Today, 7-9pm, is going to be the Grand Opening party of the newest Basque restaurant in California: A Basq Kitchen−the latest endeavor by the chef Beñat Ibarra (Baiona, 1956). Tickets are already sold-out, there’s no doubt it’s going to be a successful coming out, and the owner is exultant: “I’m very excited, everything’s going to go well,” said he to EuskalKultura.com. Unlimited food and drink on the Redondo Beach Pier is what they advertise. “What a great way to spend Friday night!”
Redondo Beach, CA. “A window to the Basque Country based on two senses: taste and smell,” that’s what Beñat Ibarra, owner and chef of A Basq Kitchen, responded to this bulletin when asked to define his latest project. Seasonal and local ingredients will also be a defining feature: “I want to cook with what we have around here, as much as possible, and following the rhythm of the season. That’s what mother-nature intended.”
Giving a quick look at the menu, you can say that Ibarra focused more on the southern Basque Country and Spanish cuisines than on Iparralde's one, being Iparralde the part of the country he comes from: seared lamb chop, Basque salad, patatas bravas, tortilla, croquetas… He agrees. “I’m not that keen on the French influence of the Basque food, I really like the Spanish influence. Also, I would say the southern Basque Country is the real driving force of Basque cooking.” Nevertheless, he thinks the menu will evolve with the time and he will be including dishes from both sides of the Pyrenees.
Marmitako and Kalimotxo
But which will be, in Ibarra’s opinion, the dish ABK will be known for? He is clear on that one: “Marmitako.” A tuna stew originally prepared with potatoes, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. “Marmitako is going to be the driving force and I’m going to make it with the tuna fished by local fishermen. We have fishing boats just 20 feet away from the restaurant!” And when tuna won’t be in season he will prepare the marmitako using different fishes. That’s a reason why he also says ABK is a “test kitchen.” “We’re going to try new things.”
Regarding the beverages, among an appealing list of wines, Kalimotxo will be the trademark. A very popular and simple Basque ‘cocktail’ made with red wine and Coke. “People that have been to the Basque Country are excited to drink it again and it brings a smile to the faces of those who have never tasted it before.” Kalimotxo is half a glass of red wine and half a glass of Coke, but Ibarra ads a tiny drop of patxaran (a sloe-flavored liqueur popular in the Basque Country) and a slice of lemon, to make it even more tasty. And people love it, in fact, as he claims 40% of the wine sales comes from Kalimotxo.
Beñat Ibarra was born in Baiona (Lapurdi, Basque Country) in 1956. He was just 22 when he left his hometown to travel the world: Canada, Bahamas, USA (Florida, Washington, Texas…), Singapore, China (Hong Kong), and back to the States (14 years in Las Vegas and, now, California). “All the experiences have been great,” he says. But in Southern California he found a place similar to his land of origin, "but with a better weather," as he said in a conversation with tastewiththeeyes.com.
Nowadays, besides being the owner and chef of ABK, he is also the executive chef of the Terranea Resort, in Palos Verdes, California. “I don’t know where I find the time”, he chuckled. But when there is passion, somehow people find time for anything. And Beñat Ibarra is driven by his love for good food.
A Basq Kitchen
Pintxos, Tapas & Wine on the Redondo Beach Waterfront
136 N. International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach CA-900277
Phone: (310) 376-9215