Tasting the Summer Menu at Bar Basque
Bar Basque located at the second floor of the Eventi Hotel opened the past fall. Many newspapers and bloggers noted of it’s futuristic, Tron-like space, as it was designed by Blade Runner‘s Syd Mead. Everything is basically red with touches of black, white, and chrome. Streamlined space that has a bar, an outdoor patio for the people who want a drink, a covered terrace for al freso dining, and an open kitchen in the back. I came here, with a friend, with very little expectations despite of the lukewarm reviews I read in the past.
My friend and I ordered our first round of their new summer cocktails when we sat down. My friend had a Watermelon & Raspberry Martini ($14) mixed with Svedka Raspberry vodka, muddled watermelon & raspberries, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup. It’s fruity and sweet (my friend’s preference) that the vodka wasn’t too obvious and very drinkable. my Berry & Tequila Smash ($14) made of Patrón Silver tequila, Chambord, muddled raspberries, mint, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, topped with soda struck a great balance of fruit and not saccharine sweet. I could drink this along with my dinner, as it doesn’t compete so much with the fruit flavors and it helps a lot that it’s refreshing from the mint.
For our first courses, were Idiazabal cheese croquettes and Yellowfin tuna tartare “Push Pop” with red wine caviar. The croquettes were fluffy and oozed of buttery, mildly nutty cheese while being encased of the crisp and fluffy breaded potato exterior. The tartare was pretty good – silky tartare topped with red wine caviar and pickled vegetable. (It’s the molecular gastronomy kind of caviar popularized by the soon-to-be-closing famed restaurant, El Bulli.) The idea of serving the tartare was cute but the wine was leaking a bit that it’s a touch messy.
Progressing on to the sublime crudos. The Yellowfin Tuna Crudo ajo blanco, and chimichurri was very refreshing, if you could ever describe crudo or sashimi. Though the tuna was cut a bit too thick for my preference, it’s still flavorful from the garlic purée (ajo blanco) and herb purée olive oil without dominating the tuna. The sea scallop crudo with black olives and preserved lemon was the favorite of the evening. I adored the dark briny flavors of the olives working with the sea scallop and the preserved lemon added that burst of citrus to brighten up the dish.
The next round of dishes reminded me vaguely of Anthony Bourdain trip from his popular show No Reservations to Spain when he ate at Taverna Ca L’espinaler, having a meal/snack out of canned seafood. Except this is all fresh seafood. The Spanish mackerel escabèche-style, shallots, chiles, coriander seeds was arguably one of my favorite bites here. The pristine, oily mackerel that was silky and chewy with a gentle hit of heat and onion. The Octopus black olives, tomato confit, extra virgin olive oil was a bit disappointing due to the rubberiness of the octopus and it didn’t have that much flavor.
To set up ourselves for the more substantial food, the kitchen sent out the Heirloom tomato salad. This is what I dream of having for lunch everyday for summer. The sweet heirlooms of various shapes and sizes tossed in the restaurant’s buttery, low acid olive oil, a couple of leaves of greens, a touch of sea salt and sprigs of dill. It cannot get any better than that.
Just before we receive our substantial courses (though we’re getting full), we ordered a Kiwi & Elderflower Martini and Sweet Lime & Coriander Junipero Gin, Anchor Distilling . My friend’s martini was fruity but not as sweet the previous martini. My lime and coriander mixed with Junipero gin from Anchor Distilling was potent. The gin is at 49.3% alcohol percentage to give it legs to stand on the pungent flavor of coriander, while the lime lightened up the herbaceous flavor.
The smoked trout a la plancha with jamon butter was good. The bread crumb-coated smoked trout was cooked perfectly and the briny-sweet bursts of the trout roe worked for this dish.
The slow braised pork belly with baby clams in Albarino wine sauce was a winner of the evening. The sous vide pork belly was insanely soft and tender. The natural sweetness of the clams and pork belly worked so well.
I talked to Executive Chef Yuhi Fujinaga briefly after dinner and he said he got that idea from his Jewish sous chef. I joked in reply that “It’s not Kosher!”
As we finally made it to dessert, we had the Fried Milk (leche frita) with Chocolate and Passion Fruit sauces and Pina Colada Flan with Caramelized Pinneaple. Both desserts were pretty satisfying. The flan was delicious and well made, subtly echoing the flavors of the pina colada, while reinforcing it with the cubes of sweet pineapple. According to the Chef, the Fried Milk was based on the idea of beignets. The crisp, thin exterior gushes out with creamy custard. The sauces work for these fried cubes and we’re pretty enamored with it.
Overall, this dinner was pretty darn good. The service was attentive though the music played can get a little jarring. The food wasn’t too heavy for the summer and the drinks were pretty fantastic to have after work (as you can tell from the outdoor scene photo seen at the beginning of this post).
To see more photos of my dinner, please scroll through my slideshow below: