Location: Portu Kalea, 8, 20003 San Sebastián-Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Date: June 16, 2016
Rating: “Straight up” Basque Tapas
San Seb is packed with Pintxos bars. Dozens upon dozens of them and they vary wildly in style, quality, and crowds. Baztán is a pretty typical type.
First of all, the offerings are dominated by straight up pintxos (stuff on pieces of bread). These, for the most part, sit on the counter. You grab a plate (or 2) and load up as many as you like, then hand it to a bar keep along with your drink order. If something needs heating he’ll do that. Most things here don’t and usually they are eaten pretty much as they sit on the bar. Let’s look at some examples.
Straight pintxos like this is a funny cuisine. First of all, if the bar is crowded at all it’s sort of a nightmare: Nowhere to eat, very hard if you have a large party. 1-2 people, no problem, you just grab some stuff when you order your drink. 8, that can be a challenge! There is also no particular rhyme or reason to the distribution of plates (sometimes they are at the bar, sometimes you ask the bartender) or a mechanism for getting his attention so you can pay, order, etc. I found it much like a crowded club bar.
Then there is the pintxos themselves. They certainly taste very good, and you can pick what you want to try by looks and in small increments, but I soon tired of all those slices of thick French bread. I’m not the sort to eat 10-15 slices of bread! So I ate about 2 and then resorted to eating the toppings off. Felt kinda like eating the fish off the rice at all-you-can-eat sushi.
Still, this was a fun and tasty experience, and a good intro as we delve later into more exotic tapas/pintxos formats.