One of the main reasons the kids and I love going to the Basque Country has to do with the food, particularly my mom’s. I once got a magnet for my birthday that read “I only have a kitchen because it came with the house”. It’s supposed to be funny, but in my case it’s just true. When we told the kids about vacationing in Ortuella again this summer, they jumped up and down with excitement. “We’re finally going to eat good food again, yay!” In their opinion -and mine- amama’s house is Euskadi’s best restaurant.
However, it is very small and open to the public by invitation only.
Lucky for you, there are other restaurants featuring delicious Basque food for your enjoyment. Just last week I came across a review of Arzak restaurant in Donosti written by Mark Bieter (he’s been busy this month), one of a handful of restaurants in the world to receive a 3-star rating from the Michelin Guide. He gives such a wonderful firsthand account of his visit to Arzak last summer that I started looking into reservations for the family. Then, I found out from a friend a bit about the price, so I’m making it a goal for next year. You know, they’re not rated the 8th best restaurant in the world for nothing.
In the meantime, we’ll keep up with our family tradition of dining at the Chinese restaurant in Elcano, where my parents have been taking my sister and I since we were kids when there was something special to celebrate, usually birthdays and around Christmas time. The owner looked as old to me when I was 8 as the last time I saw him, when I was 38. He never once failed to stop by our table to greet us, and he’d always turn to my dad to ask if he had the bill covered. And every time my dad would say no while pointing to my mom. He knows very well who handles the finances in the “Chico” household. The owner finally retired, after about 120 years of service. You would have never guessed it by the way he talked. Like he had just arrived from Beijing the day before.
Later, the employees opened a smaller restaurant right by the original location, where I still go with my family on special occasions. Sometimes even just ‘cos. That’s how we roll.