Within the last 2 weeks, I’ve been to Txikito three times, and that alone sums up how I feel about this relatively new restaurant. Txikito (pronounced chee-kee-toh) which means small is a Basque Country tapas restaurants.
The first time I went there, we ordered up pretty much all the tapas on the menus. We sat at the bar, and the bartender, Brian, who incidentally holds the worlds record for the most Pete Townsend armswings took really good care of us. The food & alcohol kept coming and the fun didn’t stop. The food, oh my gosh, the food was amazing. The foie gras on toast was great, the mentaiko fries was sinful, the Conchinillo (slow roasted suckling pig) was to die for, and the txuleton….Peter Luger, watch outtttttt…..!!!Before we left, Brian told us that in a week, Txikito is doing a txoko, which is essentially a private food tasting event. Without hesitating, we signed up.
So Monday came, and we showed up and was promptly seated at the bar. Brian whipped up a special drink which is a mescal (type of tequila) with coconut foam. It was very delicious. You usually see an adverse reaction from me when the word tequila is mentioned (college-era cheap tequila days were not pretty) but a mescal is slightly different in the sense that it is made with the heart of the Algarve plant. We also had honey glazed pork rinds as “teaser”.
Before I go any further I think it’s important to mention the guest chefs - Ruben Garcia, Ramon Martinez and Will Goldfarb. There is one thing in common with all three of them, and that is “El Bull”. Ruben Garcia and Will Goldfarb met while working in El Bulli, Will consequently went on to open Room for Dessert, and Ruben Garcia ended up at THINKfood Group, which is based in DC under Jose Andreas (famous restaurant – Minibar), and Ramon subsequently joined. When I heard these three chefs were El Bulli trained, I sort of expected that this would a molecular gastronomy type of evening.
Now onto the food, the first course that arrived was the mussel blanched in its own “juice”, with pepper and oil, This was a cold appetizer and boy, did I wish they served a dozen instead of one each. The mussel was really fresh, and the sauce was so good my friends licked up the sauce. The sauce tasted like mussel soup condensed into cream with fragrant oil.
The second dish was the little triangle of bacon, almond & bleu cheese, it was very simple but delicate.
Quickly followed was the steamed bun, topped with sea urchin, shisho pepper & lemon. This dish was quite a pleasant surprise, the ingredients were very asian, but it was what I would call “the perfect bite”, everything worked.
I took a look at the next course and I knew it would not be something I eat everyday. It was chicken hearts on skewer with tximitxuri sauce. Mind you, I felt slightly guilt-stricken when I saw the little hearts but the minute I bit into one, sorry chicken, your sacrifice was worth it. The chicken heart wasn’t gamy at all, and it was grilled to perfection, a little charred, and the texture was slightly springy, simple amazing.
Next came the highlight of the night for me, it was the heart of sea cucumber with sherry reduction, praline pine nut sauce and some other things I don’t remember. Sea cucumber is a delicacy and the fact that they got it in NY was pretty impressive. It was again, lightly grilled to bring out the flavor and the praline pine nut sauce was out of the world. It was truly orgasmic.
Then came the tender loving ajo blance – almond gazpacho, garlic oil, fig snow, early almond and vinegar. I have to say it was the most refreshing gazpacho I’ve ever had. It was milky with a subtle hint of almond, The early almond was interesting, it wasn’t the crunch almond nuts I had in mind, instead it had the texture of boiled peanuts except crunchier.
(I am sorry guys, this is a very long post)...
After the refreshing gazpacho, the chef hit us with the pleasant "ocean" dish of cigales - gambas, baby cucumber in blossom, sea asparagus, marigold flower, lemon juice & soy air with a side of the gambas head "juice" (sounds dirty I know, but it was delicious - imagine sipping the essense of prawns). By this time, my feet was no longer touching the ground. I was on this incredible gastronomy journey, and the fact that the chefs put all these complex ingredients and thoughts into one plate just blew my mind.
The last savoury dish was the hearty veal cheeks, cape gooseberry, pumpkin seed oik, basil, licorice air. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it..nada.
For desserts, the gave us the amuse bouche of lemon meringue, tomato, basil, campari, grapefruit sorbet, white asparagus, mustard oil (bold choice) & sprayed dried coconut. This was so refreshing & palatte-cleasing. The sourness hit the right spot & I was ready for more.
The main dessert was rum gelee, preserved apple, chocolate cream, chocolate nougatine, pine nuts with greek yogurt sorbet. Holy smoke, it was sweet, sour, salty, nutty...mindblowing!
Lastly, we had the marshmallow with dark rum sugar, tarragon & passionfruit smoked salt. This was simply marshmallow done right (and I am running out of adjectives). :P
The chefs came out afterwards and we got to talk to all three guest chefs and owner Alex Raij.
This post officially wore me out, and I just want to say, go to Txikito, actually no, RUN to Txikito!
Address: Txikito, 40 9th Ave (between 24th & 25th), New York, NY 10001
11 months ago