Jules eats world.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Back in Basque

Euzkadi, East Village

If I want thumping music, I'll go to a nightclub. The first impression of Euzkadi is not its rustic ambiance and brick walls, but the loud, dance music that's causing one of the diners at the neighboring table to shout to his companions. Judging from a short vacation in the Basque country, these people like their share of partying, and the vibe at Euzkadi reflects that this Friday night.

We order a couple of glasses of Rioja, and I ask the waitress if they can turn down the music. "People ask that all the time," she says. "But on Fridays and Saturdays, they like to keep it loud. I'll ask, though." It seems odd that management would put their own party proclivities over customers' requests, but luckily the music actually does seem to lower a notch or two.

The adequate Rioja is whetting our appetite for tapas so we check out menu, ignoring the main course section. We're here to graze. Luckily, Euzkadi offers many options.

All of the food comes at once, which has its advantages, but naturally the main disadvantage is that our small table is now crowded with dishes. We get one "pintxo" -- Basque for tapas. In this place it refers to toast with various toppings. We choose the goat cheese and fig confit, both of which are generously proportioned and together a rich combination.

Next I turn my attention to the piquillo peppers stuffed with cured cod, or bacalao. This is always a winner, even though the cod is a bit more moist and less pungent than what I'm used to. It's accompanied by a refreshing watercress salad. We also opt for another classic, patatas bravas. It would be tough for a restaurant to get these wrong -- crispy potatoes topped with a garlicky mayonnaise. The sauteed spinach with chickpeas, raisins and pine nuts is simple yet tasty.

By this time, the music is still loud, but the food has won out. And we're beginning to feel the festive ambiance ourselves. To end the meal, we each get another glass of wine and the cheese plate. It's a generous offering of goat and blue cheese, Idiazabal, Manchego, another cow's milk cheese and a square of quince paste.

We pay the check and prepare to go, but end up striking up a conversation with a man at the bar. He's next to the host's computer controlling the music, and keeps interjecting the Stones and the Doors in between the vehicles for thumping bass. The host buys us another drink -- sangria, which we'd overlooked when ordering.

At $40 per person not including tip, we're satiated, appropriately social, and a little drunk. Just as tapas should be.


Anonymous bobdebx said...

Ah girl, get a grip, even Ben the cat knows that Irouléguy is the right wine to be had when feeling in a Basque mood ! Nothing against Rioja, bear with me , but mainstream is not always the easiest path to adventure. Not being pedantic here, I admire the effort and the time spent on sharing the experiences but a tiger-proof trap is of no use in Africa, or in short, in Rome do as romans do, the real ones , not like the the albanese guy who runs the pizza shop on 8th and 53rd !!

3:36 PM


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