Txikito Restaurant in New York Turns 10!
Congratulations to Txikito restaurant for ten years of serving up a taste of Spain in the Big Apple! For the past decade, New Yorkers in need of a Spanish gastronomy fix have known exactly where to go to get their fill of some of the tastiest dishes and ingredients from the Spanish pantry, served up with the spirit of the Basque Country and a passion for Spanish food.
Congratulations to Txikito restaurant for ten years of serving up a taste of Spain in the Big Apple! For the past decade, New Yorkers in need of a Spanish gastronomy fix have known exactly where to go to get their fill of some of the tastiest dishes and ingredients from the Spanish pantry, served up with the sprit of the Basque Country and a passion for Spanish food.
Yes, it’s the tenth anniversary of Txikito restaurant, a stalwart of Spanish cuisine located on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea (Manhattan), and a favorite among restaurant critics and the public alike. In the words of the chefs and husband and wife team behind the restaurant, Alexandra Raij and Eder Montero, on their website, Txikito is “a love letter to the Basque Country in Spain, a region whose cuisine is distinguished by excellence and simplicity in both ingredients and techniques. It is unencumbered food in which humble ingredients like beans and peppers hold the same value as aged farmhouse cheeses, pristine seafood and unique breeds of lamb and cattle.”
These two chefs have indeed made of Txikito a tribute to the famed tapas and pintxos of the Basque Country. And while the menu flaunts such delicious creations as Kroketas (salt cod croquettes), Pil pil (olive oil poached salt cod, crispy garlic, pil pil), Albondigas (lamb meatballs with minted broth), Pulpo (octopus carpaccio, lemon oil, marjoram, Piment d’espellet), Mejillones con Pochas (Navarran white beans, mussels, white wine, parsley), and more; the chefs’ reverence for the purity of the products themselves is clear. The Gambas plancha (shrimp), are simply and exquisitely grilled with salt and olive oil, as are the Piperrak (blistered Gernika peppers with sea salt), and the Txistorra Casera (homemade Navarran sausage rope, charred bread), among other things.
This passion and respect for Spanish products comes as no surprise, considering the trajectories of the two chefs that are behind this restaurant. Eder Montero has Basque cuisine in his blood, having grown up in one of this region’s most pintxo-friendly cities, Bilbao, before studying cooking in another of its great gastronomic cities, San Sebastián.
From here, he moved to Barcelona, where he trained with Carles Abellán and Sergi Arola at Talaia Mar restaurant (Ferran Adrià’s Barcelona outpost), before continuing on to the Balearic Island of Mallorca to work for Basque chef Koldo Royo. Montero’s move to the United States came in 1999, when Spanish chef Luis Bollo invited him to join the team at Meigas, a Basque restaurant in New York City.
It was here that he met his wife and partner in cuisine, Alex Raij. For her part, Raij was inspired to study cooking by a 1997 article about Ferran Adrià in Food Arts magazine; the first step in a successfully culinary career that has developed hand in hand with her love for Spanish food. From Meigas she became the head chef at Tía Pol, a new tapas bar in New York at the time, while Montero became her sous-chef – the next step in a culinary commitment to disseminating Spanish gastronomy in New York that is still going strong today.
In addition to Txikito, the couple currently have three other restaurants in New York: El Quinto Pino, La Vara – which has a Michelin Star – and the recently opened Saint Julivert Fisherie, which, as the name suggests, specializes in fish. In addition to the couple’s restaurants, their passion for Spanish gastronomy was reaffirmed with the publication of The Basque Book: A Love Letter in Recipes from the Kitchen of Txikito (Ten Speed Press, 2016), a cookbook written by both chefs, along with Rebecca Flint Marx. With more than one-hundred recipes from Txikito, the book takes readers on a journey through Basque cuisine that begins with the basics (think recipes for mayonnaise, poached eggs and stocks), leading to recipes for pintxos, seafood dishes, and other of the many favorites that have graced the restaurant’s menu over the past ten years.
As lovers of Spanish gastronomy ourselves, nothing gives us more pleasure than to report that Txikito is as bustling and welcoming today as it was ten years ago when it opened; a true mecca for Basque food and a temple of Spanish products – all washed down with an excellent glass of Spanish wine. Here’s to another ten years!
Text: Adrienne Smith
Photos: @Txikito, @Eater NY