Asador Extebarri Atxondo, Spain

1 Michelin Star

May 12, 2012

One of the single best meals I have ever had. Never had grilled food like this. Worth the one hour drive on the dirt road with hairpin turns and cliffs.  Truly a sublime experience.  I learned from Chef Arguinzoniz that the beef we eat in the USA is called “veal” by their standards.  The cattle are allowed to graze in peace at least several years, maybe even up to ten, before slaughter.  Here beef is manufactured two years or even a lot less due to costs.  The beef we had in that restaurant and other parts of Spain had incredible depth of flavor and texture that far transcended anything I have had at the best steakhouses in the US.  I wish cattle ranchers would reconsider their position as I think once people taste the difference many would be willing to pay the price for it.  Plus, it is far more humane to the animal.

I pulled the following text from the World’s Top 50 Restaurants because they articulate my feelings beautifully.

Smoke-kissed, ultra-fresh ingredients are the stars of this distinctive and influential venue

Victor Arguinzoniz is now regarded as a founding father of creative European barbecue, such is the impact Asador Etxebarri has had on the global food scene over the past decade. Today, chefs from across the globe flock to his humble restaurant nestling in the Atxondo hills, 30 minutes from Bilbao, to see him and his bespoke wood grill at work, before taking inspiration back to their homelands.

Arguinzoniz is a grill master in its true sense, and at Etxebarri diners receive a masterclass in cooking over wood, and the flavours and nuances that can be created as a result. Everything on the menu, from wild red tuna belly and baby eels to raw chorizo tartare, has the trademark delicate kiss of smoke that rolls around your taste buds like a warm embrace. Ingredients are seasonal and fresh – many grown, picked, reared or butchered by Arguinzoniz himself. Dishes are simple and often unadorned: a lick of flame or some gentle seasoning often enough to bring the vibrant flavours to life.

Don’t be fooled: the cooking here and attention to detail is as precise as the white table-clothed dining rooms of Paris, but the food’s visceral quality and Arguinzoniz’s instinctive approach at the grill add an extra dimension that makes Asador Etxebarri such an exceptional restaurant.

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