Fashion Food at – “Asador Etxebarri ATXONDO, SPAIN”

Olfactory cooking from the wood-grill maestro

You can smell Asador Etxebarri before you see it: the smoke of its bespoke wood grill infiltrates the nostrils on the approach to this out-of-the-way restaurant tucked among the Atxondo hills, an hour’s drive from San Sebastián.

It’s all down to chef Victor Arguinzoniz and his love – or even obsession – for wood-fired cooking. Nothing is safe from his majestic home-made grill and nor should it be. Dishes from wild red tuna belly and baby eels, only served from November to March, to raw chorizo tartare (also seasonal) and even the ice cream are all infused with the delicate smoky flavour that his cooking technique imparts. The result is an eating sensation that is both pleasantly familiar but also surprisingly fresh, with the grill’s delicate perfume enhancing even the most simple of ingredients.

In a gastronomic world where the state-of-the-art kitchen and the sous-vide machine currently reign supreme, the more rustic set-up and approach of Asador Etxebarri is a welcome breath of fresh (if a little smoky) air. The menu is created daily, based upon those seasonal products that are most freshly available, and the humble way in which the dishes are prepared makes for a deeply satisfying experience.

Arguinzoniz also cleverly controls the pace of a meal at his restaurant. What starts as a series of tiny portions, each led by only one or two ingredients, runs in a crescendo with a huge slab of steak on the bone delivered to the table at around course 12, before a postlude of lighter desserts descends.

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