Tomatoes I Refill of Juice of Basil in Consommé of Capers
Josean Alija
City: 48001 Bilbao. (Vizcaya).
Address: Abandoibarra Etorbidea, 2.
Closed: Sunday nights, Mondays, Tuesday nights, 15 days in January.
Price: 90/130 €
Tasting menu:: 60 y 89 €

A brand new and trend-breaking, minimalist and artistic restaurant that looks out onto the side of the Guggenheim Museum that faces the Nervion river. A five-star restaurant. We’ll see whether the Michelin Guide gives one to this cuisine it doesn’t manage to understand. May the car park –parking the car has always been a problem here– help make the sun shine in this Antequera area.
Let’s repeat it for the umpteenth time: Josean Martínez Alija is a real GENIUS. This is the man’s very main characteristic. His cuisine differs significantly from all the actual styles and trends. Two lines stand out: minimalism/essentiality in the constructions, which he has been cultivating for a long time despite his young age (he has always been a child prodigy); and passion for vegetables, that he transmits through green dishes which burst out with nature and naturality. Last year’s innovation is the development of a product chosen by the cook on which different tastes and consistencies are applied through multiple technical treatments. The chef has also many other qualities, of course, of which we emphasize the three following: his natural talent enriched by his amazing erudition, that lead to immaculate tastes; the dietetic aspect of his dishes; and his capacity to marvel both the palate and the eyes with simple and aesthetic arrangements. And what can we say about his humility, sensibility, consistency and happiness.

For the first time in years, in 2012, the menu was almost totally changed. The new proposals go far beyond all the levels the chef had reached to date. Perfection has been added to boundless imagination, which reflects the chef’s maturity. Let us repeat it to make things quite clear: we are probably before the most impacting vegetal cuisine on earth. The baby tomatoes stuffed with basil juice –some of them are slightly smoked– swimming into some capers consommé are really amazing and exquisite. Another green dish that confirms the passion for essence and simplicity is the sweet white onion –frankly unique– with cod broth and green pepper in the pil-pil way. The same can be said about the leek, melting and grilled, toasted on a kind of layer that covers innumerable rice buds soaked into a succulent and clear juice of Iberian pork, just like a risotto. The borage with clams, grass and coastal garlic broth, which preserves the original qualities of the products in an unprecedented way, deserves another 10/10. After the best dish of onion, leek and borage comes the top work on baby peas, served raw and hot, crunchy, wrapped into some zabaglione made of egg, onion and vanilla that brings tactile and palatal counterpoints. And what can we say about the infusion of 30-month-cured Parmesan curdled with a black truffle veil, crunchy bread and green sisho; really trembling and substantial. The oyster with clams, blended chard and coastal garlic are a new demonstration of passion for nature and sea, which appears for the umpteenth time through the grilled sea urchins served with seaweed gelatine.
Josean Alija has assumed some shortcoming regarding dishes based on low grade meat and has been faced to a change of concept regarding fish and meat proposals. Much more low grade meat is served within his very personal style: hake necks and cheeks with garlic mustard and hazelnut broth, which seem to reinvent the typical green sauce, or at least to be inspired by it. The lobster with red onion, green lentils and marigold leaves brings old creations up to the grandeur of the product: the crustacean becomes an accompaniment instead of being the big star surrounded by poor ingredients. The green style and definition are omnipresent as the turbot with rosemary sauce and pickled turnip shows. The grilled foie gras served with winter pear and hibiscus also reflects the grandeur of the house in terms of brilliant treatment of an excellent product, garnished with fruity and natural hints that make the difference and add some brushstrokes of fantasy. The main courses are concluded with some Bresse pigeon, pertinently delicious, buttery and juicy, proposed with some spring sprouts (peas) and a cosmopolitan touch of green coffee.
The avocado with grapefruit slices and potato, apple and lime millefeuille confirms the chef’s talent and thoroughness, from start to finish.
Josean Alija is a highly-gifted cook, definitely.