Immediately close your eyes and picture this:
You are comfortably sitting on a banquette, drinking excellent and affordable Galician wine (called Albariño), listening to a good selection of music at just the right volume, and eating a variety of seafood caught on the very same day that you are dining. Any number of Michelin starred restaurants across the world could offer this type of experience, but I severely underestimated today’s unpretentious gem:
So many of the same words are used in food reviews that it would be repetitive to describe this restaurant’s mostly seafood based cuisine with adjectives such as fresh, sweet, and succulent. All of the above are true, but in summary, my theory concerning Abakando is simply put: they do everything right. First, observe how they properly season dishes with just enough ingredients to enhance but not overwhelm their flavors. When dining at Abakando, you will also notice how seafood is generally plated in plentiful quantities; you won’t discover 2 pieces of lobster as an appetizer or an entrée of 3 shrimp similar to the minimal portions at other fine dining establishments.
In no way do I mean to portray this restaurant as having a lack of fine dining elements. To the contrary, I could have been very happy just sitting here for hours consuming fantastic cuisine in such a refined, relaxed, and welcoming environment. Thus is my current concern: if I were a professor, I would most likely be a harsh grader, and this outlook transcends my view on rating restaurants because I am constantly trying to find reasons to deduct points. As the blind food critic, however, my problem critiquing Abakando is that I can truly find no problems.
Tolosa Hiribidea, 37
5 stars out of 5 (did I just write that?)
Based on what I learned from talking to the chef at Abakando, Xabier Oteiza, I can report that their seafood is freshly caught every day. This is a refreshing revelation, due to the fact that other restaurants, including many in New York, don’t have such access and therefore fly in fish and seafood from exotic locations. You will also see unique types of delicacies from the sea on the menu here, such as the white shrimp I happily devoured.
Breaking down the food:
During my incredible meal, I benefited from the advantage of many selections and sharing other dishes at my table. I started with a pintxo
Of croquetas de txangurro. Spider crab, a local delicacy which is outstanding, is folded into light airy croquettes; everyone should try these!
Afterwards, I feasted on an appetizer of salpicón de bogavante: a generous portion of sweet lobster chunks are gently combined with onions, peppers, and a light vinaigrette. A creation such as this ranks up there with some of the best lobster dishes I have ever tried. In addition, it represents exactly what I discussed regarding Abakando’s generous portions. At the same time, I just so happened to find some other great items upon my table: some asparagus so fresh as to have been recently picked, and fantastic slices of fresh ham. In other words, you can’t go wrong with appetizers here.
Anticipation for my entrée was heightened based on expectations after such excellent dishes thus far. I ordered gambas blancas de huelba. I examined a wooden board, upon which rested several delicate grilled white shrimp! (I asked the chef to peel them for me, making everything easier and I suggest you do the same) This type of shrimp is very flavorful and genuinely sweet. While I have tried shrimp at many restaurants, I can’t recall ever being this surprised and pleased. Meanwhile, a taste of the hake with salsa verde and clams at my table convinced me that even if you don’t like seafood, dining here can be a pleasure.
Then there was dessert: I decided on one of my favorites, which is coolant de chocolate! As I have previously written, a perfect coolant should be what Americans call a dark chocolate lava or molten cake. At Abakando, my plate held two containers: one with an extremely hot coolant, the other holding a surprisingly refreshing yogurt ice cream. Other restaurants should really take note of Abakando’s presentation, recipe, and temperature! (How many times have I tried coulants that were at room temperature or even cold?) I would like to report on the other dessert at my table, but I can’t because it was a coolant too!
Bestowing 5 stars to a restaurant is a rarity during my more than six years of writing reviews. It is simply my philosophy that if a restaurant executes their service and every dish with precision, shouldn’t everyone have the opportunity to enjoy it?
Daniel A.K.A. The Blind Food Critic