Went to Aatxe for dinner last night. This is a Basque tapas place started by the Flour and Water people. It's only been open a few weeks. It's on Market street in the Castro.
Overall we enjoyed it. The setting is nice and service attentive. There was a loud hip-hop soundtrack that seemed out of place and was not at all conducive to the Basque vibe or even conducive to a pleasant relaxing dinner. It's an expensive place and the price to portion ratio of some dishes seemed off. Dinner for two came out to about $175 which included $25 corkage. While tapas are by virtue small plates, we felt some plates were too small. They need to calibrate portion size better and they seem to be working on this since at one point I heard the chef tell one of the sous chefs to make the portion of one of the dishes bigger. Overall our feeling was that the place is very new and still a work in progress. Nevertheless there were several standout dishes and we will go back. We sat at the Chefs counter which has views of the sous chefs preparing the meals.
Here is what we ate:
Pintxos (small bite) flight- this came with 4 small bites (pricy for $13):
Olives on a toothpick with anchovy.
Deviled egg. This was really a good deviled egg. The last time I had a pricy deviled egg was at Urchin Bistro in the Mission. That version was mediocre. The Aatxe version was very satisfying: creamy with deep layers of egg, spice and umami.
Rye toast spread with dark chocolate and topped with chorizo. This was a revelation. What a wonderful combination: crunchy rye toast, dark chocolate and dry very high quality spicy chorizo. Will definitely get this again.
Morel mushroom croquette. Very tasty but neither of us could taste even a hint of morel mushroom. Note to chef- increase the amount of mushroom till it's discernible or leave it out.
Next we got:
Mussels escabeche- very good. My husband especially was wild about this. Tender earthy oceany mussels in a spicy citrusy escabeche broth.
Flatbread with green olive spread and greens. This was the only thing we ate that was an unmitigated disappointment. The bread seemed undercooked and doughy and bland. We almost sent it back to ask them to give us one cooked longer. The olive spread was meh and the greens were excellent.
Octopus salad-very fresh tasting with a nice tarragon flavor but this was one of the dishes were portion size seemed out of whack. The octopus was very thinly sliced, which is a good thing, but there were too few smallish very thin pieces.
Charred spring onion and gem lettuce in romesco. Vegetables charry and juicy. We enjoyed it.
Gambas al Ajillo. Actually a good sized portion. But somewhat disappointing. When this dish is good it's so satisfying. This shrimp tasted good but the sauce was bland and watery. It was missing the olive oil - paprika kick that elevates the flavor of the shrimp.
Trumpet mushrooms ala palcha - Delicious! Husband said it qualifies as a dish of the year for him. Served with a runny egg. The combination of the smokey umami mushrooms with the runny egg was just amazing.
Radishes with anchovy and lamb belly. Spectacular! So much going on here. So many mingling vibrant flavors. The lamb flavor was pronounced and blended exquisitely with the peppery radish and umami anchovy flavors.
Spanish fried rice- kind of like a blend of paella and fried rice. Excellent though the portion was a bit small, though not as bad as the octopus.