A few months have passed since we left Istanbul last time, at last, we had the chance to go back to Spain (October 2016), even if it is just for the weekend. Istanbul is cool, but it is also overwhelming. After all, it is a 20 million population city and they never stop using the car horn or pushing you on the streets (because of the number of people, they are not horrible!).
The occasion required us going north, a good friend of us was getting married there, and for weeks we had been thinking about all those things we were going to eat. Really, we have great food in Istanbul, but we needed something “closer to home”, not only on the culinary style but also in the way of eating. So we took a direct flight to Bilbao, but before we collected all the information we needed from the best people: some friends from Bilbao.
Where should we eat? What should we eat in each place?
In the Basque Country, you can easily eat pintxos. An explanation, pintxos are a slice of bread with some culinary preparation on top gripped by a toothpick. But this is a rough explanation because nowadays the gastronomic world is trendy, so the “culinary preparation” can be something simple with a twist to high cuisine.
Between Santi and Elena (our friends) recommended around 10 or 15 pintxo bars: it is impossible to eat that much in just one afternoon. But we did what we could and we filled up our stomachs. And as it would be unfair to keep those delicious delicacies to ourselves, we are going to share them with you today, here (I hope you aren’t reading this at lunch time or your mouth will be dripping, we are salivating already!).
We arrived to the Casco Viejo (old town) and to Plaza Nueva (new square), full of bars and people as it was a holiday. A bit of sunlight and good temperature, what a better way to spend the day in good company? That is right, with good friends you go from bar to bar ordering pintxos and tapas until you’ve fulfill your hunger and even your gluttony. It is a great way to get around the city as you go slowly while tasting one delicacy after another.
We started with a tapas dish instead of a pintxo in this bar, the reasons is basically the recommendations we had. We headed for battered calamari (rabas) and it was a good amount and the batter would make you lose your mind: it wasn’t stuck to the calamari,so it let it “breath” and it was just the right cooking style: not too hard but done.
But of course, when you enter a bar and see the trays of pintxos you can’t avoid trying some. So besides the calamari, we decided to order two other pintxos. Nacho had been craving for some small eel with garlic and chili and couldn’t resist the pintxo with salmon, small eel, and shrimp. And I (Sara), that was craving for black rice decided to eat a croquette with a black interior. What a huge surprise when I took a bite and found out that the bread had some goat cheese (which is difficult to find in Istanbul) and a black croquette, yes but it was made out of morcilla (blood sausage)… If I had died in that moment and that would have been my last bite I would have been satisfied. It would have been better if we had warmed up both pintxos the gula one and the croquette of blood sausage with goat cheese but it didn’t take any of its taste away. And we were just getting started!
In the same square, a few steps away we found Bar Charly. And once more we found an amazing pintxos bar display, what should we order? Well, let’s start with the recommendations: pintxo of codfish kokotxa (is a part of the fish). Gratin on top and of course the codfish was high quality, you can imagine how good it was! Our second selection was a (txangurro) spider-crab crepe: a crunchy crepe with a spider-crab cream that blew our minds.
We were getting full and we had only been into two bars, how were we going to keep up? First, we needed to eat slowlier no matter how hungry we were or between the pintxos and the beer/wine/soda we wouldn’t even get to the fourth bar, so we took it easy.
Again in Plaza Nueva in a corner two recommended bars were hiding and we just chose one for no real reason Gure Toki, the other one (Sorginzulo) looked as good, to be honest. But let’s focus, the bar was full so we were forced to eat slowlier which wasn’t bad at all while in the terrace we just let the sun in our faces. The recommendation our friends gave us was (foie) liver with apple and Pedro Ximenez so there we headed, the foie does not sooth everyone but it was good and tasty we also ordered a pintxo of quail egg with chistorra. This last one was just ok, it was good but it didn’t take our breath away.
We left the Plaza Nueva area and got closer to the area of Diputación and we arrived at El Globo highly recommended by both of our friends. What should we order? Well the pintxo of spider-crab (again txangurro, but how couldn’t we?) delicious, again a light cream with an intense taste of crab and a pintxo of cuttlefish in its ink (it was more of a pure as we didn’t find the cuttlefish) again an intense flavour and a gratin on top.
We had our doubts here, to be honest as besides the pintxos bar display they also had in display many desserts that looked delicious, but as we wanted to visit a few more bars we got rid of the idea.
As we said at the beginning it was a holiday in the Basque Country, and unfortunately, the next few bars we wanted to try were closed. So unfair! What a disappointment! We couldn’t believe it, we walked here and there and it was clear to us that it was a sign to return to Bilbao as we still had a few to go through. I can also say that while I’m writing this my mouth is watery and I am getting hungry, we have to go back!
Do you think we are missing any bars? Would you suggest any other pintxos that we should try? Are you going to Bilbao? Tell us where have you been and what did you try!