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Etxebarri review

l
lindatork Apr 24, 2011 11:44 PM

Our review of Etxebarri from several days ago complete with lots of photos is finally up on our blog. However, I was chastised a bit for posting my blog link here so I am not going to post it again. I would love to share our review and especially the pics, but I don't know how to do that without posting the blog address. I can, of course, paste the written review here but it doesn't really stand alone with out the pics. I am not going to take the time to upload all the photos here. Any suggestions?

Thanks!

  1. Robert Lauriston Jul 5, 2011 01:28 PM

    Had a great lunch Saturday. Ordered the degustación.

    "Goat butter," Palamós prawns (not local, Palamós is in Catalonia), the vegetables that came with the halibut, and the smoked ice cream with an infusion of red fruits were amazing, and everything else was exceptionally good. Bread was the best we had in Spain. Excellent wines. The only sort-of disappointment was the chuleta, and only because the night before we'd had La Viña's chuleta de buey, which was not cooked as precisely but, being from an ox, was more flavorful, though also very chewy.

    Definitely worth a long detour if not a special trip. The place is considerably fancier than Bourdain's show made it look: they filmed in the kitchen and, except for one brief shot of the front, elsewhere around the lovely little town.

    Google Maps directions were good. My Garmin GPS took us on a crazy scenic detour on one-lane roads.

    I suspect Aleta was at the next table.

     
    13 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      j
      JamesSanders Jul 5, 2011 08:14 PM

      We were there Saturday, too, and our impressions were as yours, Robert. We did one degustacion and then ordered a few plates off the ala carte menu. Shrimp, butter and fish were standouts, and I'd add the oyster, the baby octopus and the squid to that list. We didn't much care for the bacalao (an ala carte choice) and while we enjoyed the Chuleta, it wasn't as flavorful as I'd hoped it would be.

      We were a little disappointed by the decor, perhaps hoping for something a little more rustic..

      Definitely a fan of the simpler is better philosophy, and of all the places we ate on this trip, Etxebarria is the one we'd make a point to go back to. I wonder what you get if you order food in the bar?

      1. re: JamesSanders
        Robert Lauriston Jul 6, 2011 09:07 AM

        The oyster, squid, octopus, and halibut were all as good as it gets but I've had similar preparations elsewhere so they weren't mind-boggling like the goat butter and prawns.

        Given the hot day, I was glad for the air conditioning, which the more rustic place I expected probably wouldn't have had.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          a
          Aleta Oct 26, 2011 09:20 AM

          Hi Robert,

          I just noticed your comment from July 5 where you speculated that I might have been at the table next to you. So sorry that I didn't see it until now. My son was shuttling back and forth to the washroom (unfortunately). If we were truly who you saw, I hope we didn't disturb you too much.

          Your comments on the meal mirrored mine exactly. Despite my son's condition -- brought on by way too much consumption of ice cream during the week leading up to Etxebarri -- I enjoyed everything EXCEPT the chuleta. That was the worst I'd ever had. Our piece was so full of gristle that we had to either do surgery on it or give up, try to chew and swallow. That's why I was on Chowhound just now, re-visiting Etxebarri discussions and wondering if we should go again next year. Furthermore, I wonder HOW I'm going to communicate to the restaurant that I want a good piece of meat next time!

          Maybe I'll send a link to this thread directly to the restaurant if and when I make a reservation!

          1. re: Aleta
            Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2011 09:38 AM

            You were there on July 2? With food and wine like that in front of me, I'm not easily disturbed.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              a
              Aleta Oct 26, 2011 10:35 AM

              Ha ha! Yes, we were there on July 2.

              1. re: Aleta
                d
                deadstroke86 Oct 26, 2011 12:15 PM

                Hello Aleta! Fancy running into you again on another board! Thinking back, I agree with your comment on the chuleta, the gristly bits did take away much of the enjoyment.

                I am recently trolling these boards to fantasize about a future trip.:D 2013 seems the most likely thus far.

                1. re: deadstroke86
                  a
                  Aleta Nov 3, 2011 11:58 AM

                  Hello deadstroke86! It took me 1 day but I figured out how I knew you. :-)

                  Just FYI, I finally sent a message to Etxebarri about the chuleta because I really would like to go again... Here's their response:

                  "Aleta,

                  Excuse us for your experience. This particular week we were using a cut from a bull which ultimately leads to a slightly tougher piece, but one offering more flavor of beef. Unfortunately had we been informed we could easily have taken a cut from another cow.

                  If you have any problems with your food in the future please inform us at that moment to immediately resolve the situation."

                  1. re: Aleta
                    estufarian Nov 5, 2011 07:50 AM

                    Just to add my experience.
                    I had a cut from an 18-year-old bull, aged for a significant number of days (exact number lost in my lack-of-memory bank).
                    One of the top 2 'pieces of beef' I've had in my lifetime.
                    Not the most tender - but the tastiest.

                    However, I should have refused the 'grilled caviar' - not an experience I want to repeat!

                    1. re: estufarian
                      a
                      Aleta Nov 5, 2011 10:38 AM

                      Hi Estufarian,

                      I took your earlier advice and stayed clear of the grilled caviar. Too bad they didn't have anything to offer from the traps.

                      Apart from the problem with the meat, it was a wonderful meal and I obviously can't help dreaming of a return visit. I'm not looking forward to the driving though. My son has suggested that we stay overnight at the little inn nearby but I've read that the food there is pretty mediocre. Besides, I'd still have to drive back the next day and if I'm paying for the rental car, the Etxebarri meal AND the hotel, I would do better to take a taxi r/t.

                      1. re: Aleta
                        w
                        WillinTO Nov 6, 2011 06:57 AM

                        Hi Aleta,

                        We were just at Etxebarri 2 weeks ago and had a fabulous meal (and we must have been served a much less tough chuleta, but still fabulously flavourful)

                        While it may not work for you, for other readers of this thread who may be wondering, personally, I would seriously consider that near by Inn. The only downside of our trip was my not being able to enjoy very much wine because I was the designated driver. To have such wonderful cuisine, in such a fabulous setting, without a reasonable accompaniment of wine was, well, a little sad.

                        That Inn is about 150 meters up a hill from Etxebarri. It looked beautiful, and the setting is absolutely stunning. The Inn and the very small village Etxebarri is located in, are situated in a lush farming valley, surrounded by mountains. We walked right past the Inn ( Mendi Goikoa http://www.mendigoikoa.com ) but we did not go in.

                        The the quality of the food at the Inn is really not important, because the lunch at Etxebarri is so large, you will definitely not be wanting a dinner that night. Our lunch started around 2:00, and we did not get up from the table until around 5:00. I had a couple of Pintxos in San Seb that night around 9:30 pm, and that was all I needed. So you definitely won't be wanting a full dinner on the night you eat at Etxebarri. If the stomach must be fed, just bring along some bread, olives, jamon and wine and you will be fine. Accordingly, the only meal one would likely eat at the Inn would be breakfast the next morning.

                        That is exactly our plan, next time we go back. A leisurely mountain drive up to Axpe, a late lunch at Etxebarri, and hour or two hike in the mountains (but for the less adventurous, one could easily substitute a stroll on the country roads) and overnight at Mendi. The opportunity to stay longer in that beautiful valley, and wake their the next morning, would add an additional highly memorable element to what is already a great experience!

                        I am attaching a picture of the valley (and I am pretty sure that building on the right side of the photo is the Inn)

                         
                        1. re: WillinTO
                          estufarian Nov 6, 2011 07:31 AM

                          Sounds wonderful.

                          Just a slight issue (which may be coincidental, so not significant).

                          We had the earliest lunch reservation and were the first to arrive. It transpired that the restaurant had trapped a turtle dove overnight and the breasts were available for the first people who ordered them. We asked to share one, leaving the other for another table, but were told they were only a single portion, in total - so we ate the entire bird!

                          I don't know how frequently there are 'limited dishes' - but there MAY be an advantage in being the first table to arrive (rather than a late lunch)!

                          1. re: estufarian
                            w
                            WillinTO Nov 6, 2011 08:49 AM

                            Estufarian,

                            That does sound special. And if it does happen occasionally, it is a good argument for arriving right at 1:00 (the earliest reservation I thought one could get was 1:30, but we saw people walking in at 1:00 when we arrived in the parking lot . With a 2:00 reserv, we just strolled around the country roads for 45 minutes or so until just before 2:00. That said, the menu was long enough, that I'd still not have needed a full dinner if we had begun lunch an hour earlier.

                            One other option. if one was staying in town at Mendi Goikoa and wasn;t interested in eating there, might be the bar under the Etxebarri restaurant. As you would know from being there, on the ground floor there is what looked like a very traditional local bar, complete with a few trays of tapas when we walked through. (for those who have not been there, the restaurant is upstairs). . I have no idea if it is open in the evening, or if it serves tapas then, but if it was, that is all one would need as an evening snack and it would certainly give you a true local experience. In the evening, the culinary tourists would be long gone, except Saturday, the one night that Etxebarri is open for dinner.

      2. re: Robert Lauriston
        Robert Lauriston Nov 6, 2011 11:12 AM

        I wonder how different our chuleta could have been from Aleta's. Ours wasn't as chewy (or as flavorful) as the one we'd had the night before at La Viña, which was about the chewiest piece of fresh meat I've ever had, heading into jerky territory. I suppose if Etxebarri had both bull and cow in the back we might have gotten the cow. I think the cut is always a bone-in rib eye.

      3. l
        lindatork Jun 6, 2011 03:35 PM

        Thanks, Kathryn. I am going to try that here. MIght look a bit awkward because the pics are imbedded with the text and I am taking out the text only. Full text with pic address will be listed at the end of my post. We loved Etxebarri so much that I feel obligated to post our review for others.

        Today is a questing day. Our destiny: the Holy Grill.

        I only slightly exaggerate here. Etxebarri is absolutely legendary for its revolutionary grilling techniques; mastermind Victor Arguinzoniz designs innovative mechanisms specifically suited to ingredients never before subject to smoke and flame. We're talking oddities like egg yolk, here, along with caviar - for the intrigued, our now intimate friend Tony Bourdain investigates in an excellent episode of No Reservations.

        It has all the paintings of the lunch of a lifetime - but first, we have to get there.. .

        Etxebarri features both an a-la-carte and a degustation menu; loyal readers will already know we love to decide not to decide.

        Over a few slices of chorizo and the most magnificent cava we've ever had - crisp and effervescent, as intoxicating as the cool mountain air seems to be - we contemplate what lies before us:

        handmade goat butter
        Palamos prawns
        grilled sea cucumber
        grilled egg yolk, St George's mushrooms
        grilled peas
        grilled anchovies
        grilled hake
        grilled beef on the bone
        wild fruit infusion, fresh cheese ice cream
        pane perdu, smoked milk ice cream

        The third course causes Janet to balk. She's been forever scarred by a gnarly experience with an awful sea cucumber dish in Hawaii; I gently inform the waiter of an unfortunate and very specific allergy. She doesn't bat an eye and offers several alternative options - Janet goes for clams with enormous relief.

        We select a bottle of Rioja to accompany us throughout our courses: Imperial Reserva 2004. It's lovely.

        Lovelier still is this. My friends, atop this blacked slice of toast is a serious quantity of smoked goat butter, dotted with ash and St. George's mushrooms. It is not anything that can possibly be understood through the internet - we are overwhelmed with tastebud bliss at the very first nibble. The creamy room temperature butter melts its way into your senses, nudging you you to close your eyes and let it take over.

        Second is two oversize local prawns, complete with elegantly entangled feelers. They are for picking up and tearing apart, in order that you might enjoy every possible morsel contained within. After reading that they're Ferran Adria's preferred delicacy, I am the first to suck out the brains. It doesn't take much convincing to get MP to do the same.

        The dreaded sea cucumbers emerge in an appropriately-shaped plate. They rest on a bed of fresh, buttery peas, presumably from the northern region so famous for them this time of year. These puppies have absolutely nothing in common with the beast of Janet's gastronomic nightmares; their folds allow for plenty of delicious charring, and the texture is chewy but certainly not unpleasant. Janet is more than content with her clam course.

        The fourth course is the most mysterious to me - I can theoretically picture how one might grill caviar with some form of mesh, but an egg yolk? This marvel of modern science is paired with the lightest of St George's mushrooms, collected from the mountains we see out the window. The smokiness imparted by the grill combines perfectly with the rich eggy depth.

        Our sixth course is 'chovies like we've never before dreamt; these grilled beauties are not strongly flavored at all nor extraordinarily salty, yet somehow manage to conserve the elements of common anchovies that make them so adored by their fans. Bitter greens refresh the palate between bites.

        The seventh course is hake with spring vegetables. It's fabulous, of course, but far too large a portion; we're well aware of what's to come having seen other tables, and we feel enormously guilty for leaving the majority sitting on our plates. This ought to be one-fourth of its size.

        What we've been waiting for: the eighth course, the chuletón, a monstrous cut of seared Galician beef. It's significantly less marbled with fat than Olaizola's glorious version yesterday, which divides opinions as to the winner. In the end, we decide they're both equally magnificent in different ways - this one perhaps particularly notable for its extraordinarily crispy crust, complementing the totally raw and extremely high quality meat within.

        How exactly we continue from the ideal beef is a mystery, but this cheese ice cream swimming in a magenta infusion of wild fruits (walhd fruits, wahld fruits) as the first dessert course certainly helps. It's rich beyond belief, pleasing MP's palate especially.

        As for me, however, I've reserved my sweet tooth for this final course - smoked milk ice cream, accompanied by pane perdu. It's darkly flavored with the same grilled smokiness that's been so pervasive throughout our Etxebarri experience, the pane perdu serving as a slightly lighter foil. For sure, much of its intensity comes from butterfat - but that's consistent with the kitchen's technique the whole time.

        We decide that the chefs at Etxebarri are fat experts, which sounds like it could be derisive but certainly isn't intended that way. The creative and precise use of butter and its kin throughout the tasting menu provides for a cohesive, innovative cuisine we'll not be forgetting anytime soon: the Lunch of a Lifetime.

        If you are still reading this and want to see the pics - head over to http://buencamino1.wordpress.com/2011...

        1 Reply
        1. re: lindatork
          a
          Aleta Jun 7, 2011 09:30 AM

          mmmmm .... I'm a fat expert too!

          One day, I hope to be a skinny expert or even a less-fat expert but those are pipe dreams.

          Thanks for sharing, Linda.

        2. k
          kathryn Jun 6, 2011 10:29 AM

          Lindatork -- to clarify, I believe you CAN do the following:

          1. Copy and paste your review here
          2. Add link to your blog w/ note to "see my photos on my blog"

          What is frowned upon is a link w/o the text of the review. A link WITH the text of the review is OK, as I understand it.

          1. a
            Aleta Apr 25, 2011 08:23 AM

            Linda,
            Thanks a million for sharing your experience. I'm going this summer with my 12yo son and a Singaporean exchange student who travels to eat! This young man is so committed to his passion for food that he was ready to take the bus there and back! I offered him a ride and we'll be dining together. I'll make sure to tell him about your trip too.
            I don't know why you were discouraged from linking your blog; I've been reading Chowhound for years and other members have always done this.
            Heeney, you can see Linda's contribution here:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/776247

            16 Replies
            1. re: Aleta
              l
              lindatork Apr 25, 2011 09:54 AM

              Thank you for the kind words, Aleta. You obviously accepted my link in the spirit in which it was originally posted - to pass on to others the amazing food experiences that can be found in Spain. So many of the restaurants we went to were discovered by me through reading Chowhound that I wanted to give back.

              We ended up having awesome experiences in Barcelona at 41 degrees, Tickets, Hisop, Cinc Sentits, Paco Meralgo and Bar Pinotxo. In Pais Vasco we ate at Etxtebarri, Olaizola, Elkano and a ton of pintxo bars. In Madrid I can't even remember all the places because I was there for more than 2 weeks. We actually went back today to a place we had already visited - El Cisne Azul - and ate the mushrooms of our lives (a blog post will be forthcoming).

              Anyway, what I am trying to say is that we blog when we travel and our blog always seems to center around food. We write mostly so that we can look back and remember. I research extensively before we go anywhere and I find Chowhound to be an invaluable resource. If I can help/inspire someone in the same way that I was helped, then I feel like the circle will be completed.

              Sorry for the ramble, but I must say I was a bit taken aback when my offer of our blog link was abashed.

              I know you will have an awesome time eating your way through Spain and if I can answer any questions I would be more than happy to help.

              1. re: lindatork
                a
                Aleta Apr 25, 2011 01:12 PM

                Linda,

                I had the great fortune to eat at Inopia last summer in Barcelona. Shortly after, they closed. Very excited to try Tickets and Cinc Sentits this summer, plus some favourites from last year.

                Estufarian, my mentor, has mentioned El Cisne Azul too. If you can think of other Madrid names, I would greatly appreciate it.

                PS. I just saw your latest on Elkano in Getaria. I thought about going but changed my mind. Maybe I need to reconsider :-P Thanks!

                Happy chowing!

                1. re: Aleta
                  erica Apr 25, 2011 02:50 PM

                  Linda I just want to join in and echo Aleta's thanks!

                  I enjoyed reading your blog--makes me think about a return to the Paises Vascos sooner rather than later! Happy travels!

                  1. re: Aleta
                    l
                    lindatork Apr 25, 2011 11:32 PM

                    Elkano was great. The cocotxas (throats) were an item that I had read about and really wanted to try - sublime. The area is also beautiful.

                    We will be posting a review of our 2nd visit to Cisne very shortly. If you love mushrooms it is not to be missed.

                    Other than that in Madrid we didn't find anything that I would consider outstanding although we ate very well - you can look back through my blog to see where, We did eat at Botin on Easter Sunday. The gazpacho was a standout. The suckling pig, while being quite delicious, did not stand out in my mind as one of my favorites of the trip.

                    My daughter lives in Madrid and if she discovers anything great I will let you know!

                    1. re: lindatork
                      erica Apr 26, 2011 03:12 AM

                      I can't see why you cannot link your blog here!

                      1. re: lindatork
                        a
                        Aleta Apr 26, 2011 07:13 AM

                        Thanks again, Linda. I look forward to the Cisne post.

                        We're passing on Botin. A few months ago, we were down in Philadelphia and ordered the cochinillo asado from Amada. It cost a pretty penny since we had to pay for 4 people even though we were only 2 BUT we got the whole piglet. IMHO, the head and skin is the best part. After gorging ourselves and sharing with some friendly diners at the adjacent table, we took the meat home and made a very nice stew a few days later. At Botin, I understand that we would get a chunk of the pig. That would mean a much smaller skin-to-meat ratio. I will reserve precious calories for other items.

                        I didn't realize your daughter lives in Madrid! What a lucky girl (and a lucky mom)! Has she been to La Gabinoteca?

                        1. re: Aleta
                          l
                          lindatork May 4, 2011 03:12 PM

                          Aleta - sorry for the late reply - still trying to come back to reality.

                          No, my daughter has not been to La Gabinoteca. It was on our list, but unfortunately something had to go. Have you been there?

                          At Botin, while we did each only get a portion of the pig, the amount of skin was perfect. It was so rich that I couldn't finish the skin on my portion. (but it was delicious). It is not like just a chunk of meat from the middle. Everyone's portion was skin-covered.

                          Did you read our review of Cisne Azul? The more I reflect on it the more I realize what a fantastic meal we had there. However, I believe you must be a mushroom lover to truly enjoy it. And, I am no mushroom expert. I am certain that there are specific times of year where you get the most/best variety.

                          1. re: lindatork
                            a
                            Aleta May 4, 2011 04:29 PM

                            Linda, thanks for the answers. I haven't been to Madrid yet. Our first trip is coming up this summer.

                            I DID read your review of El Cisne Azul! It had been recommended to me by my food guru, Estufarian. My only 'complaint' about your review was that you ATE the mushrooms too quickly and tortured us with a picture of a dish -- empty and wiped clean! :-)

                            1. re: Aleta
                              l
                              lindatork May 4, 2011 05:10 PM

                              Hahaha - Oh, but our SECOND visit was even better (and there are killer pics of boletus/egg and morels w/foie) Still makes me salivate. http://buencamino1.wordpress.com/2011...

                              1. re: lindatork
                                a
                                Aleta May 4, 2011 05:31 PM

                                Mmmmmm.... I forgive you for torturing us with the first set of pictures. :-)

                                How did you know I was thinking of morels? I'd kill for morels. And with foie? I'd kill twice. Actually, this reminds me of a yummy racione I had in Barcelona at La Taverna del Clinic: morels in creamy foie. That was the night my son almost stuck his fork in my hand...

                                That's a generous portion of morels! Do you remember the cost?

                                The mushroom in your 1st picture reminds me of a popular variety that I often eat in Toronto. It's quite firm, even after lots of cooking. Sometimes we call it "king mushroom". Does this look like what you had?
                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleurotu...

                                1. re: Aleta
                                  l
                                  lindatork May 5, 2011 02:30 PM

                                  I am sorry, I really don't remember the cost. I do remember they were listed as "market price" and that when we got the bill we were not upset! I found a picture of their blackboard menu online where it shows the boletus we had were 13 Euro - I think the morels weren't too much more than that. On our first lunch 2 of us shared 2 plates of mushrooms. On our 2nd lunch, 3 of us shared 2 plates of mushrooms (plus the too die for dessert of grilled goat cheese with marmalade). Here is the menu picture http://11870.com/pro/el-cisne-azul/menu/4f66dc8

                                  Your pick of "king" mushrooms is not what we had. They were "boletus" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boletus

                                  Please let me know if you go and what you think!

                                  1. re: lindatork
                                    a
                                    Aleta May 5, 2011 02:40 PM

                                    Linda, thanks again! I've found so much good info on 11870 too. I'll be studying the listing for El Cisne Azul more carefully. Love how they list the various 'shrooms by their Latin names.

                    2. re: lindatork
                      Gastro Travels May 4, 2011 01:22 PM

                      Great blog Linda! Grilled Goat Butter - OMG, can you elaborate?

                      1. re: Gastro Travels
                        l
                        lindatork May 4, 2011 03:07 PM

                        Thanks Gastro. The blog is a TON of work, but so worth it for re-living the experiences when we have to return to reality.

                        The Grilled Goat Butter at Etxebarri won our award as "Best Guilty Pleasure." In fact, Etxebarri won quite a number of our "Best Of" awards (see http://buencamino1.wordpress.com/).

                        How to describe Grilled Goat Butter? Well, there is a thin piece of crispy toast with a thicker slab on top of goat butter that has been grilled. It also has a few small sprinkles of ash(?) on top. Smokey, creamy, buttery, uber-rich, smooth - I can still taste it. I would like to see how the chef grills it!

                        The entire meal at Etxebarri is one upon which I continue to reflect. Outstanding ingredients actually prepared quite simply and all kissed by the grill. All of this is in a setting that is out of a storybook. If you get the chance you should NOT miss it.

                        1. re: lindatork
                          Gastro Travels May 5, 2011 01:50 PM

                          Thanks Linda! Etxebarri is most definately on my list - a very looong list.

                          And I know about all the work that goes into a blog, me gots one too!

                          BTW, do you have a twitter or facebook profile - would love to follow.

                          1. re: Gastro Travels
                            l
                            lindatork May 5, 2011 02:31 PM

                            Hi Gastro -

                            I would love a link to your blog if you don't mind.

                            No - I don't have twitter or facebook, sorry. We blog all our trips on buencamino.

                  2. Heeney Apr 25, 2011 05:21 AM

                    Are the pics on flickr along with a blog link? Then you can link to them and we can get to the blog review via that?
                    Seems ridiculous that you have to jump through hoops like that.
                    How was it? Did you have the grilled caviar or angulas? I was hoping to try at least one of those when we are there in 3 weeks. But I think Angulas season is over then.

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