Etxebarri: restaurant of the year?

Rafa, man, I just left Etxebarri. And as I leave, swimming in the throes of culinary ecstasy, I have a question that is also a statement, but you’ll understand: Is Etxebarri the restaurant of the year? Ok, ok… “This is about a gastronomic revolution, creativity at any cost, invention, novelty; but then again, as the old saying goes, ‘Nouveauté? Ça c’est plus vieux que le monde’. But let me continue, where were we? Ah yes, revolution. Hasn’t Bitor all but blasted away the principles of char-grilled cuisine? This is an impossible revolution, unexpected, without titles or acrobatics. Wood. Fire. Intellect. Revolutions, Rafa, are always obvious to those who are fighting them. Kropotkin, for example. But let’s get back to cuisine. At a time when everyone is talking about space food, it just so happens that one guy, after building his restaurant with his own hands (literally), ponders and reflects upon Aristotelian elements. When I sit down at the table at Etxebarri, I can’t help laughing at the minimalism, Rafa. Carlo Cracco played with three elements in a dish, but Bitor plays with just one! And the natural, pure sensations. A purity that no one advertised, since it was already a given. Fire. Grill. So ancient! So prospective! What is creativity? Better yet, what is creative flavor? Bitor has explained it to us, Rafa, as did others. But here, he plays with his cards on the table. Naked. On the high rope without a net. The flavor, dear Rafa, is the flavor. Oh, what obvious philosophies we spout! Tell me honestly if you’ve ever eaten a better sea cucumber than the one he prepares, with the whole muscle, rich with daring – a serious proposal. Tell me, damn it! I’d like someone to show me a better oyster than the grilled one he prepares. Three turns at 20 cm from the embers. Not even a minute. A small bed of boiled seaweed. At these heights, I still can’t help laughing at the minimalism. I know, I know, like I’ve just seen the sea for the first time, and at my age no less! Another question: the grilled egg yolk with potato drum and… rain of perretxikos (St. George’s mushrooms)! You should know that there are no words employed here. Revolution? Bullshit. This goes further than that. Can I remind you that all the international chefs who come to your Congress and are fortunate enough to try Etxebarri are converted to the cause? Perhaps now is the time to speak most audaciously… like the storming of the Winter Palace. Char-grilled Beluga Caviar. But look, I’m not going to talk about it. It’s the bloodiest part of the revolution. Try it, if you have the balls… Before, however, you have to go for the grilled fresh anchovies. Like crispy silver. A new world is possible, Rafa. I wont tell you about the grilled vegetables either because I don’t want to stain my pants, if you know what I mean – since I’ve got all this incredible cod gelatin at the corners of my mouth. I wash it down with the best (and biggest) Norway lobster of the Cantabrian Sea available anywhere. No way? Listen, I’m Catalan: I have to hide these feelings underneath the baby octopus and onion. I want to throw myself on the grill but then the perretxikos ice cream arrives, prepared with an implacable technique. Improbable. And good, Rafa, very good. Can you handle it? Because we’re looking at an authentic revolution taking place, more daring than any other (did you try the caviar?), a char-grilled revolution orchestrated by Bitor Arguinzoniz. Nothing in the hands, nothing in the hat… then, poof! Out comes the rabbit.
Dress it up pretty, man. Or else…

Restaurante Etxebarri
Plaza San Juan, 1. 48291 Axpe-Marzana. Atxondo (Vizcaya)
Tel. (+34) 946583042

1. Cod filet broiled over an evergreen oak fired grill
2. Grilled baby squid with onion confit and squid ink
3. Anchovies broiled over an evergreen oak fired grill
4. Grilled mushrooms with mushroom cappuccino over eggplant and potato confit