Etxebarri has been on my bucket list since the day I first stepped foot into Basque country. It however, is located in the boonies of the Basque countryside so Nacho kindly lent us (Susy, Marti, Hillary) his car to traverse to the little town of Atxondo.
Once we got out of the car we were greeted by sweeping views of Basque countryside with rolling green hills and pastures of sheep.
The little village of Atxondo is picture perfect and really quite (you can hear the wild birds singing and sheep in the countryside). The village courtyard comprises of a fronton court, a church, and some cobblestone buildings.
The fountain in front of the church.
Following a random street to the outskirts of the tiny village, we were greeted by a herd of sheep literally 10-20 feet away from us.
After taking an unnecessary amount of pictures of these sheep, Etxebarri just opened its doors for lunch service.
Now let me explain a little about Etxebarri. Their food is cooked with exclusive charcoal created by the owner of Etxebarri himself. A different kind of charcoal is used for different kinds of meats and vegetables. Cooking is minimal here especially since they are using top notch vegetables, meats, and seafoods. The chef even makes his own custom cooking vessels to cook different things over the grill (caviar for example). The plates here are kept simple and are made to showcase the natural product enhanced by cooking it with charcoal. Here is an excerpt taken from the Etxebarri website:
“Care and instinct under the discipline of fire and primitive cooking techniques, where simplicity and warmth of the grill inspire a natural landscape.
Wistfulness, with an adventure spirit for knowledge; tasting flavours, and rediscovering that space and time are imperceptible.”
You could smell the charcoal grills once you approach the front door of Etxebarri. The smoke in the air was definitely appetizing, can’t wait to see what’s on the menu!
We were seated outside on the second floor patio overlooking some gorgeous views of sheep pastures and Basque mountains ranges. We also had the luck of having that patio alone for pretty much our entire 4 hour lunch!
Spanish Menu Pre Fixe
Menu in English
Fresh Carrot Juice
Incredibly sweet and fragrant carrot juice. Nice palate cleanser.
Chorizo elaborated from acorn-fed Iberico pork
Quite possibly the best chorizo I’ve ever had. The chorizo literally melts in your mouth when you eat it.
Smoked Goat Butter with Black Salt
The butter had a smoky cheesy quality compared to normal butter. It was reminiscent of smoked gouda cheese. Definitely tasty, one of my new favorite butters/bread spreads!
Mozzarella of Buffalo
Anchoas with Toasted Bread
I’d have to say that this was the best anchoas I’ve ever tasted and seen in all of Basque country. The filets were perfectly trimmed and deboned. The taste was not over aggressively salty and had a very velvety texture. These were house cured perfectly!
Goose Barnacles from Galicia
After having these barnacles at Elkano, I’ve always been ordering them everytime I see them on a menu. These particular ones are huge in size and were chock full of ocean water goodness. How to describe the taste of these goose barnacles would be a mixture of lobster, crab, shrimp, and the sea. The texture is like the wiggly nub of lobster claw meat. The Spanish call these “percebes” and is considered a rare delicacy (1 kg of these costs 200 euros).
Huge size of goose barnacles, almost twice as big as the ones served at Elkano.
Be careful when opening these! They tend to squirt molten hot orange liquid everywhere if you open too hastily. To eat these, slightly bend the area where the barnacle and the piece of rock/coral is attached. The “tooth” head of the barnacle should be facing down while doing this so all the savory orange juice is saved in the dense outer skin.
Prawns from Palamos
The heads probably contained approximately 1 fl oz of brain juice. Sucking the heads on these bad boys was the best part about these perfectly cooked and sweet prawns from Palamos. The meat was slightly smoky and extremely sweet.
Sea Cucumber and Baby Green Beans
This dish was amongst my favorites at Etxebarri. I’ve only had sea cucumber cooked in the Chinese way (braised until extremely tender in a rich seafood xo sauce) but the sea cucumber here is cooked perfectly. The sea cucumber is lightly seared with olive oil and sea salt, the texture is crunchy like a slice of geoduck clam and very tender. The extremely fresh and perfectly cooked fava beans on the bottom of the sea cucumber was a perfect compliment to this very simple yet delicious dish.
Baby Octopus with Caramelized Onion and its Ink
I never had baby octopus this tender before. You eat them head and all, and they just melt in your mouth when you eat them.
Tartar of Fresh Chorizo
This dish was definitely unique; it’s cured raw pork lightly smoked served on a wafer chip. The chorizo was heavily seasoned with paprika, garlic, and salt which made it incredibly savoury when mixed with the light smokiness of the natural wood charcoal. It ate like a good beef tartare; it was incredibly fatty, meaty, savoury, and melted in your mouth.
Revuelto de Trufa Negra
This dish was just extremely decadent. Softly cooked farm egg yolks that took on a jam consistency (my guess, 62 degrees in the circulator?). The eggs were nicely seasoned and were topped with a abundant shaving of black truffle. A complete eggslut dish that went great with the complimentary bread.
Mushrooms (Hygrophorus Marzuolus)
These mushrooms were not as intensely flavored as say…. porcini mushrooms, but they had an excellent texture. These were lightly seasoned, were in it’s own broth, and were lightly smoked.
Whole Red Sea Bream served tableside
The next course was served tableside: a whole red sea bream cooked over the grill doused liberally with garlic, guindilla pepper, parsley, and sea salt. It was perfectly cooked, moist, juicy, and tasted pure (not a whole lot of other flavorings to cover the red bream). Aside from the filet, they also gave us the head and all, so being the good Asian boy I am, I snaked the cheeks and back head meat from the fish head before anyone else realized it. Sorry Susy🙂
Red Sea Bream Fillet
Vegetables accompanying the Red Sea Bream
These are the side vegetables accompanying the red sea bream. They were each cooked perfectly and were plated nicely.
Chuleta of Galician Beef
The mother of all Chuletas in Basque country. The meat was BARELY cooked, I mean like seared on one side for 2 minutes for a hard sear and then sliced. The meat melted like butter, was definitely grass fed, and dry aged. The best and most expensive chuleta I’ve ever had! It was almost like eating beef sashimi.
Smoothie of Blood Orange and Vodka
A nice palate cleanser to move into the desserts. The shot of blood orange smoothie was laced with vodka which was also a nice surprise. It also reminded me of the freshly juiced carrot that came before the entire meal, they almost look similar (color, palate cleanser), thought that was a neat touch.
Tostada de Crema
The outside was coated with almonds and a bit of coconut. It was tasty, but underwhelming compared to the rest of the meal.
Reduced Milk Ice Cream with a Red Fruit Infusion
Reduced milk is essentially condensed milk which is absolutely my favorite thing to add to coffee and teas. In an ice cream though served with a really tart red fruit infusion, it was definitely the best dessert of the whole meal. The ice cream was ridiculously smooth, really sweet, had caramelized milk flavors, and contrasted really nicely with the tart red fruit infusion.
Started off with a bottle of refreshing sparkling white wine. Perfect for the start of the meal!
For the second part of the meal, more oakey, tannic, and bolder than the previous bottle.
All in all this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life and definitely my top 5 in Pais Vasco. Simply presented and cooked, all the dishes here let the main ingredient speak for itself with the added benefit of cooking over natural custom made charcoal. Dam that charcoal really adds a lot a flavor and punch!
This place is a bit hard to get to, but it’s definitely worth it to rent a car and drop by for lunch, it’s that good!
Plaza San Juan, 1
48291 Atxondo- Bizkaia