BBQ like never before – Asador Extebarri

I find Michelin dining, for the most part, pretty stiff. I always think I am going to like it a lot more than I end up doing, and rarely do I feel as though I got my investment back. But Noma was different, and so is Extebarri, but that is where the comparisons end.

Extebarri is between Bilbao and San Sebastian, a couple of kms off the freeway, but looks more like Middle Earth than either of the cities. On arrival, we parked up into a hugely busy carpark, and entered into a buzzing bar full of North Face jackets. Was this a stop on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela? I never found out, but this wasn’t what I had in mind, and headed upstairs.

The room where we spent the next 4 hours was simple and unfussy. So were the waiters, one of which wore cargo pants and sneakers. The menu was also straight forward. Tasting menu for 120E or you can choose from all of the items to the left. No division of starters or mains, just ingredients. This was the so uncomplicated, that you forget that eating out can be a decision making minefield. 2 decisions later and we were done.. Let the eating commence.

This restaurant is all about primal heat, using coals prepared on-site using super fresh ingredients sourced locally and personally by the team. This seemed fine and dandy, and so when I asked for some butter to eat with my huge rustic chunk of bread, I was kindly informed that the butter season finished 2 weeks ago, but when they did have it, it was delicious – goats. I smiled back at them, and was speechless. These guys were serious about seasonality.

Below are some of photo’s of the lunch. For the most part they are what they look like. Prawns are prawns, but they are also not like any other prawn that I have eaten. This prawn is how I have always dreamed prawns to be, and up to now, I have often been disappointed. The steak was a steak, but this steak was had a beautifully seasoned crust that was a perfect contrast to the soft and butter like interior, full of flavour and subtle texture. You get the picture.

Oyster, in its own brine, with seaweed and salty foam. If I were a mermaid I would have this for breakfast.

What was left of the prawns after I got my dirty little mitts on them.

White bean with squid. We had a variation of this as a pinxtos, but this was the superior big brother.

This was squid, with its ink.

This was tomato, shallots and seared tuna. Declared the favourite by the celebrated one.

No dinner would be right without salt cod at some point. With spinach.

During my research I heard that Victor Arguinzoniz, head chef of Extabarri sources his meat from older dairy cows. I cannot confirm or deny this fact, but what ever the theory, it works.

The real reason for our lunch was to celebrate S turning 4 decades.

So, another country another lunch. This birthday adventure is getting trumped with each year passing. Next year, a burger and a pint?

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