The hype around this "asador" (grill restaurant) probably started with Tony Bourdain, who came here with his No Reservations show to portray the cooking at Etxebarri. He highlighted the incredible precision with which every single one of these stunning products gets grilled here. From the various types of wood, up to the special tools the guys had made for the restaurant, Bourdain opened Etxebarri's road to fame.
The man who runs this restaurant is the humble, simple and superbly skilled Victor who runs the kitchen with his sous-chef. He has created a style of cooking that is not only truly original and modern, but remains so much focused on the product that you will not find two people doing the same thing in the world.
Due to this, eating here is a little like going back to school. For Victor, like a teacher, demonstrates better than most other chefs how much potential a pristinely fresh product has, if treated with respect. He makes it possible to stand in awe in front of a butter toast. Yes, that's right a toasted piece of bread with butter is served as a dish. The clue is that the butter is slightly grilled and topped with slivers of wild mushrooms and ash salt. The result is a refined and complex flavour that you would never ever expect from such a simple preparation. It is impressive and humbling at the same time to be so amazed by such basic ingredients.
That simplicity reigns in this kitchen can be shown by the Palamos shrimps. These shrimps have the nasty habit of ruining you for your entire life. Because, finding better shrimp will be a real challenge. One single, large shrimp comes with a topping of salt. It's grilled to perfection, with the smoky flavours adding to the complex taste they have already. What you are left with is the head of the beasts, so juicy and full of flavour that you barely need the tail. However, to leave the latter aside would also be a pity, as the tail meat is just as delicious. It has a stunning texture and sweet, juicy flesh that is orgasmic. If you think you have eaten the best of everything in your life, come here and you might well be taught a lesson or two by Victor.
This restaurant is perhaps the ‘holy grail' for people who love food. It is devoid of all luxury, does not engage in lengthy preparations of intense sauces or purees. What happens here is so simple, but complex at the same time that it will mark you for the rest of your life. No matter if you eat chorizo, beef, lobster or grilled caviar, you will not forget the flavours of these "simple" dishes. The reason why this might even be considered the most luxurious restaurant in Europe is exactly the fact that, like in the finest Japanese restaurants, the chefs have such stunning produce at hand that no complication is necessary. It's the kind of food that is so pure, real and honest that you cannot help but sit there in awe, wishing you could have this kind of stuff a bit more often...