Sunday, July 6, 2014

Azurmendi, Spain

The property is stunning
Man, it's already the second half of 2014 - how time flies! I had a great holiday last year, around August 2013 - when I visited a dear friend in London and we took a plane to Spain to begin exploring the Basque region of Spain, ending up at Barcelona through a really eventful drive through Pamplona and the Aragones region.

I love Spain and it's one of those relaxed places where you can simply let your hair loose and enjoy the weather and the laid back atmosphere and not have to think too much.

And speaking of food, the produce there is insane. I reviewed Akelare, the 3-Michelin starred restaurant located at Donostia (San Sebastian) quite long time ago, and this is a review of Azurmendi which is another 3 Michelin star restaurant located about an hour off Bilbao, in a little farmhouse of sorts overlooking a garden where they grow their own vegetables. How cool is that!

We arrived at the courtyard "entrance" you see on the right, awaiting our entry into the main dining area. You immediately notice the modern architecture, and you feel as though you were in a greenhouse of sorts, with a natural airiness about the place.

The whole emphasis is on freshness and flavour, just as with every other good restaurant. 

The picnic basket
We started off with a "picnic basket" which comprised peanuts, "txakoli and spicy fruit" and homemade smoked anchovies. The txakoli (a Basque white wine) was stuffed inside those balls on the top left, which then burst with the txakoli. The homemade smoked anchovies were interesting - they were smoked with rosemary for quite a long time and the flavour was outstanding, smoky and pretty intense flavour of the herbs. 

smoked anchovies
Here you see a close up of the anchovies - they were rolled up in a pot for about a month I believe, and you have the herbs (rosemary) that accompanied it, giving it that intense flavour.

a picture of the kitchen
Afterward, we were led by the manager into the kitchen to see how everything operates. You have the meats section, the cold cuts section, the desserts, and so on. Everything well organised. Pity the chef Eneko Atxa wasn't around!

homemade milk bread
We started off with some homemade milk bread - sweet and soft, a little like Japanese milk buns. Nothing much to shout about but a nice touch.

We then sampled one of Eneko's signature dishes, named "Huevo de nuestras gallinas, cocinado a la inversa y trufado" - or in English: "egg from our chickens, cooked inside out and truffled". Basically you have a warm egg infused with a truffle inside - this was delicious, with the egg combining well with the truffles. It reminded me a little of Brand's essence of chicken (I don't know why - perhaps that's my culinary reference point) but it was certainly interesting and not just gimmicky for the sake of it. (8.5/10)

Next up was a potato and truffle in a cone. This was interesting, with the truffles infusing the potato with flavour. Another light and flavourful dish. (8/10)
Moving up, we had something that's known as "The Garden" - here there was some tomato puree, tomato pudding covered in dried beetroot which acts as the soil. The vegetables had that natural sweetness that you don't get here in Singapore and it was a creative and delicious dish. Good contrast between the various ingredients: (8.25/10)

I was very fond of the next dish: confited lobster with herbs (spring onions and olives). The lobster was just delicious with a lovely full and rich flavour with a smokiness from the grilling preparations. (9/10)

Next up was caramelised cauliflower with lamb sweetbreads and cauliflower puree; with potato pillows (in between) stuffed with garlic. Another very solid dish. I can still recall how this tastes; the slight gaminess of the lamb - fried - combined with the sweetness of the caramelised cauliflower and with the interesting milder flavours of a cauliflower puree. Interesting. (8.25/10)

Next up: "Betizu" cow tail raviolis, wrapped in corn bread with a legume broth. Here we have really robust and flavourful meat, and an even more intense sauce. As the ravioli was made with corn bread the texture was not as smooth - slightly rougher - but it made for an interesting texture combination. Another delicious dish. (8.5/10)

Next up: squid and squid ink. Wonderful barbequed flavour from the squid. (8.25/10)

And the mains were coming to an end: this was a confited baby pig with avocado. The meat was just top quality meat : very porky with great depth. Wonderful and one of my favourite dishes (8.75/10)

The mains came to an end, and we had these smoked chestnuts with a "vine shoot scent". Interesting and certainly quite unique. (8/10)

Next up: coffee pudding, rum and farmhouse milk. The coffee pudding was excellent, full of an intense espresso flavour. Paired with rum ice cream. (8.5/10)

We rounded off the meal with some petit fours.

I had an espresso which was competently done.

Overall Azurmendi is a winner and thoroughly deserves its 3 Michelin stars. One of the top restaurants I've been to, and I'd say that, in terms of overall consistency of the food, it edges out Akelare. Based on the two meals (at the two restaurants) in August 2013, I'd say that Azurmendi is probably the more creative of the two. Exceptional food and well at 135 Euros, it's affordable compared to what you'd be paying at a top Singapore restaurant. I have heard that Eneko opened a second outlet "Aziamendi" in Phuket so if you can't fly so far to Bilbao, you can go to Phuket!

Txorierri corridor, exit 25
Larrabetzu (Larrabetzu/Lezama highway exit) Bizkaia

1 comment:

Tecks Chia - AsianTex said...

Hi there!

I have an upcoming tasting for a client who is a Japanese restaurant I would like to invite you for.

May I have your email address for the purpose of sending you the invitation?

Thanks & regards,