Location: Legina Auz., s/n, 48195 Larrabetzu, Bizkaia, Spain
Date: June 24, 2016
Cuisine: Modern Basque (Michelin 3 Star!)
Rating: My best meal in years
Our final starred restaurant of the trip is Azurmendi, located about 15-20 minutes east of Bilbao in the beautiful hills of Basque country.
Azurmendi Gourmet is the only restaurant in the Biscay province with three Michelin stars.
Azurmendi is possibly one of the most unique sustainable buildings of the modern architecture. It reflects the canons of the Basque identity and integrates photovoltaic solar panels and a geothermic system to produce electricity, harvests rainwater to cover a number of operations, recycles waste, etc. A charging station is available for electric cars. For all these reasons Azurmendi was granted the Sustainable Restaurant Award 2014.
There are resteraunts in them thar hills!
It has been built into a hillside surrounded by autochthonous vineyards. Eneko´s house, and he calls the restaurant, was conceived and built prioritizing sustainability, a foundation of his philosophy.
The architecture is subdued from the outside, fitting into the beautiful countryside.
The third act takes us to the lovely greenhouse.
A close up of the actual treat.
2013 Castell d’Encús Costers del Segre Acusp. 89 points. As there wasn’t the kind of Burgundy I wanted on the list, and I like to stay Spanish, the Sommelier recommended this lovely young Spanish pinot noir.
Fried Hake, roasted red pepper infusion and parsley. The green blobs aren’t avocado, but parsley mousse or something. This was a perfect tempura fish, wonderfully moist inside and crispy outside. The red pepper “sauce” (almost a gel) was amazing, with a dashi-type flavor too.
Chef Eneko Atxa.
Born in 1977 and raised in the Basque Country of Spain, Eneko Atxa hails from a family that always placed value in good food and good eating. At the age of 15, he embarked on his career as a chef at the Catering College of Leoia in the province of Biscay. After graduation, he honed his skills in fine dining and began his journey into haute cuisine as a cook under Chef Martín Berasategui at his eponymous restaurant in Lasarte. He then continued on with greater responsibility at locally revered restaurants Etxebarri and Andra Mari. As these early years of his career passed, he began to develop his culinary personality and style, driven by deep curiosity and passion.
In 2005, Atxa’s path led him to open his own restaurant, Azurmendi, in a tucked-away spot of dense woods just 10 minutes outside of Bilbao. Since then, the chef has garnered a number of awards, including “Best Chef” by local, national, and international bodies, including the Fourchettes French gourmet guide, along with the “Most Beautiful Dish” by Lo Mejor de la Gastronomía in 2010. Just five years after opening, Azurmendi was awarded its second Michelin star in November 2010, becoming the first restaurant in the Biscay province with two Michelin stars — then finally 3!
Azurmendi was a stunning meal. Everyone present agreed it was their favorite of the trip — and I place it as one of my favorites in the last decade. The location was lovely, the theatrics clever, each dish artful, but most importantly, they all tasted fantastic. The overall balance of flavors, temperature, and textures was uniformly good. Not every dish was as great as the last, but they varied from merely very good to revelatory. And even thought he combinations were often unusual, they meshed together in a delectable manner.
Really, there is a reason Elite Traveller has distinguished Azurmendi as the second best restaurant in the world this year (2016), and Opinionated About Dining as the best restaurant in Europe in 2015. This is current haute cuisine executing on all 12 cylinders, hand tuned by Enzo Ferrari himself — and it shows off the bounty, beauty, and creativity that is defining Basque Country as one of the world’s best culinary destinations.