Azurmendi. A modern building made of glass, visible from the road down below. Up you go. Here you are, in the middle of the countryside, and yet not that far from civilization, from the industrial Bilbao. The contrast is striking. The reverie, that much more riveting. Eneko Atxa’s estate seems to have been created for the experience, for the restaurant moment. And yet, when he set up shop nine years ago already, the young Basque-born chef felt privileged simply to be cooking his own cuisine, and more importantly, to be honoring his producers, those with whom he entertains an unwavering complicity. His first space of expression has now become the Prêt à Porter bistro, his exquisite flavors accessible to all, and his more elaborate cuisine has ascended higher up into the mountains.

The space is enormous, a marvel, straddling the line between contemporary and traditional local art. The dishes embody and disembody the ingredient.

It’s a journey, a treasure hunt, a complete immersion. Eneko, always playful, wears his skills on his sleeve. He is incessantly researching and experimenting, his gaze forever fleeing towards a new flavor, a new incarnation. At times, we were perplexed in the face of so many manipulations; a liquid avocado pit, a peanut filled with foie gras, an almost gelatinous beef cheek. The eternal question then comes to mind: What is the meaning of cuisine?

And then, we remember, almost as if reassured, that egg yolk and black truffle marble and its seductive sapidity, and that marvelous deep brown mushroom tea. Between the two…a whole world.

 

 

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