La Cuchara

I had many a strange habit growing up, one of the ‘bad’ ones being my refusal to embrace my Asianhood and use chopsticks. Coming from a culture and family that had white rice at the table every night, I thought I was being clever using a spoon and not just any spoon. This was THE spoon: perfectly round and perfectly sized for my mouth. It was MY spoon. I figured with a spoon I could fit more in one bite, I could scoop up soupy rice and I could do this all more quickly and efficiently than with chopsticks. You’ll be happy to know I’m a grown-up, proud chopstick user now. But the Montessori kid thrives within and I continue to collect [spoons].

And speaking of spoons, I finally made it to La Cuchara de San Telmo:

Costilla de Iberico, Vinagre de Modena

Everyone at Restaurante Martín Bersategui raves about La Cuchara and for good reason. The name of the game is pork.

Manitas

Like Anthony Bourdain says, “Inside every great chef is a Chinese man.” To understand this you must understand not Bourdain but the Chinese. He’s referring to the Chinese ability to extract flavor from and to spice up and enhance offal or a rejected, anti-mainstream animal part. Or simply, we Chinese just have an infatuation with pork. The chefs at La Cuchara must be the closest thing there is to Chinese here in Basque Country, nailing the spiced manitas and crispy orejas.

Orejas de Ibérico

Did you see (above, the first picture) they even used sesame seeds! Chinafication has begun. But don’t worry, they’re still very much Basque. These veal cheeks are the best I’ve ever had. One word: tender.

Carrillera de ternera, vino tinto

I also really appreciate it when restaurants aren’t afraid to season. Here the use of flaky salt on the seared foie is just what I like: textural and savory satisfaction in my mouth. The crunch of salt and sear, the rich foie melts as you press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. And of course it sits atop a puré de manzana (apple purée) like every Basque establishment, sí o no?

Foie ‘Cuchara’, compota de manzana

More friends will be in town next week so naturally, I can find reason to come back to La Cuchara and dismiss my cholesterolic concerns.

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