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Bilbao: Restaurant Reviews & Recommendations

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I am in Bilbao till the 12th and was wondering if there were any "must eat" places here. Any suggestions would be greatly appretiated.


Edited by William Robitaille (log)

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Guggenheim Museum Restaurant (944239333), runned by Josean Alija a disciple of Berasategui is one of the must visits for allkind of reasons. Also Arbola Gaña on the top floor of the Museo de Bellas Artes runned by Aitor Basabe.

Guría, both, the restaurant and the bistrot are together at C/ Gran Vía, 66. are worth for traditional codfish dishes. And Bola-Viga is another good option if you're looking for classic cooking.

And Etxebarri is not that far away if you've got a car.


Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"

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thanks, will give them a try.

Dear William R. We just returned from Spain and found a new fine dining experience for in Bilbo. The restaurant's name is Azurmendi. Book lunch during the week or both lunch or dinner on weekends. It is located in Larrabetzu, just off the Xway to the airport (try to get directions). This was our first and only visit. It was an excellent meal - very inventive! The menu provided dishes with clear, clean flavors and all with such simplicity and elegance.

The restaurant is in a local Txakoli (spelling?) winery. It is a very impressive building with delightful views. The attractive modern dining room is very inviting. The service is attentive and professional. Hope you can enjoy it and report back your impressions.

We echo Rogelio comments regarding the Guggenheim. We have dined there many times. It has repeatedly provided a good dining experience offering both traditional and modern Basque cooking. We agree. Judith Gebhart

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I will be driving across the north of Spain from San Sebastian (have lots of recs already) ending up in Santiago de Compostela. Can anybody recommend places to eat along the way? I prefer old-fashioned traditional food, am less interested in Michelin stars, and can't afford them anyway.


Edited by nickarte (log)

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Not a restaurant recommendation. However, I know many people who have visited the Basque Country and have never visited San Juan de Gaztelugatxe....impressive.Take a look

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There is a good Basque bar/restaurant on the cliffs above San Juan de Gaztelugatxe - it's close to the car park and by the time you've climbed down and back up again you'll be hungry. The location is every bit as magnificant as the photos imply and the food is not bad either.

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The restaurant in the Guggenheim is a must visit. We did it about 10 days ago (72€) and for my money it exhibits both the assurance of Martin Berasategui and the cleanliness of flavour of Mugaritz. Cracked Roseval potatoes with raw bean juice has been on both menus we've had here and is one of the finest things you'll encounter (the taste is one thing but the smell lifts it even further).

A useful restaurant site that covers a dozen countries intermittently but is particularly strong on Spain (but no Arzak) is http://www.lomejordelagastronomia.com/ENG/restaurantes.asp . There's a number of recipes and the review of El Bulli seems to have been written in a state of gastronomic nirvana!

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Is anybody aware of a bar in Bilbao that sells old rioja and is prepared to give up their secret? :raz:

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Someone upthread mentioned difficulties getting a reservation at the Guggenheim's main restaurant. How much in advance must I reserve for lunch? Thanks.

This topic is a terrific resource and I'm most grateful for all the informative posts, both where and where not to eat.


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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I realize paella is a more Southern/Valencian thing but I have this craving.  Is there such a place in Bilbao?

John, by the time you are there I hope that your craving will have passed or been satisfied elsewhere. You are perhaps just as likely to get a good paella in Paris as you will be in Bilbao. Wait for a trip to Valencia for that and stick with the many wonderful things the Basques do very, very well.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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First off I'd like to thank everyone who's contributed to this topic, which was so helpful to me the last 96 hours.

John, by the time you are there I hope that your craving will have passed or been satisfied elsewhere. You are perhaps just as likely to get a good paella in Paris as you will be in Bilbao. Wait for a trip to Valencia for that and stick with the many wonderful things the Basques do very, very well.

Doc, I never got over my paella craving, I even tried to get some at 11h00 today before heading off to the airport. But to the facts.

I’ll start with the best.

The Guggenheim Gastro Resto aka Jatetxe Gastonomika is simply genius. I was certainly touted onto this place by my good architectural friend Janet, eG reviews lauded it, so it was not a found object, but was on the top of my list. And, rightly so. There are a confusing number of eating opportunities on the upper ground floor of the Guggie-B, but the gastro one run by Josean Alija and Martin Beraskegui is where you wannabee. I choose the most expensive of tasting menus (72 vs 62 €, NB: one course a la carte was 3/4 that), because it seemed to be the most comprehensive. But who knows, all their dishes seemed terribly inventive, so maybe the fish soup at 12 € would have been just as mind-blowing. In any case, the amuse gueule was a double veggie tempura with a slice of flower they never identified – off to a good start. Then teeny, tiny (not thick) sprigs of white, yes white, asparagus cooked “one minute” in what they say was a “floral, herbaceous and citrus” tart oil, sounded hocus pocus to me but tasted divine, with another tempura of what sounded like “axtyx” but tasted like onion and which I originally thought was over-salted but was strongly-herbed. A slice of aubergine, covered with a purple sauce (which they said was licorice, but I think was laboratory engineered aubergine skin reduced to its essence) with a sweet sauce of makil goxo, whatever that is, and olive oil from 1000 year old trees, was next. Then, a pasta (which in Basque Spain I was not looking forward to), with a “Joselito” (see below) ham stock and parmesan. I was Right: it was parmesan but Wrong, it was not sliced over the pasta; it was in a foam. Then the fish of the day, a small piece, perfectly, I mean, perfectly cooked piece of hake on a bed of black olives so reduced to their essence they were ephemeral along with a sauce flavored with sherry and oregano and rhubarb leaves. Next, what was understatedly described as a “traditional stew” of pork; my a** it was. It was as if one took a slice of raw beef filet and grafted onto it a browned/vers/burnt duck skin and presented it in a wild herb and honey sauce with potatoes confited in passion fruit. Get the picture; complex but incredible food. So now onto the desserts that my source Janet thought were the best part. First a “cream of pumpkin” (coulda fooled me except for the color) with bergarnot perfume, macerated biscuit bits and a dollop of toasted beer (come on, toasted beer?) ice cream. Pretty damn good. Then a choco thing that was ½ way between a moelleux and a gateau with coffee ice cream sitting atop ginger dust. The bill here cannot be less than 70 €, even with the 62 menu, one glass of wine and no bottled water (here, difficult to escape) or coffee, which given our dollar’s standing doesn’t look too great. Oh yah, the “corn bread,” can you believe it? was crusty and delicious.

Go back? In an instant, maybe tomorrow, just kidding Colette.

Why are the best restos in museos here?

I was going to the Fine Arts Museum the next day and had read in a lot of places about Aitor Basabe’s place in it, called Arbola Gana. I asked my concierge to make a rez, my Basque being a bit rusty; but she said as I headed out of the hotel, they weren’t answering their phone; nor were they when I got to this magnificent museum. So I inveigled my way into the servants’ elevator and on getting to the 3rd (eg 4th) floor resto, saw that there were 3 names penciled in, one of them mine. (PS by my meal’s end, all had shown up). In any case, no one spoke but Basque, the carte was indecipherable and I figured – go for broke with the Degustastion Menu (42 E, really 45 E, since sneakily they don’t add in the TVA/IVA until the end). NB: the prices are weird on the carte, still translated from old pesetas eg 5.11 and 18.73 E). The first first was some warm eggplant slices covered with a toasted red pepper with a coffee-ground looking topping and foam; impressive. The second first was a truffle soup with shaved black truffles atop; also quite nice. #3 was cod, perfectly cooked with those pasta things that look like pumpkin seeds in green (? parsley; I tried to find out what it was in my primitive French, Spanish, Italian, German, even mildly up-to-date English – no dice) sauce. The second second was what we primitives call pigs’ feet wrapped in fat and skin, accompanied with a huge portion of sautéed pleurottes (couldn’t fool me there); excellent. The desserts. First, a dense tiny chocolate buche like my French Mother’s negresse (sans the chemise) with what I swear was coffee ice cream, covered with a white powder that could only have come out of Ferran Adria’s lab. The second, a single scoop of “vinegar” ice cream; I kid thee not, recalling my maternal grandfather’s favorite dessert – vinegar pie. It was a fitting end to a fine meal; ample, tart and chasing the sweetness out of one’s mouth. My bill could have been under the magic number of 50 E easily with no bottled water or coffee but with one glass of wine, but when they tacked on the TVA/IVA, I felt denied my goal.

This was not the Guggenheim, but it wasn’t bad either, by any means.


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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My first evening here, as is traditional for me in Spain, was devoted to ham and wine. I really just plunked myself down in a nice looking, no-smoking place (and the rules are still blurry here concerning smoking-no smoking) near my hotel in the old town (oh sure, I consulted eG, the guidebooks and my charming nicely-décolletaged hotel lady). But I really went to Bukoi, in the Calle Nueva, one of four places run by the exuberant Berton boys, because they specialize in Basque stuff. A “small” portion of their “Joselito” jamon which their web site calls “El mejor jamón del mundo,” was 15 € and they ring the bell once it’s sliced just to show that; with a few drops of wine, I had a very nice re-immersion into Spain for 20.10 €.

Go back? Yah, sure, why not?

The second night I was dedicatedly on my way to another, highly rated by the Miche, tapas place downtown, where I was now staying at my Congress hosts’ expense. And - I got there and whoops, closed definitively. So I dragged my sorry butt back towards my new hotel and was scoping alternatives along the way; (1) too much smoke, (2) too many old people finishing their meals at 8:15 PM, (3) too crowded. But hey, across the street I saw an awning that registered in my pigeon brain – Serantes II, hummm, where did I read about it and its motherhouse Serantes - seafood restaurant, but they had a tapas bar, well, duhhhh. I hied myself in, plopped down and looked at the offerings. The marinated shrimp in olive oil (salpion) looked pretty tempting and it was. The bread roll was the best I’ve had in months if not years anywhere. All this, with a glassahousewine = 16.50 €. Not bad.

Go back? Actually, yes, tomorrow for the percebes, which my generous, question-answering host/barman allowed me to have a preview of.

Serantes II bis

Pretty good them percebes. And pretty dear too – 42.50 € for the mothers which are simply lowly barnacles, lowly swabbies scrub off the ship’s hull.

I also sampled finger food at the Cafeteria Toledo afterwards; it’s fair game to critique Congress free food, non? The “cocktail de Gala” there had unspeakably un-delicious and dry shrimp and cheese, I dared not go farther.

Go back? Not reading til the end again are you?


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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.....

Go back?  Actually, yes, tomorrow for the percebes, which my generous, question-answering host/barman allowed me to have a preview of. 

Serantes II bis

Pretty good them percebes.  And pretty dear too – 42.50 € for the mothers which are simply lowly barnacles, lowly swabbies scrub off the ship’s hull.

.....

Of course, percebes or goose barnacles don't come from any ship's hull but rather they're dangerously taken from the place where the sea beats on the rocks. Many percebeiros have died while taking percebes.

Take a look at:

and, by the way, weather conditions are not always as nice as in the videos above. Or, as we say in Spain, Y luego dicen que el pescado es caro.


Edited by pedro (log)

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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John Talbot is spot on with his review of the Guggenheim Restaurante Gastonómico, where I had the great pleasure of consuming Josean Martínez Alija's 5-course "Sensations" tasting menu last week. I wrote up the experience on my blog.

http://aidanbrooks.blogspot.com/2008/07/gu...ou-can-eat.html

This meal was as near to simple perfection as cooking can get. I strive every day in the kitchen at Comerç 24 to execute food that perfectly. And the service was flawless.

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Of course, percebes or goose barnacles don't come from any ship's hull but rather they're dangerously taken from the place where the sea beats on the rocks. Many percebeiros have died while taking percebes.

and, by the way, weather conditions are not always as nice as in the videos above. Or, as we say in Spain, Y luego dicen que el pescado es caro.

wonderful video clips pedro, thank you very much!

i remember my short visit to coruna and how dangerous the waves looked!

could you please identify for me the major locations where the percebes are "extracted"? any recommendations on the eateries?

regards


athinaeos

civilization is an everyday affair

the situation is hopeless, but not very serious

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I would add to the list of Bilbao (technically it is Galdakao, a small town 10 km SE of Bilbao) favourites the Andra MAri Restaurant. I have published a review in my blog

panathinaeos.

In my view this is a restaurant every good food lover must visit.


athinaeos

civilization is an everyday affair

the situation is hopeless, but not very serious

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I would add to the list of Bilbao (technically it is Galdakao, a small town 10 km SE of Bilbao) favourites the Andra MAri Restaurant. I have published a review in my blog

panathinaeos.

In my view this is a restaurant every good food lover must visit.

Andra mari is indeed very good. The rice dish they have (rice in a tomato based seafood broth) is simply the most perfectly done rice dish I can ever imagine. And, if in the season, ask for the roasted green pepper as all the local do. The staff and the owner were all very very friendly and they even opened the balcony to let me 2 year old daughter wondering around the restaurant, although she was the cutest two year old at the time.

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