What would you do with a 1000 square feet of commercial space? Enoteca La Storia owners Joe Cannistraci and Michael Guerra decided that it was just enough room to open a 28-seat Basque style pintxos (small plates) restaurant featuring an all Spanish wine list. Located just three doors down from their Enoteca in Los Gatos, the aqua marine tones and ocean wave wall evoke the Basque culinary capital of Donostia, also known as San Sebastián, Spain. They hired Argentinian-born Chef Agustin Elbert, who lived and worked as a cook in San Sebastián for 15 years, and then they traveled to the Basque region last year to do research and ate at all of the top pintxos places to make sure they offer an authentic experience.
To welcome us, Mike did the trick of pouring Txakoli wine from an arm’s length distance into tumblers, just as they do in pintxos bars in Spain. With a very low alcohol content, this highly acidic wine served as a great aperitivo to cleanse our palates and get us prepared for the meal ahead.
We like our white Rhône-style wines, and this Spanish Hernacia Garnatxa Blanca was so good and reasonably priced that we bought a case to take home with us. It was a great pairing with the tapas, especially the seafood items:
We started with an order of the Croquetas de Bacalao to get us started. They were perfectly fried where the crunchy coating surrounded the creamy center flavored with salt cod:
Iberico in ham and sausage formats can be ordered as meat platters, and they also offer a Spanish cheese plate as well. To get a taste of almost everything, we chose the Tabla Kursaal, which includes an assortment of cheese (Idiazabal, Garrotxa, Valdeon Zomorano) as well as a generous selection of Iberian meats (Jamón, Chorizo and Salchichón). The assorted olives that came on the plate were a nice bonus. Mike explained that they had to source many of these items from different producers to make sure they had the best selection available (click on different parts of the picture to check out the Lytro living picture refocusing capability):
The Indurain is truly an authentic pintxo. Named after the Spanish cyclist, spicy-sweet Guindillo peppers, anchovy and an olive are skewered on top of cooked Bonito tuna belly (a version without the tuna can be ordered as the Gilda). We also ordered the Huevo y Gamba, a hard boiled egg skewered with a shrimp and olive, bathing in a sauce of aioli and olive oil (click on different parts of the picture to check out the Lytro living picture refocusing capability):
They offer three different brochetas made with items cooked a la plancha (hot flat grill): mushrooms, shrimp and fish. We tried the assorted mushroom brochette:
We moved on from the white Garnacha to a bottle of reasonably priced Tempranillo:
Mike teased us that we should have tasted the Pulpo (octopus) that is not on the menu. We chastised him enough so that he checked with the chef if they had any octopus to serve. Lucky for us, Chef Elbert had enough for us to taste the tender pulpo served on top of thinly sliced cooked potatoes. We do hope that they add this as a regular menu item:
We liked the salt cod croquetas so much that we ordered the Croquetas de Jamón just to taste something a little different:
Tortillas, as in Spanish omelets and not the flour wrapper, come in classic (potato and onion), jamón or bacalao versions. We can’t get enough well prepared salt cod items, so we picked the fish version. Each thin tortilla is individually made and served whole. We asked for a side of their Romesco sauce (made with almond, garlic, oil and chiles) to eat with the tortilla:
The Mejillones con Pimenton de la Vera from their house specials section of the menu featured mussels artfully arranged like petals of a rose. The white wine, smoked paprika, garlic and olive oil sauce were so good we sopped it up with some bread:
The Carrilleras en Salsa from their Especiales section of the menu featured slow cooked tender beef cheeks served on top of a chickpea purée. A swipe of Romanesco sauce completed this super tasty dish:
They also have a selection of Sherries to drink before, with or after dinner (available by the glass or half-bottle). Since we are not huge Sherry fans, we asked for a little bit of education and they kindly offered a small taste of each, in order from dry to sweet. They did range from what we would consider the typical sherry flavor to one that surprisingly tasted almost port-like. We preferred the one in the middle the best, and might give it another try someday; but for now, we’ll stick to wine and cocktails:
Due to health codes, they cannot display an array of the various bites for consumption on the counter as they do in Donostia, Spain. They also offer an oyster Happy Hour Monday – Thursday between 3:30 and 5:30 pm. We may have to sneak out of work early one day to take advantage of that.
Most of the seating is counter-based with a few tables for two lined up along the wall. Joe did all of the design work and did a great job with the construction and decorating details. He most certainly made efficient use of the tiny space. We do hope to return to San Sebastián sometime in the future; however, at least we know we can go to Donostia Pintxos to get our pintxos fix until then.
July, 2014 Update
Note that Mike and Joe have sold the restaurant to new owner Hector as they concentrate in opening another wine bar/shop (rumor has it its in downtown San Jose).