Ibai

There’s no such thing as a “product restaurant” because all such establishments should utilize high quality products. However, even in Spain, where one can find higher quality meat and fish/shellfish compared to any other country in the Western world, very few restaurants truly excel in product quality.  Those familiar with the Basque country should know that one eats very well in this part of the world.

Ibai is a “product restaurant” in terms of the sheer quality of products across the board.  I have only been in Basque country for 3 weeks but from what I have heard, Ibai is not only the best restaurant in the Basque country and in Spain, but it is one of the most consistent  and best places to eat ultra fresh vegetables and fish/shellfish anywhere in the world.

The chef-owner, of Ibai is a great artisan-cook and his timing and precision leaves one speechless. His stance is quite intimidating at first since he leans over the table to tell you about what is fresh in the restaurant. There’s no menu; it’s just what he saw at the market. As you enter the restaurant, you think you’d be in the wrong place, especially since it is the ‘best restaurant’ in Spain. But the owner’s wife greets you with a kiss on the cheek and guides you pass the front tapas bar and into the basement which consists of only five tables.

It is a quiet room and only older people are silently enjoying their meal. I’m usually a fan of louder places but here they eat quietly, speak quietly, perhaps because they are lost for words at the beautiful and delicious plates? I didn’t want to get my hopes up…

The meal started with the best cooked chorizo imaginable. It looked greasy but it was soft, not chewy, probably slow cooked and a burst of flavors entered your mouth as you chewed on it. Smokey and sweet.

Ensalada de Bogavante. Lobster Salad is equally simple and equally stunning in terms of the calibration of the tasty sweet lobster and the more acid vinaigrette dressing.

Chipirones a la Plancha. This is another simple dish but the freshness jumps out of the plate. Sprinkled with oil and parsley; the tentacles were nice and crunchy.

Kokotxas of Merlu/Hake fish. The exact definition is “delicate pendulums of flesh growing in the throat of hake or cod”. I have tried this Basque specialty of hake cheeks many times in the area but Ibai is on a different level because one cannot beat their freshness. Even my dining partner who does not like kokotxa finished the plate. Here, they prepare them three ways: slowly cooked (confit), lightly fried, and in a classical ‘pil pil’ sauce. If you like a gelatinous texture, this is the ultimate expression of it.

Chuleta Beef. Nothing more, nothing less. Perfectly grilled.

Since there’s no physical menu, it’s a risk not knowing the price. But it’s all worth it and surprisingly quite reasonable for what is fresh from the day. 

Ibai

Calle Getaria Kalea, 15
20005 San Sebastián
Telephone: 943 428 764

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