New kid in town: a modern Basque restaurant headed by chef Edurne Martin Delgado (Bravo for a female head chef), who has worked alongside to the famous Eneko Atxa, the three Michelin star chef of Azurmendi in Bilbao.
With the soft launch of their first month of opening, the food was offered at 50% for the whole of August. Naturally, it became our dinning spot for the August bank holiday weekend. It was the probably the earliest dinner I have ever had, due to the result of overbooking, we only managed to book a table for 5pm.
I was rather surprised by their modern and slightly oriental décor. It shouted nothing of extravagance yet still signaled quality. I was not so sure of their choice of orchids as the decorating flowers. Yes, orchids bring the element of elegance, but one cannot help but to associate them with a Thai restaurant, especially with their wooden staircase. It does make one wonder, where is the feeling of Basque, where one can hear the cry of seagoes and splash of ocean waves.
The modern design, with their solid oak tables, minimalist chairs, simplistic lighting and even the latest trendy water fountain taps spelled out the place is fresh and unique. Although a huge fan of vintage décor, I had to admit that Eneko’s modern take, from the wall texture to the shape of the coffee cup, was well thought through.
Memories of the Bay of Biscayinvolves three types of seafood: caviar, crab and oyster set on a metal rack resting on a plate of dry ice. The waiter was rather excited in demonstrating the smoke coming out of the dish as he poured water on the dry ice. This would obviously be fun for customers and the use of the memory metaphor for the smoke was rather romantic and novel. But as a killjoy as I always am, I jokingly said to the waiter, ”Ah, it’s just a bit of dry ice, and you probably are trying to kill me by asking me to inhale vapourised CO2.”
The seafood was nice, but did it bring me the memories of a magical bay. Maybe. The caviar was beautifully married to the whiskey, but somehow the oyster was lacking a bit of freshness. For the crab, I would have personally preferred it to be lightly cooked, without so much seasoning. Call me picky, I did grow up with seafood and I do like mine fresh.
Chef special/Squid Mamitako: we chose the special option. Marmitako literally means “from the pot”, so the dish was squid, scallop and fish stewed in oyster sauce. The aroma was floating in the air from the moment it was brought to the table. I cannot fault it, it was cooked just right and you cannot compare any supermarket bought MSG ladened oyster sauce to the broth.
For the mains, ox tail was one of our options. Beautifully laid on a plate, topped with fresh pansies, giving that extra ‘zing’ both visually and gustatorily.
As for the Pisto Bllbalna, I have jokingly called it a glorified Basque style Bimbim Bap. Of course, it was far better. It is like Ratatouille, offered that countryside earthiness yet with meticulosity. I have enjoyed it very much, the rich creamy texture just melted in my mouth.
One criticism I would give to the food was that the chefs should go easy on the salt. However, combining with a bottle fruity red, the salt level was fine. Still on a healthy point of view, let’s be kind to our hearts.
The service was top notch, fast yet steady with no sense of rushing. The waiting staff were always present, yet there was never the feeling of crowding.
I have been to far to many restaurants which often gave me a sense of pretentiousness, in contrary, Eneko offered the sense of relaxation. This could be the future of modern fine dinning, especially for the capital city where is dominated by ‘hipsters (often wrongly defined)’ and young professionals. It is unpretentiously luxurious, relaxingly lavish. Whether you are dinning in McQueen suits or just plain old trainers, you would always feel comfortable just enjoying the food. It is certainly “my little dear”. But on the last note, it is fine dinning after all, so it might not be so kind to your wallet.