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Manresa to host Basque chef Eneko Atxa of Azurmendi [Los Gatos]

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Probably you're thinking "who the hell is Eneko Atxa?"

He's an up-and-coming young chef who jumped from zero to three Michelin stars in only five years at his restaurant Azurmendi, located a few miles outside of Bilbao in Basque country. For perspective, chef Kinch at Manresa has been stuck at 2 stars for those same five years.

As luck would have it we dined at Azurmendi last October and it was by far the best meal we had on our trip to Spain, which included meals at five Michelin-starred restaurants.

Eneko's cooking style is to focus on prime local ingredients, with a bit of the funk tossed in. He served us some spectacular dishes: an egg yolk with part of the yolk drawn out with a hypodermic needle and replaced by injecting hot truffle juice, which cooked the remaining yolk. Then topped with black truffle shavings ... if you've had Alinea's "Black Truffle Explosion" then this is similar, but even better. Another winner was "Ashes of Foie Gras", featuring baked foie wrapped in fuzzy volcanic sea salt shavings. Yet another a squab dish served with what looked like hazelnuts, but which were actually a combo of chocolate and a foie gras made from the livers of the squab.

Compared to our one meal at Manresa, which we enjoyed very much, Eneko is similar in his use of prime ingredients, but he pushes stronger flavors than chef Kinch, and he uses a bit of molecular techniques. We liked both styles of cooking very much and it would be interesting to see what comes out of the kitchen with both of them working together.

Anyway, as soon as I heard he was cooking in the Manresa kitchen for two days in May I figured we would have to visit SF again to catch this. Then I noticed the actual dates and ... ah, the irony ... we will be in Spain THAT WEEK, dining at the real Azurmendi while he's here in the USA. Oh well ... non-refundable Vueling airline tickets inside Spain or we would change the trip.

Here are some links ... first to an Inside Scoop SF article with details on the hosting, then some gushing articles on Azurmendi.

http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

Next is Andy Hayler's review from last May. Hayler is the only person to have dined at every Michelin 3* in the world and is a bit tough on most molecular places, plus he feels only two of the USA restaurants actually rate at 3* (Alinea and Per Se). But he gave Azurmendi a rare 20/20, higher than any other restaurant in Spain or in England. (He also gave a good rating to his meal at Manresa, which you can find on his site).
http://www.andyhayler.com/restaurant/...

Here's a real gusher that starts "How do you begin to describe the greatest meal of your life?" ... it wasn't the greatest meal of my year, much less my life, but the photos are really good, especially of the truffled egg.
http://www.bacononthebeech.com/2013/0...

One more gushing Brit article ... I didn't quite get "The views across the valley and on to the mountains are stunning" given there's a four lane highway to San Sebastian just outside, but at least this guy had our waiter John as his waiter :) And like us he clearly enjoys his wine.
http://www.manchesterconfidential.co....

Very professional photos in this one: http://www.gastroenophile.com/2012/12...

And one final link, with a Spanish persective and more great photos: http://www.spanishhipster.com/2014/01...

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  1. Thanks -- very interesting, and the detailed references appreciated. (No doubt you're aware that many of David Kinch's influences come from Spain, not to mention the name of his restaurant.)

    Quite a novel predicament you have in May! :-)

    ETA: Our Prime Ingredients in the Bay Area are of course also somewhat different from the Basque, or Europe generally. Native truffles around here have always left much to be desired (and local foie gras -- never even produced by the French methods that got such criticism -- is nevertheless now banned). DK works most often with local seafood and vegetables.

    1. Sounds like a far cry from the (literal) Basque boardinghouse fare San Francisco used to be known for, but can be seen as a nice, if esoteric, tribute to that part of the Bay Area's culinary heritage.

      http://geezericious.blogspot.com/2012...