The cuisine of Navarra is world famous both for its food and its wine. Last week we dined at Arotxa in the Valle de Baxtan, just a short distance from San Sebastián and the Basque Country. Founded by chef Luismi Lacar, Arotxa is one of Navarra’s best restaurants and, indeed, one of the very best restaurants in Spain when it comes to beef grilled on oak embers.
Our meal included several dishes, but our review here focuses on three classics: piquillos, chistorra, and chuleta. The piquillo pepper is an essential ingredient of Spanish cuisine, and the very best ones come from Lodosa, located along the Ebro River in Navarra. Medium in size, they are hand harvested, roasted over embers, and then peeled, deseeded, and preserved in olive oil. Their flavor is unique in the pepper world, sweet and slightly spicy and intense. They are often served simply on a plate as a tapa but, also, stuffed with tuna, cheese, or, in our case, stuffed with mushrooms and served with a creamy mushroom sauce (piquillo de lodosa relleno con hongos). Superb!
Chistorras are small sausages made of minced pork, garlic, and smoked paprika. They’re usually served as a tapa, or appetizer, along with wine or beer. A bit spicy and salty, they stimulate the appetite and complement Navarra’s excellent red wines, especially Garnacha. Grilled over charcoal, the chistorras at Arotxa also have a whiff of smoke that only adds to their deliciousness. We had ours plain (with Garnacha, of course), but chistorras are frequently served with eggs or in a Spanish tortilla (sliced potatoes and eggs).
Unfortunately, we did not have the famous, fresh espáragos de Navarra (white asparagus) at this meal because its season is past. We did have it canned, but that suffers in comparison to the fresh. However, we did have Navarra asparagus during our May trip to Rioja, and it proved to be one of the best vegetables every prepared by man. Outstanding!
Returning to the meal at Arotxa, the highlight was the chuleta (beef steak) grilled over oak embers. Superbly fresh, flavorful, and tender, just tasting a morsel would convert a vegetarian. It went superbly with the 2020 Inurrieta Cuatrocientos red blend and the 2016 Gran Feudo Viñas Viejas blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha.
The meal finished with dessert, a combination of torrija caramelizada (French toast), tarta de queso (crustless cheesecake), and helados caseros (ice cream). And a cortado, of course.
All the members (April Cullom, Matt Horkey, Nicole Muscari, John Sumners, Kristy Wenz, and Tom Zarillo) of the Navarra wine trip wish to thank Arotxa for a superb dining experience.
Source : https://i-winereview.com/blog/index.php/2023/11/03/arotxa-restaurant-outstanding-navarra-cuisine/