. The cracker was really crisp and the overall effect was wonderful. The soup was mostly corn flavored with powered coconut on top and very good.
The next 3 courses were served together.
Yelloweyetail was surrounded by spicy passion fruit sauce, grapefruit and radish. The raw fish was delightful with the tart sauce and bits of grapefruit.
Antelope Tartar was mixed with chives, oyster aioli and sunchoke chips. The chips added a tasty and fun textural element and the aioli was perfect with the raw meat.
Softshell Crab was fried, topped with finger lime bulbs on a watermelon sauce. I found the delicate crab to be over-breaded with little essence of the sweet crab still there. It was wonderfully crisp and good with the sauce but could have been anything.
Wild Boar Belly was served with snap pea romesco jicama and marcona almond foam. The boar was tender and tasty with not as much fat as the belly of a domestic pig. However it was lovely with the almond foam. The pea sauce was good with lots of flavor too.
Foie Gras Mousse was served with shaved melon, smoked plum and a cultured butter croissant. The mousse was in the shape of a scoop of ice cream and placed on the smoked plum sauce on top of watermelon slices. The excellent and completely buttery croissant was on a separate plate and the server suggested you could spread the ingredients on the croissant. I tried, but the croissant was so good I didn’t want to cover any of its perfect texture or flavor. The smokey mousse was also a bit thick to get to spread and the plum very tart. The melon was nicely sweet but the plum foam dominated the flavor profile. The mousse was smooth but the consistency bothered me – it was too sticky. This one didn’t come together for me other than the bread.
Grilled Scallop was plated with leeks and asparagus in a sherry broth. The scallop was cooked on one side so it stayed nicely moist and it was lovely with the tasty broth. The pieces of the various vegetables all blended well with the dish. This one was a winner.
Dos Lunas ‘Araguaney’ Agnolotti was in an artichoke barigoule with spring onion. The little pasta packages were filled with Texas goat cheese and a couple fried artichoke pieces decorated the top and added fun taste and texture. A wonderful piece of fresh artichoke was also in the dish. A very good plate.
Wild Mushrooms were on carrot puree and seasoned with tamarind-black garlic jus. The mushrooms were chanterelles and maiitake and some basil leaves added flavor to the top of the dish. The mushrooms, sauce and carrot puree were wonderful together but I found myself pushing the basil aside as it would take over. Otherwise this one was great.
Dry Aged Duck Breast was served with smoked tomato puree and ratatouille all on a bordelaise sauce. On the side was bread and housemade butter. The wheat bread was a wonderful mix of doughy interior and crisp crackly crust. A nice butter had a few sprinkles of salt on top and went well with the bread. The duck was cooked nicely and seemed to have some smoked taste of its own. Here the tomato puree was too strong for me and took over the flavor profile. The eggplant was grilled nicely and mixed well with the ratatouille but not the tomato puree. This one worked as separate components for me.
Raspberry sorbet was topped with sake sabayon in tiny chilled globe shaped dish. It was very nice and the two parts balanced each other well. Good transition course.
Dessert was a Mille-Feuille with cherry, white chocolate and hoja santa (Mexican pepperleaf herb). The pastry on the sides was perfectly crisp and well layered with a sweet custard in between. Cherry slices decorated the pieces and also a cherry sorbet was on the side. Finally a couple meringue slices added sweet, chewy texture and taste, This one was a winning combination and a very good sweet ending for the meal.
Lastly were Mignardises that were 3 chocolates filled with raspberry, caramel and passionfruit. The 2 fruits were in dark chocolate and the caramel in light chocolate. All had smooth, not runny fillings that were good. Of course the caramel was my favorite.