best bet for main dish at Pintxos?
Two friends and I are going to Pintxos while visiting MTL next week. I've been checking out their menu and their "menu dégustation" looks like the way to go (in terms of getting good value).
But I'm wondering which of the mains is the best one to go with...I'm open to any of them but would like some opinions from other diners.
OR, would we be best to just order four-five pintxos and share. My understanding from other posts here is that the plates are smaller than the average tapas and not really intended for sharing (much less between three people).
Any insight would be greatly appreciated!
Can't help you pick main courses, but I can say that on my one visit we simply ordered à la carte pintxos, about six per person, and thought it was excellent value -- no regrets about passing on the dégustation option. I don't remember exactly how much the tab was, but we all felt it was very reasonable. It was somewhere around $60/person with one bottle of wine and a half-bottle of cava.
Although sharing doesn't seem to be encouraged or especially practical given the size of the plates, we did see people doing so at a nearby table (the resto obliged with extra plates etc.). So you can share, but you should think in terms of five or six pintxos *per person* for a full meal. The plates are that small -- after all, the dégustation is 4 pintxos, same size as the à la carte ones, plus a main course.
I agree with Mr. F that eating the pintxo a la carte is a good idea because there are so many interesting options. However, I have done both a la carte and the degustation on many many occasions and loved both experiences. As for the main dish, the fish is always amazing. I have always had it and my dinning compagnions always end up having a serious case of food envy
I agree that 6 tapas each is a good amount and usually about the same price as the menu degustation as many of the vegetarian tapas are very inexpensive. And when I've been with friends who have taken the menu they get a bit jealous when they see the rest of us getting new and interesting bites as they continue along with a large portion of beef cheeks. I tend to order both foie gras tapas as they are both excellent. I also like the sardine/avocado tapa, the scallops, the quail and the last time we were there they had a few specials which we ordered as well, notably fig with something delicious, prosciutto perhaps? Really good.
It would be the Basque equivalent to prosciutto, Jamón de Bayona (Bayonne) from the French part of the Basque Country (straddles the border like many First Nations in North America) or a similar jamón serrano from the Spanish side. Looking up "Jamón - Euskadi" - I found some artisanal producers, though I doubt any of that reaches Montréal.
Basques are famed gastronomes, with their ancient culinary brotherhoods (yep, they were all-male, though I think contemporary Basque ladies are joining in too) and their fine products from land and sea. Know people in Bilbao; must get there sometime soon!
In the fig they also put some Mahon cheese - so tasty! One of my favourites is the most simple dish but a perfect expression of how sometimes it doesn't have to be complicated. It's scrambled eggs with salt cod and caramelized onions. To die for... Other pintxos of note are the scallops with the olive tapenade and the octopus with black salt. In essence, you can't go wrong at this place.
I agree with the suggestion of just ordering more pintxos - it's about the same price, and we have found them to be much better than the entrees. I think they work fine to share for 2-4 people (though with 4 you do just get a taste of each.) We generally go with one or two friends and order everything they have, then order extra of whatever everyone particularly enjoyed. The price is still quite reasonable.
I finally got around to checking out Pintxos last Friday 21 December as Montreal was still reeling from the effects of two major winter storms. As our cab made its way down a narrow passage between snow-encased parked cars we literally had to scramble over a snow bank to make our way to the door of the restaurant. After that, the evening was very nearly close to perfect. Since we were one of the first to arrive after the 6 pm opening, we got a table next to the window in the room with the bar and pass-through window to the kitchen.
We ordered glasses of cava to start; there were about 6 choices; they were very generous “pours” at $10 or 11 (but there were several less expensive choices): a refreshing, good option even in winter and they went well with our first seafood pintxos to arrive.
Based on advice from Chowhounders we decided to stick with an all-pintxos dinner – and good advice it was! We settled on 6 apiece. The waiter advised on ordering everything at once and we would get them as they came out of the kitchen. This worked out very well. It was a bit of a continual ‘surprise party” as one never knew what was next, but it was fun and the dishes came at a perfect rate of one or two at a time. We had ordered a rather intense, minerally Spanish white Verde (at $32 for the bottle). This is not a place for precision control if one wants wines to match a dozen or so pintxos, but this choice turned out to be highly serviceable.
Really all the pintxos were good. Thanks to the Chowhounders who recommended the scrambled eggs and cod, otherwise we would have missed this delicate but tasty dish. My companion also especially liked her seared calamari with onion comfit. I especially liked my half-quail in a rich dark brown reduction with ham and pine nuts; the goat-cheese ravioli in duck stew; and a Spanish “take” on beef carpaccio with mandego cheese; the mushrooms stuffed with duck comfit were better than the mushrooms stuffed with escargot. All in all the pintxos were just plain fun; six apiece were perfect for us but bigger eaters could order 7 or more. We asked about dessert having been tipped off here at Chowhound. My cranberry and nut nougat was okay, but my companion’s chocolate crème brûlée was transcendental: on top of the chocolate crème was a very crispy, rather thick, bitter chocolate crust. I unashamedly ate half of my companion’s dessert.
Service was friendly, helpful and perfectly paced. With so many tapas going to the tables (which were soon filled to capacity) the waiters had a lot of coming and going to do. The ambience was animated, but not so loud as to interfere with a tête-à-tête conversation.
The bill (excluding taxes and tip) for a glass of cava each, Pellegrino, a shared bottle of wine, 6 pintxos each and desserts an astonishingly low $132. A part from the snow banks, an experience that made me very glad to be back in Montreal; my Montreal-based companion put it on her to-repeat list. Relaxed and relaxing fun!
Agree that the fish is excellently prepared here. Also, I am very partial to the beef cheeks...