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Elkano in Getaria, Spain - 1 Michelin star

Rating: 90.
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Elkano is a family restaurant in Getaria, a fishing village on the Bay of Biscay some 15 miles west of San Sebastian. The history of the restaurant goes back as far as 1964, when Pedro Arregui opened a fish restaurant on the Calle Elkano Kalea in Getaria. Some two decades later restaurant Elkano relocated to its current premises on the Herrerieta Kalea. Over the years Elkano has become the first address in Basque Country (and far beyond) for whole grilled fish, skin and all, "Rodaballo" (turbot) in particular. In February 2014 Pedro Arregui sadly passed away at the age of 73, leaving his son Aitor Arregui in charge of the restaurant . In November 2014 Elkano was awarded a Michelin star in the 2015 Spain and Portugal guide and earlier that year, in July, the Arregui family opened a pintxos bar called Elkano Txiki on the Calle Elkano Kalea, the original premises of the restaurant.

Elkano is open for lunch Tuesday till Sunday and for dinner Wednesday till Saturday. They restaurant offers an a la carte menu with hot and cold starters (priced from €4.50 for a consommé to €35 for Elkano's signature Kokotxas), and a choice of whole grilled fish, subject to availability, and mainly priced per kilogram, e.g. turbot €68/kg, sole €64/kg, seabass €48/kg. Meat lovers have two options: Galician beef chop or a sirloin steak. I had dinner with my husband at Elkano on Wednesday 13 May 2015 and obviously we ordered the turbot.

To start there was a lovely appetiser of marinated anchovies with a tomato vinaigrette. Next we shared some deliciously nutty and meaty 36-month old Joselito ham.

My starter was "Txangurro", baked spider crab. Inside the crab shell was a wonderful creamy and rich spider crab stew flavoured with tomatoes, garlic, onion, and finished under a hot grill.

Meanwhile the turbot grilling action had started outside the restaurant. The whole turbot is placed in an individual fish grilling basket and then gently cooked on a carefully pre-heated charcoal (oak) grill. Finally the turbot is presented tableside, then filleted but with the light and dark skin left on, and served in two servings. 

In April/May wild Atlantic turbot is at the peak of its season. The water is at the right temperature and the turbots can feed on an abundance of anchovies and other small fish. The turbot's purity is savoured by grilling it whole and serving it with little more than the fish's cooking juices, lightly seasoned with a drop of lemon and some salt and pepper. This results in a beautifully flavoured turbot with staggeringly moist, succulent flesh and the most wonderful, sticky, gelatinous skin. First served were two juicy and plump fillets with white and dark skin, and a piece of side fin with deliciously fatty flesh. The turbot's prized cheeks and some more bits and pieces were served next. In the end the two of us managed to polish off the entire turbot, skin and all, sucking on the fins and ending up eating with our hands.


Dessert was a well-made chocolate lava cake with a lovely runny centre and served with caramelised walnut ice cream.

Eating a turbot at Elkano is a very much an experience defined by time and place. The memory is a souvenir of the culture and traditions of Getaria, the Basque Country and of course the Arregui family. You can take the memory with you, but the experience itself does not translate or transport. There's plenty of seafood to choose from on the menu, but the turbot at Elkano is a showstopper of a dish, and how could it not be? Sourcing local, über-fresh ingredients has always been the guiding principle at Elkano and the prized wild turbot from the Bay of Biscay (known to the French as the Golfe de Gascogne) is right on their coastal doorstep. Turbot of this quality needs only minimal treatment, provided it is done with skill and passion. It does not come cheap - even at Elkano a 1.5 kilogram turbot comes to €112 (including VAT), but compare this to € 40 for a fillet at Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenée, who get gets his turbot from the Golfe de Gascogne too. Turbot at Elkano is about the entire animal - plain and easy. When life gives you turbots - simply grill them over charcoal.

Posted 28-06-2015


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