Asador Etxebarri – vanguard through atavism

Axpe: October 2023

Few places achieve the level of gastronomic perfection of Asador Etxebarri. Every element, from the setting to its story and its philosophy, exudes authenticity. There isn’t a hint of superficial marketing. Produce — extraordinary produce caressed by the heat of wood embers — is the basis for everything here. That, and the immense level of dedication from the owner and grill master Bittor Arginzoniz. He is a constant presence by the fire, hands-on, controlling with obsession the cuisson of each ingredient. This devotion, paired with the warm, relaxed service and the incredible wine list, yields one of the most touching holistic dining experiences in the world.

Table of contents
1. The origins of Etxebarri2. Chronology3. A philosophy centred around extraordinary produce
4. The cuisine – the art of grilling5. The venue, the service and the wine6. The tasting menu in October

The origins of Etxebarri

The story of Bittor Arginzoniz has many parallels with that of Michel Bras. A self-taught chef who, in a remote village, reshaped and set a new trend in gastronomy that is deeply authentic and unique.

Forty kilometers away from Bilbao, the small rural village of Axpe still did not have electricity when Bittor was born in 1960. He would grow up in the family farmhouse or baserri helping collect wood for the fire where his mother Narcisa and grandmother Eugenia would cook. The connection to food, and respect for it, would certainly come from this upbringing, but his journey to become a chef would begin later. In the village, the majority of jobs available were related to farming, and the only way out was to find a job in a factory. He started working paving roads and then moved to a cardboard factory.

However, after these early experiences, Bittor’s life took a different direction. It would take him until 1989 to decide to return to Axpe and open a restaurant. The village’s bar and corner store had closed a few years before and Bittor decided to purchase it with the financial help of his uncles. It had always been the place to socialise and relax in the village. The place was transformed into an asador, a Spanish eatery serving primarily meat, open every day of the week. With no experience in hospitality, Bittor took the role of manager of the restaurant and hired a chef and two assistants. The menu would include croquetas, txangurro, stews and pan-cooked steaks.

The revolution would start when a barbecue from Tolosa was installed outside the kitchen. Bittor was amazed by the effect of the coal embers on steak. Excited by the results, he started experimenting with other produce, with great success in the dining room. He became the in-house barbecue expert, and eventually, his entire focus shifted to the grill. His work was quickly noticed by critic Rafael García Santos, also one of the first discoverers of elBulli and one of the leading promoters of the Spanish avant-garde movement that emerged in the nineties. García Santos would become a vital mentor for Bittor, who, without formal training, needed guidance regarding cuissons and techniques. One significant contribution was the shift from coal to wood for the barbecue. The cleaner, more perfumed notes enhanced any produce that passed through the grill.

Just as Bittor had transformed the old bar into his restaurant, the kitchen was reconfigured to allow him to cook more dishes with fire and on a scale that could meet the dining room’s demand. In 1997, another significant addition was made. Two large ovens, imported from Badalona, generated a constant supply of embers for his barbecues. Armed with these ovens and a large array of utensils, which Bittor himself designed, he could cook any ingredient over the fire. The restaurant quickly became the leading representative of a culinary style that hearkened back to the magic of the past: the allure of fire and the seasoning of food with smoke — not so different from his mother and grandmother’s cooking. The key difference would be that as the restaurant gained success, more exclusive ingredients were added to the menu.

By 2008, the restaurant reduced the number of services and introduced a tasting menu for the first time. This nod to Michelin’s criteria paid off with a star in the Clermontois guide in 2010. In 2011, the hiring of Agustí Peris, former sommelier at elBulli, brought a modern touch to the wine list, heavily influenced by Champagne and Burgundy. Thanks to the extraordinarily high quality of the produce and the perfect cuissons, Etxebarri quickly climbed to the top 10 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking in 2016 and has maintained its position since then. The hype about this place among foodies worldwide is huge, and what’s even more impressive is that Etxebarri consistently exceeds these high expectations.

1960Bittor is born in Axpe.
1989Bittor purchases Etxebarri, Axpe’s tavern and shop and starts refurbishing the building.
1990Asador Etxebarri opens.
Discovery of the power of fire, as Bittor buys a barbecue.
Restaurant critic Rafael García Santos discovers Etxebarri.
1997With the barbecue becoming a central tool of the restaurant, they install a wood oven to supply constant embers for cooking.
The restaurant starts opening only for lunch service and offers a tasting menu for the first time.
Etxebarri enters the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list at position 44.
2010First Michelin star and three Soles in the Guía Repsol.
2011Sommelier Agustí Peris joins the team.
2016Etxebarri climbs to the top 10 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking. It has stayed in it since then.
Mohamed Benabdallah becomes the directeur de salle and head sommelier.
First and only book is published – Etxebarri.
2019Bittor launches his own line of barbecue utensils with Josper.

Produce, produce, produce – the philosophy

If one were to guess Alain Chapel’s favourite restaurant today, Etxebarri would likely come to mind. The emphasis on the quality and freshness of the produce here is unparalleled. Bittor understands that his grill accentuates every nuance of the essence of his ingredients. This effect can go in any direction: great subtleties might be enhanced, but if the produce is flawed, that flaw becomes more pronounced.

This has led to a push for seeking the best produce he can get hold of. To a certain degree, he practices self-sustenance farming, much like his ancestors in the caserío and as he did during his childhood. He is happy to be a locavore when the produce from his own gardens and farm surpasses that from elsewhere, particularly thanks to its freshness. From his garden and farm, he harvests a variety of produce, including lettuce, red peppers, eggs, and even milk from his own water buffalos, which he brought in the early 2010s from Campania, Italy. But he is not a farm-to-table advocate. He is open to sourcing the best produce from anywhere, provided it fits within the typical preparations of Basque cuisine – like blackspot seabream, rib-eye steak, squid, shrimp, chorizo… For instance, shrimp come from Palamós, the pork from Joselito in the dehesas of Extremadura, squid from Asturias, mussels from Mont-Saint-Michel, foie gras from Landes and beef from Galicia. His relationship with suppliers is crucial; he seeks not just quality but also consistency in size and freshness. For the sake of freshness, most of his seafood arrives the next morning after it was fished.

Evidently, the strict criteria for the produce require the menu to be shaped around the seasonal ingredients available. Their 2017 book spells out these timings with precision:

  • Anchovies in April and May.
  • Salmon during spring.
  • Red mullet in early summer.
  • Squid from July to September.
  • Mussels from July to October.
  • Blackspot sea bream and tomatoes in September and October.
  • Pumpkin from July to November.
  • Langoustines from November to January.
  • Velvet crab from November to May.
  • Artichokes from autumn to spring.

However, certain items such as chorizo, anchovies, txuletas, oysters, and desserts are consistently available year-round.

Bittor’s grill – a cuisine of embers

Bittor Arginzoniz has redefined how fire is used in the culinary world. At Etxebarri, fire is not merely a nostalgic nod to age-old cooking methods; it is a profound recognition of its capacity to magnify the very soul of ingredients. Every dish has at least one element tenderly kissed by this fire. Through a gentle whisper of smoke, acting as a purveyor of purity, the true essence of each ingredient is unveiled.

The choice of wood is crucial. Two ovens preside over the grill room on the ground floor of the restaurant. One is fuelled by holm oak, whose embers impart a milder, more subtle smokiness, ideal for fish, seafood, and vegetables. The other uses wood from vine shoots, which delivers a more robust, intense smokiness – a perfect complement for beef.

Starting in the early 2000s, Bittor’s innovative approach truly gained prominence. Bringing haute cuisine concepts to the art of grilling, he reshaped our understanding of the craft, developing techniques that allowed virtually any ingredient to be cooked over embers. Central to his approach are adjustable grills, equipped with pulleys similar to those used in Argentina. These allowed him to calibrate the radiative heat transfer with precision by adjusting the distance between food and embers. But Bittor’s innovations didn’t stop at the grill. He designed his own tools and utensils to handle even the most delicate ingredients such as caviar, kokotxas, egg yolks and elvers. In a collaboration with Josper since 2019, many of these tools have been made available to the broader public.

Initially under the tutelage of critic Rafael García Santos and later on his own, Bittor Arginzoniz has developed an impressive knack for perfect cuissons. Etxebarri is not merely about finding exceptional ingredients, but presenting them at their best. The chef is very picky and has a clear idea of how every ingredient should be cooked over the fire. When working at the grill, he trusts his intuition over timers or thermometers, referring to this instinct as his ‘sixth sense’. This is why he seldom allows others to handle the grill and insists on being present for every service. In order to uphold his standards, constant practice is required. He claims that after any holiday break, it takes him some time to return to his top form.

Bittor’s approach to building flavour follows what we could call a refined simplicity. He achieves this through combinations that deeply resonate, such as the saline sweetness of mussels with carrot purée, or the surprising smoked milk ice cream paired with beetroot. He also showcases classic combinations such as tomato with tuna or mozzarella. Some ingredients, thanks to their sheer brilliance, are served on their own, such as the shrimps from Palamós, the iconic txuleta steak, oysters, and goose barnacles. Only a select few new dishes are introduced each year, building a menu that becomes better and more complex over time.

Observing the evolution of Etxebarri’s dishes over time reveals a minimalist approach to plating, with a few temporary changes of direction in 2017. The restaurant’s genius lies in this simplicity. He understands that often, a combination of extraordinary produce, a hint of smoke, and a light jus, reduction, or cream is all it takes to impress us.

Maintaining the hallmark simplicity of the main dishes, the desserts are equally impressive. While they may seem straightforward at first glance, they all offer a depth filled with indulgent creamy, lukewarm, and sweet nuances. And, like all the savoury dishes, a touch of smoke weaves through the desserts.

The venue, the service and the wine

Set against the backdrop of the sharp limestone peaks of the Urkiola Natural Park, the caserío of Etxebarri in the village of Axpe is surrounded by the dominating presence of Mount Amboto and a landscape of unique beauty. This building, nearly 300 years old, carries the paradoxical name ‘Etxebarri’, which means ‘new house’. In its early days, a family would occupy the top floor, while livestock found shelter below. Over time it became Axpe’s corner store and bar, before Bittor purchased and transformed it into his own restaurant.

Today, the ground floor hosts the kitchen, the grill room, and the wood storage. Above, a split-level dining room accommodates up to 35 guests. On sunny days, the terrace beckons guests to enjoy a refreshing aperitif or petits fours at the end of their meal. The décor of the dining room follows a traditional Spanish restaurant style, from the dark woods and raw stone walls to the sturdy beams overhead. Each table, draped in a pristine tablecloth, is set with Forge de Laguiole knives—including designs by Philippe Starck—and Zalto glasses.

The ambiance matches the tone of the service. Guests step into the true essence of Spanish hospitality: it’s unpretentious, genuine, and relaxed. Experienced servers exude a warmth reminiscent of a Spanish family that makes guests feel very much a part of it. Don’t expect a graceful ballet of waiters or precision in cutlery placement; it’s all about heartfelt connections. Mohamed Benabdallah has been the directeur de salle and head sommelier since 2017 after a six-year stint in Mugaritz working with Guillermo Cruz. His approach is equally relaxed and easy-going, and his recommendations are spot on.

The wine list features an impressive amount of Champagnes—from grower and cult producers to the big houses—and Burgundies, from smaller producers like Caroline Morey to well-established cult producers like Roulot, Leroy, etc. The selection from emerging producers in Spanish regions which have witnessed a significant resurgence in quality winemaking is commendable. From Suertes del Marqués and Victoria Torres in the Canary Islands, to Comando G near Madrid, Isaac Cantalapiedra near Rueda, Godellos from Rafael Palacios or Jérez from Willy Perez y Ramiro Ibáñez. There are also some hidden gems like well-aged German Riesling (Dönnhoff and JJ Prüm) or some great low-intervention producers from Loire.

The tasting menu in October (plus some additions à la carte)

We started our meal at the terrace with a bottle of Stroebel Logos Les Hazardes 2015, a fruity and floral grower Champagne. As an appetiser, we had a delicious tomato water with olive oil.

Moving into the dining room, the experience starts with the classic house-made chorizo and anchoas en salazón. The recipe for the chorizo was developed back in 1995. It is a nod to the slaughtering season, capturing the essence of times when pigs were resourcefully used to prepare various delicacies for winter sustenance. Its texture, reminiscent of soft butter or sobrasada, is a clear indication of the superior quality of the Joselito pork, especially the presa and secreto cuts, with high oleic acid content. Combined with the distinct pimentón from Guernica, the flavours evoke the rich and savoury character of the Black Iberian pig. A delicious and simple way to start the meal. On the other hand, the anchovies, which are brined and preserved in-house from April to May, are served on grilled toast rubbed with tomato and some chopped olives. The exceptional quality of the preserved anchovies made us eager to return during the season to try them fresh.

In the early 2010s, Bittor brought two water buffaloes to Axpe, and from those two, a herd has since grown that now supplies fresh milk every day. Using this milk, he prepares Fresh buffalo cheese, similar to mozzarella di bufala from Campania. Though mozzarella is not a traditional Basque cheese, Bittor likes this style so much that he was willing to make an exception. The texture was exceptional, with that slightly gummy chew of mozzarella made on the same day. This reminded us of our visit to Tenuta Vannulo in Campania, where we had a similar experience. To describe the sensation, the exterior of the mozzarella has a slight chew similar to halloumi. The interior is soft and, while not overly creamy, is full of delicious whey with a lactic tang. This year, the cheese was presented differently: accompanied by a smoked tomato gazpacho that was predominantly tomato-based and paired with a brunoise of cucumber.

Mohamed served us a white wine blind here, we guessed a Puligny-Montrachet.

Stéphane Bernaudeau – Les Nourrissons 2018
Nose:Very aromatic. Perfumed with ripe yellow apples and white flowers. There is also a mild touch of reduction and round notes of vanilla from oak, even though it’s old.
Palate:Beautiful palate, full of concentration for a Chenin that feels like a beautiful Puligny full of tension. Attack full of ripe yellow apples, white peach and a midpalate with a touch of salinity, white flowers and wet stone. The tension was very elegant, with an intensity more subdued than that of a Loire, but more of a racy Chardonnay.
Structure:High racy acidity, dry, medium alcohol, medium body. Long finish.

Next came a wonderful ventresca de bonito con tomate (albacore tuna belly with tomato). The ventresca was very lightly seared, just enough to warm the flesh and soften its fat, while keeping the core raw and juicy. Still, the short time on the grill is enough to infuse the exterior with a scrumptious aroma of smoke. The smokiness and the flavour of the tuna fat merge into an otherworldly bite. The tomato also blew us away. At the peak of its season, its texture, flavour, and sweetness were sublime. The preparation enhances its qualities: its skin is first burnt instead of blanched, then peeled, and finally marinated in salt and olive oil.

Harvested from the distinct Costa de la Muerte in Galicia, the Goose barnacles were of remarkable size. Bittor’s preference for either short and plump or long but proportionally thick barnacles was evident in our serving. The cooking method, which utilizes a tool Bittor invented himself, allows for both steaming and smoking simultaneously. However, in this preparation, the smoke was dialled back, with emphasis placed on achieving the right cuisson, in exchange for less time exposed to the embers. This choice highlighted the barnacles’ natural flavours – meaty, saline and reminiscent of mussels. And since dining on barnacles can be a bit of a delightful mess, wet towels are provided. On a final note, Enric Soler’s Espenyalluchs was an incredible pairing.

The Caviar dish is a clever mix of caviar and the rendered fat of Black Iberian pork, produced by Joselito. Bittor’s unique smoking technique, using a double-sieve set-up with wet seaweed over applewood at around 50°C, imparts a subtle smoky touch to the caviar that works well with both elements. He opts for the larger 3mm Imperial Beluga from Iran, which is known for its minimal salt and fresh flavour. While warming the caviar brings its texture closer to the pork fat, making them blend better, it does take away from the caviar’s distinct pop. Yet, the amalgamation of seaweed, saline, and umami pork flavours is profoundly satisfying.

We continued with Etxebarri’s Oyster,a prime example of Bittor’s innovative touch. Employing the same techniques as for the barnacles and the mussels, the oysters are steamed and smoked at once. This gives them a texture that closely mirrors the most tender of sweetbreads. Bittor elevates the dish by blending the oyster’s natural juice, collected in the shell during cooking, with the opulent fat of Joselito. The delicate texture combined with the subtle smoke aroma took us by surprise, making it one of the best dishes we have ever had. A platonic ideal of an oyster. The choice of large Gillardeau size 0 oysters is intentional, known for their steady sweetness, balanced salinity, and ability to maintain size well when cooked.

The series of epicurean seafood dishes is not over. Gambas de Palamós offers another platonic ideal, this time of shrimp. Freshness is key: these medium-sized 60g shrimps are caught in the morning and served by evening, locking in their natural taste and tenderness. The unique cooking technique stands out; with embers under the grill arranged to provide milder heat to the body and more intense warmth to the head. This results in the body being lusciously plump, tender, and sweet, subtly kissed by the smoky aroma of holm oak embers. Meanwhile, the head houses a bounty of flavourful juices, akin to sipping the finest bisque one could ever imagine.

Served almost at body temperature, the Sea Urchin unveiled its sumptuous, creamy consistency, akin to the warmed caviar dish. Bittor simply cleans, halves, and then grills the urchin, crowning it with pumpkin cream. The touch of smoked pumpkin cream added a faint hint of smokiness, enhancing yet not masking the urchin’s natural sweetness. There was no trace of any iron note of bitterness that one can sometimes find in sea urchin. It was rich, indulgent and, intensely umami.

The Mussels at Etxebarri presented a marriage of land and sea. Sourced from Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, these mussels were a stunning vivid orange, boasting a creamy and delicate texture. Bittor Arginzoniz’s method of steaming and smoking at the same time, originally developed for these mussels, allows them to be steamed in their own juices, retaining their moisture and getting a hint of smoke. This smokiness is complemented by a smooth carrot purée, which uses a bit of the mussels’ liquid to add a touch more depth. Together, the carrot purée accentuates the sweetness of the mussels.

Next was the Squid which was, of course, line-caught — a calamar de potera that we have described in the past here. This medium-sized specimen, measuring 8-10cm, is chosen specifically for its optimal tenderness and deep flavour profile. Grilled to perfection at high temperatures, the squid acquires a smoky char, yet retains its tender, almost creamy texture. After careful gutting and cleaning, the body and tentacles are harmoniously reassembled on the plate. The squid ink sauce enhances the dish with a hint of salinity. Meanwhile, the mild spinach and parsley ‘pesto’ offers a refreshing interlude, cleansing the palate between bites. The addition of caramelised onions placed under the body subtly sweetens the profile with a traditional Spanish pairing.

Mohamed generously served us a beautiful Listán Blanco from Victoria Torres to accompany the following dishes. Bright at saline, with piercing Canarian acidity, it was perfect with the sea bream.

Evoking the look and feel of a Catalan coca, the Chanterelles Cracker offers a textured bite akin to a millefeuille. Enjoyed in just a couple of bites, much like a pintxo, its flavours were more subdued than anticipated. The starchiness of the cracker diminished the chanterelles’ distinct flavour. Only in the accompanying cream did the mushroom’s true essence shine through. The cream was made by confiting the chanterelles stems in olive oil and then blending to a smooth consistency.

In Basque cuisine, the Besugo, or blackspot sea bream, is a treasured barbecue dish. It even has its own special tool, the besuguera, designed specifically for its preparation. Given Etxebarri’s reputation as a temple of grilling, the inclusion of besugo in their menu is no surprise. While most of today’s besugo is procured from Tarifa, Etxebarri notably continues to source from the increasingly rare stock in the Cantabrian Sea.

Now, to the dish itself: the besugo presented a rich texture, fattier than most types of white fish while striking a delightful balance between tenderness and firmness. Grilling brought out a beautiful smoky essence, especially notable in the crispy, caramelized skin. Etxebarri’s signature twist is an emulsified sauce – a luxurious blend of oil, rhubarb juice, and the fish’s own juices – reminiscent of the famous version from Elkano. This sauce not only hydrated the dish and amplified the natural flavours of the besugo. Due to the presence of gelatine in the fish juices, it also thickened the sauce, resulting in an indulgence that was hard to resist.

Etxebarri’s Txuleta embodies Bittor Arginzoniz’s unerring commitment to sourcing and technique. This iconic serving from the asador is made from 8- to 10-year-old Galician beef, known for its rich marbling and intense flavour when on a diet of grass and corn. Bittor meticulously dry-ages this beef for 3 to 4 weeks, amplifying its inherent flavours. While the cooking method may evoke parallels with Casa Julián in Tolosa, the distinctiveness of Etxebarri’s steak is undeniable.

When presented, the wafting scent of dry-ageing captured our attention immediately. The exterior of the txuleta showed a deeply caramelised crispness achieved by grilling over flaming vine shoots. With the grill precisely positioned, the flames gently kiss the steak, imparting a rich caramelised surface. As the fat renders and drips into the fire, it introduces an additional layer of smokiness — intense enough to be noticed, yet subtle enough not to overpower. The interior of the steak retained an almost rare quality, warmed to around 48°C. As you taste, the fat dissolves, revealing a rich flavour that’s both as intense as a dry-aged rib-eye and as tender as sirloin. Arguably, it’s the best txuleta one can taste.

We accompanied it with a fragrant Garnacha from Comando G.

Comando G – El Tamboril 2020
Nose:Aromatic nose of red cherries, violets and a touch of wet gravel. Very elegant, Pinot Noir-like. Fairly open from the very beginning. No signs of oak.
Palate:Attack of red and black cherries, potpourri. Beautiful structure. The midpalate shows wet gravel and a subtle touch of spice or herbs, like clove and thyme. Very long floral finish.
Structure:High tangy acidity, low velvety tannins, medium alcohol, medium body.

Just like at a family get-together in your aunt’s house on a Sunday afternoon, we were invited to enjoy our desserts on the terrace. Watching the sunset over the steep Urkiola peaks, we couldn’t be happier to have experienced the Basque hospitality at its best. Surely we had to close the evening with a Champagne.

Vouette & Sorbée – Fidèle 2011
Nose:Very aromatic nose of ripe apples and pears under clear autolytic notes of yeast. As it opens it becomes more floral, but also comes with notes of biscuits.
Palate:Good concentration of ripe yellow fruit, with touches of candied lemon. The midpalate follows with chamomile, chalk, yeast and a more complex biscuit aroma that perhaps comes with the bottle ageing. However, it still felt very fresh and young.
Structure:High acidity, soft mousse, dry, medium body, medium alcohol. Very long finish.

First came the house classic – Helado de leche ahumada con el jugo de remolacha. This dish brought together the humble flavour of beetroot with the distinctive smokiness of the milk. It was presented simply, almost sculptural in appearance with a generous quenelle of ice cream floating in a pool of fresh beetroot juice. The milk, reduced over a wood fire, acquired a subtle smoky aroma that evoked the comforting embrace of a hearth. The smoky note didn’t overwhelm but rather balanced the rich ice cream and the sweetness of the beetroot, creating a straightforward yet profound experience of pure flavours.

The next dessert, Black and white chocolate soufflé, has become their most recognizable dessert after the ice cream. Over a base that resembles a dark chocolate brownie, the white chocolate soufflé, baked within a metal ring, is dramatically unveiled at the table: its core is then gently released, allowing the molten chocolate to flow out like a chocolate coulant. The dark chocolate base delivers a nuttier, bolder flavour, while the layer of slightly caramelized white chocolate ganache balances it with a creamy sweetness. Bittor once again affirms that complexity resides in simplicity.

We could not resist the temptation to add a Flan from the à la carte menu. Etxebarri’s version of a cheese flan is distinctively unique. It is made with the local Idiazábal cheese and served with a reduction of apples. The texture of the flan hits the mark perfectly—it’s velvety and just set, with the savoury cheese adding a subtle twist that keeps things interesting without overwhelming the sweetness. Resting on a crumbly cookie base, it is complemented by a drizzle of caramel made from apple juice. It was simple yet delicious, precisely as we had imagined it would be.

Alongside a cup of coffee, we were treated to some Magdalenas. These were far from the traditional Spanish muffins. Instead, they were closer to a French financier. Made with almonds and no wheat flour, they have a very crumbly texture. The interior was soft and almost sticky, while the exterior was crispy. As an accompaniment to the coffee, they were delicious, providing the perfect antidote to the espresso’s excessive bitterness and thin body.


We arrived at Etxebarri with towering expectations, and it surpassed them all. The unparalleled quality of the ingredients shone, each dish beautifully absorbing the subtle smoke from the embers. Their expertise in cuissons was nothing short of exemplary, setting a standard for the industry. Rarely have we seen such precision and consistency throughout the whole menu. The wine service only heightened our pleasure, all presented in a warm, relaxed setting. This is a destination worth revisiting as an epicurean celebration of Basque cuisine. Perhaps in different seasons, to get to taste elvers, lobster, fresh anchovies, crab, woodcock…

Bittor hasn’t merely created a restaurant; he’s crafted a story and philosophy radiating the authenticity we so often seek. Interestingly, while Etxebarri remains deeply rooted in Basque culinary traditions, one could imagine this concept reproduced elsewhere. It offers a blueprint that could potentially be adapted to other food cultures: searching for the best produce, elevated by the fire of the grill in a different land and framed by a different traditional cuisine. However, replicating Bittor Arginzoniz’s intuitive mastery of cuissons on the grill requires years of training and a deep dedication to the craft. Few would be willing to spend decades enduring long services in front of such heat. The chef from Txispa, Tetsuro Maeda – who worked 10 years in Etxebarri, seems to be the best imitator. It remains to be seen where his journey leads.

Lastly, we sincerely hope that Bittor does not retire anytime soon. His departure would be a significant loss to global gastronomy. However, we understand that the job is taxing; with age, it must surely become harder.

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