Many foodies have already passed the doors of Etxebarri, and many many more will. When visiting the Basque country, probably aiming to dine at one or more of the acclaimed 3 star restaurants in Bilbao or San Sebastian, it is basically a must to also stop at Victor Arguinzoniz’ asador, a true gem hidden in the hills East of Bilbao.
When stopping there you’re in for much more than just a rustic meal in between two fine dining places. In fact, when having such kind of itinerary, I am sure that 1 out of 2 diners will say that they preferred the experience there to any fancy restaurant with foams, reductions and other chichis.
I won’t get to much into details with this blog entry, as shortly before our visit Andy Hayler has written a nice review of the place.
Just a quick summary: We were heading to Etxebarri in order to finally experience the mother of all BBQ-restaurants and a cuisine centered around the great products of the Basque sea and land. What we got was a 5 hour lunch full of pleasure, sitting on a sun-flooded terrace with a view of the mountains, being pampered with great wines and experiencing some simple but excellent cooking. We had great products with just a few creative additions on our plates. And what about the grilling? Well, if you’re expecting bold BBQ-flavors, you’re at the worng place. Here it is really about getting the food cooked right and adding just the most subtle charcoal and smoke notes where needed. The 1 Michelin star is well-deserved. Again, this is an absolute must-go location when visiting the area while having food on your mind!
The building of Asador Etxebarri, in the middle of the tiny village Axpe.
The meal begins with a glass of fresh carrot juice and some home made chorizo.
The quality of the chorizo was fantastic, not too much fat, lots of meat flavor and great spice.
Then tomato with mozzarella. The cheese is home made too, I think it was goat cheese. Still very liquid inside and with a refreshing, slightly sour taste.
Goat milk butter, home made of course, powdered with “black salt”. The served bread was so good, I think I ate half a dozen slices.
Anchovies on toasted bread with tomato. Great quality of anchovies.
Crackers with cheese and porcini cream.
Cod with vegetables. We ordered that one as an extra. Not much salt and very well cooked. We had the pure taste of tender cod meat.
With all these first dishes we had a Txakoli by Doniene, which was a slightly frutier version of this usually bone-dry white wine.
I was a bit worried about this one as I once have smelled sea cucumber oil when visiting Malaysia. “Nothing I ever want to eat” was my thought back then. Now this cooked specimen was quite nice, with a texture not too far away from squid. The slight char and smoke notes worked well here and the olive oil and beans gave it a gentle smoothness.
I then forgot to take a picture of some delicious grilled red prawns from Palamos.
King Bolete mushrooms with aubergines. Great!
The view from our table.
Scrambled eggs with, I think, Chanterelles, coming with a tiny pan of roasted peppers to mix in. Rich. Luscious. Flavorful.
Our second white wine – a pleasant verdejo
Buttered Whiting with green pepper.
Excellent piece of whole Sea Bream. Tender, juicy, just right with a drizzle of olive oil.
One of our 2 nice red wines. A 2010 Macan which is a co-production between Vega Sicilia and Rothschild. A very elegant Rioja, rather on the fruit. It closed down a bit after a while which is normal for such a young wine of this pedigree.
And now, the absolute highlight, the Txuleta. The Galician animal was 12 to 14 years old and the meat was matured for 21 months. What great flavor! The texture is right to the point and very tender. The char was of course much bolder here than with other dishes and of course harmonized well with the maturation notes of the meat. What a plaesure to eat the even tastier meat bits from the bone as well.
Figs with crystalized beer a.k.a. beer granita. The hoppy taste of the granita was intense, but I enjoyed the change of flavors and thought it is a nice enough match the sweet fig.
Reduced milk ice cream with beet root juice. This is a much better combination than many would think!
View from the terrace.
Visiting the kitchen. This is the oven for preparing the charcoal.
Wesley, an American chef at Etxebarri, explaining the grill system which has been engineered and built by Victor Arguinzoniz himself.
A view of the village.
Rich vegetation with many wild herbs such as mint or thyme. Here we have oregano I think.
Some wild mint picked on the roadside.
On the way back.
Plaza San Juan, 1
Axpe-Marzana, Atxondo- Bizkaia,
Phone: +34 946 58 30 42
Tue-Su 1:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Sat: 8:30 – 10:30 pm