Just off the Atlantic coast lies a nation of seven provinces along northeastern Spain and southwestern France that comprise the Basque Country. Basque people are spread throughout the world, and are widely known for having one of the best international cuisines. Perhaps they are most recognized for their Pinchos; bite sized dishes that are usually small pieces of bread with single or several toppings pierced together by a toothpick. The use of a toothpick is an important part of the pincho, because it not only holds the food together, it also helps indicate their prices by having different shapes and sizes. These small dishes are prevalent in taverns throughout the Basque country, and are served on trays as appetizers, usually accompanied by wine or beer. Pinchos are also used as a tool for socializing; a traditional activity of Basque people is to hop from one tavern to another eating different pinchos. It is a common way to meet friends or make new acquaintances.
I tried to get a reservation at Pintxo last year for my birthday and it was fully booked, so I know now to book further in advance. The place came recommended by a friend who went for lunch and had a great dining experience. I trust his taste in food and he rarely leads me astray so I knew I’d be in for a treat because he raved about Pintxo on several occasions. I was also pleased to see it was rated 5th on Canada’s best new restaurant list.
I entered Pintxo with my girlfriend on a cold night and truly enjoyed my first few moments inside. The place is small and cozy, dimly lit and perfectly heated. There is a nice wine cellar that is visible inside the restaurant and hosts an extensive array of Spanish wines. We soon found out that we were only able to get a seat at the bar. They said that if we waited 40 minutes they’d have a table for us but we were hungry so we decided to sit at the bar. I appreciate the back support of a chair which the bar stools did not offer, and the leg rests were a bit far from the seats so it didn’t take long for me to feel uncomfortable. Luckily, after we placed our order and waited a bit, we were able to get a table, which offered me comfort and that is essential to me while enjoying a meal.
I am definitely a sensation seeker, and I go out to eat hoping to experience new sensations and that is exactly what I did with each pincho. When the seared calamari came out, I was a bit worried at first because it didn’t look visually appealing. I was shocked when I took my first bite because it was so good. If you are a fan of caramelized onions, you’ll love this dish. It tasted like the best onion soup I’ve had but with calamari inside. There was something in the onion confit that really went bang on the taste buds. It was spot on.
The pincho that impressed me the most was the mushrooms stuffed with duck confit. If you’re wondering what confit is, it’s basically a French southwestern tradition of food preservation. By using this method, meat can acquire a whole new taste and texture because it is immersed and preserved in its own fat, and cured with lots of salt. So why has this great farmhouse tradition lasted all these decades? Simply because the taste is so damn good. Every moment during this particular pincho was an explosion of delightful pleasure. Every time I took a bite, the juices of the savory duck and the mushroom conjoined and really excited my taste buds. The taste was something I never acquired before.
Another pincho that was as significant as the duck confit was the stuffed fig which consisted of a brilliant fusion; the cheese melts into the sweetness of the fig, and then you have the salty ham. When all three are combined, your palate is treated to a sweet concoction that just leaves you wanting more.
The braised beef cheek tasted like homemade holiday food, and was the most recognizable flavor in any of the pinchos because it tasted like my grandmother’s homemade brisket which I adore. It had such a delicate texture, it seemed as if the tender beef melted in my mouth while I was chewing it. The gravy was rich and fulfilling, and offered good company to the succulent beef cheeks. This was not my favorite dish of the evening, but I felt it was a good effort and worthy of reordering.
I ordered the quail as my last pincho and they forgot to bring it out. Fifteen minutes had passed after my last pincho when I decided to say something to the server. She told me she thought that everything was served but she’ll go check. I asked if she could just cancel the quail because it hadn’t come out yet. She told me that the chef had already prepared the dish and seemed like she really wanted me to take it. Because of how good everything was previously, I accepted the quail. I was extremely disappointed with it. I had quail once before at Au Pied De Cauchon’s Cabane a Sucre and I loved it. This one had a very peculiar taste, a strong sourness that was so overpowering I had to force myself to continue eating it. The side of noodles that were served with it were excellent. They had flaked tuna stuffed inside the shells and were served in a gravy.
For my main dish, I had the Black Cod on virgin sauce, and boy was this a special cod, up to par with the one from Nobu in Tribeca. I loved the lemon sauce served with it and the cherry tomatoes were a great addition. The cod literally melts in your mouth, it was grilled flawlessly. If you go heavy on the meat for the pinchos, get this lighter dish as your main course and you will truly enjoy it.
My girlfriend had the Filet Mignon which was bursting with flavor. She asked for it done medium and it came out that way, hot and juicy. The mashed potatoes were great, the gravy from the steak complimented them immensely. The grilled asparagus was a nice touch, not only were they delicious, but they held the flavor of the beef.
For desert, we had the cheesecake, which was only big enough for one bite each. The coulis seemed to have more of a jelly consistency than usual, and it was not as fresh as it should have been nor was the cheese as smooth as I would have preferred. We also tried the banana almond cake as well. It was delicious in flavor but a bit dry on the inside. I did appreciate that they went heavy on the icing sugar. Although I won’t be ordering desert the next time I go to Pintxo, overall I had a very pleasant experience and I’ll be back in the future to try other dishes.
256 Rue Roy Est, Montreal QC, H2W 1M6 T:(514) 844-0222
JarredReviews is my personal weblog. The opinions and experiences represent my own. If you read that I didn’t particularly enjoy a meal or restaurant, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it and see for yourself. Restaurants can have an off day, people make mistakes, we’re all human. My writing is mainly so that you can find out about great restaurants that you may have not heard about, and also to give you an idea of what I enjoyed that you can experience for yourself. Food reviewing is very subjective and you must take this into account and use your discretion when reading any review; If I have had a bad experience somewhere, do not let that stop you to try the restaurant for yourself.