Minimalist grill cookery using premiere Basque ingredients
What makes it special: Chef Victor Arguinzoniz has a remarkable ability to coax out explosive flavour from seemingly simple ingredients, most of which are grilled over an open hearth.
What’s on the menu: Arguinzoniz respects the intrinsic natural flavours of premiere local products and delicately urges each ingredient to show its potential: goat’s milk churned into ethereal butter, green peas amplified in their own juice, beef dry aged for so many days it burns with umami. Arguinzoniz cooks vegetables and proteins – including ice cream – on a range of charcoals he makes from a variety of woods, kissing most plates with at least a suggestion of smoke.
About the chef: Arguinzoniz was born and raised in the farming community of Axpe, a tiny picturesque village nestled in the mountains an hour’s drive from Bilbao. He is self-taught and has only worked in one kitchen – his own – where he designed and built his famous adjustable-heat grills.
A lack of pretense: Despite its world-renowned status, what separates Etxebarri from many other world-class restaurants is its simple – boarding on austere – second-floor, stone-adorned dining room that’s totally unpretentious. Eccentric maître d’ and sommelier Agustí Peris presides over the front-of-house operations, presenting an effortless and relaxed service style and natural charm. Etxebarri’s ground floor houses a basic bar that also doubles as the village pub.
In print: Last year, Arguinzoniz released his first book, Etxebarri, dedicated to the restaurant’s masterful grill cookery.
Images: Etxebarri / Mariano Herrera