I come from a Basque family so going to a restaurant like this means competing with my grandmother's cooking, and that's dangerous. San Francisco has a surprisingly large Basque community including multiple Basque restaurants and a cultural centre
, so I'm hopeful when I book dinner with friends.
(Basque cross) is on just about everything, which is a sure sign that the staff and owners are actually Basque. I have a lauburu tattoo which quickly draws attention from our waiter and he asks about where my family is from. It turns out the chef at Bask is from Eibar in Gipuzkoa
- the same home town as my family - and the food is consequently authentic and familiar.
There are larger 'main' dishes on the menu but I think of pintxos
as the ultimate Basque food, and since I'm catching up with friends from Australia some drinks and a variety of small plates is about perfect.
Charcuterie plate $15USD
Serrano ham, chorizo and blood sausage are served with lots of bread. Every meal with my family would start with chorizo and bread so this is a must for me. This is chorizo as I remember it - hard cut spicey cured paprika sausage not the soft fresh sausage mince style that is common in Californian Mexican cooking.
Goat Cheese $10USD
Covered with pistachio and honey served over sultanas and caramelised onions then baked until warm and gooey. Perfect for sharing if you can fight your other diners for the dish. The tart goat cheese is offset by the sweet honey and crunchy nuts making this a perfect multi taste multi texture dish.
Basque style meatballs served in tomato sauce. Meatballs might seem simple but they call out to childhood nostalgia for just about everyone. Unlike American meatballs most European meatballs are made with multiple types of meat - in this case Lamb and Beef. I'm glad for the additional flavour profile since Lamb is not that common here in San Francisco. The sauce is very traditional and worth scooping up with the bread.
Ham Croquettes $9.50USD
Another childhood favourite croquetas in many forms are common throughout Spain. These are a traditional ham croquettes with an egg and roux based soft and salty filling. Perfect drinking food.
Gambas al ajillo $9.50USD
Prawns are fried simply in olive oil and garlic and served with lemon and a spicy aioli
Brie Bites $10.50USD
Not for the dieter this is rich beyond compare. Chunks of brie are covered in breading and then deep fried, served with a sweet jam.
When people in California talk about tortillas they mean the thin corn or wheat bread products, but this egg and potato frittata is what the Spanish mean. Thinly sliced onion and potato is mixed with egg and fried in a pan then sliced into portions. This rendition is covered in more of the spicy aioli served with other dishes.
Patatas Bravas $9USD
Another potato dish and a sure hit for the family - fried potates are served in a spicy tomato sauce. Great with cold beer or cider.
Arugula Salad $10USD
All that rich food needs a few vegetables to cut through the fat. This is really a California style dish but goes well with the Basque food. Arugula is dressed and toped with beets, blue cheese, walnuts and apple.
Brussel Sprouts $9.50USD
Brussel sprouts are one of those foods that I have discovered as an adult. Many people find that the savoury taste is only appealing as they age but for me these were decidedly absent in my house altogether - I am the only fan in my family! This is a great classic version fried with bacon and topped with parmesan cheese. The savoury taste is excellent with the meat dishes.
Time for dessert for some of the diners! We opt for more traditional Spanish options. Flan is an egg custard baked with a toffee bottom that self sauces when turned out of the custard cup. This isn't the best flan I've had - you can see the air bubbles have not been well tapped out so that the custard isn't as smooth as I like. The taste is spot on though.
Churros are fairly common in California where there is a large Latin population but this is just how they should be served - covered in cinnamon sugar in small bites with a rich chocolate dipping sauce. If you can fit in more fried food after all those tasty tapas this is recommended and my partner looks like a kid in a candy shop as he wades in.
My impression? The food was very authentic and tasty, there is a huge range of small dishes that is sure to appeal to just about every diner including children and fussy eaters. There's a great range of wine, beer and cider available if you want to stay for a few drinks and small nibbles. Service was good though the restaurant was very busy on a Saturday night. Well worth a stop, I will definitely be taking family here when they visit.
42 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94111
Basque comfort food and small plates, great for sharing and drinking