Kaia Kaipe

I had heard of this simple fish restaurant located in Getaria, an old, beautifully situated fishing village, from some of the best gastronomes I know. Moreover, many of these same gastronomes, some in the Bordeaux region, make the two to three hour trek down to Kaia to have the simply prepared seafood as many people consider it to be one of the greatest fish and shellfish restaurants in the world. Their speciality is the

“catch of the day,”

which, given the season when we visited, was langoustines (the finest I have ever had) and baby eels (which the French call pibales) cooked in olive oil, garlic and piquant pimento. They were the finest pibales I have ever had, although they were equaled a few days later in Madrid. We also enjoyed a remarkable turbot, again, the finest I have ever had. The Hake tongue was delicious, but my favorite dish was the grilled turbot served table side. The fact that it had been out of the water less than six hours was noticeable in its delicate, intense flavors. The quality of the fish is super fresh as just up the street from the restaurant are tanks where the live shellfish and fish are kept until an order is placed. The preparation is perfect. The fish are not over- or under-cooked, and everything is bursting with flavor. That is the reason people from all over the world flock to eat at this simple seafood restaurant.

The wine list is exceptionally impressive, especially if you are looking for Spanish wines. It includes a remarkable selection of Bordeaux and Champagne as well as some fabulous bargains, especially among older vintages of Rioja. We had the local wine (whose vineyards you pass on your way to this rather remote village about twenty minutes from San Sebastian), the 2011 Txakoli, which comes from an unusual varietals. Txakoli has a long history as one of the smallest viticultural areas of Spain, producing primarily white wine and a small amount of rosé and red. Today there are approximately 1,000 acres supporting two dozen wineries making wines from grapes that are impossible to find anywhere else in the world. You can thank Hondarrabi Zur for the white wines and Hondarrabi Belza for the rosés and the handful of red wines produced. The 2010 Txakoli K5 was delicious, light in alcohol with lots of trapped CO2, fresh grapefruit notes and a personality similar to a Portugese Vinho Verde. We followed that with one of my favorite producers of Albarino, the 2010 Do Ferreiro Cepas Vellas. It was difficult, but I kept our wine selection to regional choices despite the fact that there were some fabulous white Rhône, Loire Valley and Champagnes available on the terrific wine list.

The red wines included the modern-styled 2005 Bodega Muga Aro, which was sumptuous and rich with lots of vanillin, blackberry and cassis notes. In contrast, the cedary, fragrant, velvety-textured, medium-bodied 1962 Bosconia Reserva Rioja was fully mature yet beautifully scented.

This remarkable restaurant is as simple as they come, but it uses the finest raw materials backed up by a stunningly complete wine list. I can’t recommend it highly enough. But, it is not inexpensive given the effort they go to to bring in the finest fish and shellfish from the local Bay of Biscayne.

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