Since it first opened back in 1990, before you can even see Asador Etxebarri, you can smell it. Hidden among the hills of Atxondo, at an hour’s drive from San Sebastian (Basque Country), the smoke coming from the restaurant’s wooden grill reveals its location.
Having learned to cook self-taught, chef Bittor Arginzoniz has repeated and perfected the art of grilling in his own kitchen and for so many years that he has truly become a fire tamer.
It is also here, in his hometown, where he has wanted to regain the kitchen of his grandmother and a clear Basque identity: cooking with wood.
The grill: the fire as the basis of Etxebarri’s haute cuisine
With the clear objective of controlling the flames, and not vice versa, the grills specially designed for Etxebarri reach very high temperatures and work at different heights (racks are controlled by pulleys) to handle the distance between heat source and food, and thus respect the cooking times and temperatures of each food.
The heat of this ancestral technique is the only intervention that is carried out on the raw foods.
Modernity has been provided by the chef himself, Bittor Arginzoniz, by designing different and various odd utensils that he himself has invented, a series of grilling grates and perfect pans for grilling all kinds of products: Josper Cookware by Bittor Arginzoniz.
Bittor’s mastering of the gastronomic grill has allowed him to place on the grill all sorts of products thought unthinkable (until now), from caviar to eels or anchovies.
Arginzoniz: the star consultant behind the Parrilla Vasca Josper
As brand ambassador and brand image of Parrilla Vasca Josper (Josper Basque Grills), Bittor Arginzoniz has been able to develop his talent outside of his kitchen to advise and improve the Parrilla Vasca Josper.
As king of the grill, he has turned his knowledge and used his particular cooking techniques to allow this Josper range to cook any type of food on fire.
Thus, the Parrilla Vasca Josper resists very high temperatures, is manufactured with the best steel alloys created exclusively by and for Josper, and includes lifting arms that function through a mechanical system operated by a steering wheel placed on the front of the grill.
As in Chef Bittor Arginzoniz’ Etxebarri, the independent modules allow each grill to perfectly control the cooking of each food.
The importance of wood to achieve the perfect flames
Always with the flames in mind, Bittor Arginzoniz strongly supports the fact one should only work with wood. It is what defines the essence of his cuisine. And he uses wood to cook fish, meats, and even desserts.
In his opinion, the wood releases pure and natural aromas that enhance the product. For this reason, in Etxebarri he uses holm oak (encina) to cook the fish and shellfish (since it releases soft aromas that do not interfere with taste), and for the meat he uses olive or vine cuttings (from nearby Rioja).
The quality of the product offered at Etxebarri (always subject to temporality), and the supreme perfection in its execution (no dish comes out of the kitchen if chef Bittor Arginzoniz himself has not had his hands on it), demonstrate that using a primitive technique one can push the boundaries of haute cuisine.
And Etxebarri has won several awards that recognize and prove this merit:
In 2008, it featured The World’s 50 Best Restaurants for the first time and, ever since 2016, has always ranked in the top 10 list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and, in 2019, the restaurant is ranked No. 3. His Asador Etxebarri is undoubtedly considered the best asador in the world. In 2010, Etxebarri earned a Michelin Star and has three Repsol Suns.
By the way, at Etxebarri the staff will never ask you how you want your meat. But one thing is certain: it will always be cooked to perfection.
Sources: Complicidad Gastronómica, Guía Repsol, Cocina y Vino, New York Food Journal, Josper.