The servers were uniformly friendly and they tried to be helpful (the language barrier kept me from comprehending what exactly they were describing each dish as). Like most Michelin restaurants, it was a set menu of an insane number of courses, and they already had the vegan menu printed up and placed inside my menu booklet. These menus, by the way, are probably bigger than you are:
In contrast to most fancy restaurants with crazy endless tasting menus, we were given bread at the start. And then -- it never stopped! Erma P! So good. I love bread. And these lovely Spaniards gave us like huge baguette halves constantly instead of little hunks every now and then. So funny. Although, in hindsight, considering how painfully full we were not even halfway through the meal, eating all this bread was probably a bad idea.
First up was a little treat from the kitchen, small grilled bread (more bread!) with tomato and salt and the greatest olive oil I've tasted in years. Oh mannn. So freaking good!
The first real courses for me were Salad Leaves and Lettuce Hearts. Husband can tell you that most of my Salads that I make at home only consist of Lettuce Hearts, so I was curious to see what the difference was here. Apparently, Lettuce Hearts are self-explanatory and Salad Leaves are curlier lettuces. Also, Lettuce Hearts all over Spain come with wayyy too much onion. I can't eat an entire onion's worth of raw onion. I'll do my best but come on. It's raw onion. And not even cippolini oh-nee-on. Husband was like, you have to eat all that onion, it's like a $20 onion. No, thank you though. Anyway, both were nice and fresh and very lightly dressed (thank you, I hate too much dressing), but pretty basic. It was nice to have something simple and fresh to start but it did make me nervous for what was to come. I should not have been!
My first warm vegetable dish was the Golden Chanterelles. Mushrooms have always been one of my favorite foods, dating back from when I thought they only came on top of pizza and I felt it too basic to say that pizza was my favorite food because that's everyone's favorite food. But now mushrooms are legit my faves, so this dish was very exciting. I particularly love that they came in a little personal pan. I wanted to ask if I could keep it but we were traveling EasyJet sooo no room. Anyway, the mushrooms were really good, smoky and just firm enough. Weirdly, though, I preferred the saltier, oiler, more garlicky mushrooms from Busterri. Maybe the Golden Chanterelles just needed a pinch of salt, or maybe my mushroom tastes are akin to my chocolate taste (I prefer cheaper sugary milkier chocolate to 'high quality' dark because yummy).
Next up was one of my favorites, Cream of Beans. It's a normal bean soup but I love that name and I was so stoked to finally have beans! It was easy (too easy!) to find veggies all weekend in Bilbao, but impossible to get any vegan protein in restaurants. Hurray for beans! It was a lovely soup.
The following vegetable grilled to perfection was the artichokes, or according to the totally descriptive and helpful menu, Artichoke. These were splendid little oiled and salted buggers that I could eat 1000 of. They had a light balsamicky drizzle that was just the right, subtle amount (too much is the worst). Hot damn they were so good!
The one-two punch of the Artichoke with the next dish, the Leek, was the most impressive section of the meal. Looking at the picture to the right, you're probably thinking, omg, that is the least impressive dish I have ever seen in any restaurant ever. Well, that might be true, but it was also one of the best tasting. These were freaking plain grilled leeks with olive oil and salt, but whichever wood they were grilled on at whichever lever/pulley height they used made them actually magical. Seriously I cannot imagine any leek in any other preparation ever being as phuhnom as these were. My recommendation to try Extebarri if you have the chance is 70% based on these leeks.
I was confused about whether the next dish was the Baby Beans or the Green Peas, but we decided they were the Baby Beans because Husband's menu also came with Green Peas so we got them at the same time. They look exactly the same though. These were yummy and hey more beans! I'm getting so strong!
Beetroot was next, and if ever there were beets to convince you that not all beets taste like dirt (#NotAllBeets), it was these. They were a bit tart with their natural juices mixing with vinegar? maybe? (we couldn't understand most things the waiters said, and sometimes they simply said "I don't know how to say this in English. Enjoy!"), but whatever was going on, it worked. I would have preferred only two beet pieces instead of four, because this is where I started to get hella full.
Another mushroom dish came next yay! These March Mushrooms were fluffier than the sauteed-seeming Chanterelles, and they were in a subtle and delicious vegetable broth. I don't know if March Mushrooms is a kind of mushroom or if they were just what was growing in March (when we were there...which makes more sense...) but either way I'm sold. They had a cool texture almost of raw mushrooms but with the much better taste of cooked.
Next were those tricky little Green Peas! They came in an adorable little cup and they were so delicious. Fresh peas are incredible and life-changing; if you haven't had them before and have only had frozen peas in your life then you need to go to a farmers market and buy fresh peas and make something with them because they are amazing but what you make won't be as amazing as this little cup of perfect peas was.
Some of you may know that I'm not the world's biggest red pepper fan. Traipsing around Europe, I see tons of little kids eating raw red pepper strips out of little baggies and I'm like KIDS, simmer down with that nonsense, don't you know there's candy in the world? I can't do raw pepper unless they're overcrowded with other tastes. Cooked red pepper is only a little bit better for me. Well. Despite my semi-aversion, and despite my being stuffed beyond belief by the time this giant plate of red peppers arrived, I ate the entire thing. These red peppers were omg. Ridiculous. I lightly dragged a tine of my fork (my fork!) across them and it cut right through without any effort. They just fell apart and were heaven. Who knew?
The next dish was hilarious. The cute little bowl of 'Cereals', as the menu says, tasted EXACTLY. LIKE. SUGAR SMACKS. You know the cereal with the frog? This was them in the fancy form. The cereals were puffed spelt and other grains mixed with sliced nuts and a sugar syrup. I was very impressed when someone came out from the kitchen to ask me if I would eat honey, and when I said no said they would be bringing my dish after they remedied the error of their assumption. It was worth the short wait, though I do wish it came with the desserts and not in the middle of more savory items. I mean, after all, it was sugar smacks. Sooo good!
You may recall that I got full many, many dishes ago, so you can assume that by this point I was in actual pain. We all were. So we could only laugh when actual normal-restaurant-entree-sized 'mains' came out next. Mine was an excellent black truffle risotto. Considering we were in the land where they actually sell the Thermomix, we cracked up saying 'Hot wet rice! It's hot wet rice!' over and over. Side note, laughing hysterically while painfully full is not a smart thing to do. But this was delicious hot wet rice.
Between my savories and my dessert courses and while Husband was given like his 14th piece of steak, I was presented with a goblet of pineapple water ice. It was very mild, mostly ice and not pineapple, but at this point in the meal it was a perfect palate cleanser. It also helped my full belly feel better. ALSO, it was called 'Water Pineapple', which I think was just supposed to be Pineapple Water Ice except 'water ice' is only a Philly thing so really I just don't know.
On to dessert! I am used to getting boring plates of fresh fruit at most places, even when it's fancy, even when they say they can accommodate me, but it's still a little disappointing to not get something more interesting. Well, this was the most interesting plate of fresh fruit. The strawberries were grilled so they had a rich smoky flavor that worked so well, I really couldn't get over it. It was accompanied by fresh edible flower petals and a fantastically weird and unique blood orange gel. I don't know how they made that gel or how they magicked the smoky strawberries but it was all good.
My final (almost there!) course was Baked Apple with Pure Cocoa. I usually don't like fruit with chocolate but I figured it would be nice here and got excited. I should have realized 'Pure Cocoa' meant 'unsweetened chocolate' -- it was really freaking pure and super bitter with not a trace of sweetness! Yeesh! Mixed with the delicious baked apple it was better, but the apple would have been better without the chocolate or with some kind of plain sorbet (ice cream is too much to ask for).
As I mentioned in my Bilbao guide, it was nearly impossible to figure out how to use the trains, not only because of the language barrier, but because apparently no one worked in the stations! All-day siestas? Anyway, we ended up having to take a taxi to Axpe for Asador Extebarri. The same driver that picked us up at our hotel drove us home at the end of the night (in the morning, really) and was extremely good (no looking at phones or anything!). His name is Eduardo at CLASS Servicio de Taxi and his local number is 637-505-212.
ASADOR EXTEBARRI, AXPE SPAIN
Water speed: Pretty good, but like all restaurants of this caliber, it's bottled. You don't really notice that charge amid the rest of it, but still. I know it's common outside the U.S. but I am spoiled!
Service: Very friendly and kind. In the beginning of the meal, I felt a little bit rushed, which probably is responsible for getting full so quickly. They got their pacing down better as we went on. Also, they couldn't explain some dishes in English, which obviously is my problem and not theirs, but it's worth knowing if you go.
Bathrooms: Nice and clean although I was scared that the extraordinarily heavy lock didn't work.
Food: Really great! Some dishes were average, but more were wonderful.
Bonus: A very fancy restaurant where you can join in the experience even as a vegan!