Six of Top 100 Restaurants in the World are Basque

Basque restaurant Azurmendi in the Basque Country

Azurmendi was selected as most sustainable restaurant in 2018.

The 2021 list of the top restaurants in the world, from the website The World’s 50 Best Restaurants just came out, and it includes six Basque restaurants. The 2020 awards were cancelled due to Covid, so the last list was from 2019. The top Basque restaurant is Number 3 on the global list, maintaining its spot from the 2019 list. All six are located in Hegoalde, the Spanish side of the Basque Country. Six of seven restaurants returned to the list from the 2019 list.

The best Basque restaurants in the world are:

Asador Etxebarri
Plaza de San Juan, 1
Atxondo, Bizkaia

Number 3 on list: Asador Etxeberri is currently ranked as the top Basque restaurant in the world and chef Bittor Arguingoniz has been selected for the Estrella Damme Chef’s Choice Award. This award is given to the top vote-getter among chefs, distinguishing him as the best-loved chef on the planet. His somewhat shy and reserved demeanor is applauded and some of his mentees have gone on to open award-winning restaurants.

Located in the Atxondo Valley in Bizkaia, the restaurant specializes in food cooked over an open grill. Arguingoniz was raised in the tiny nearby mountainous farming community of Azpe. According to the restaurant’s website, Arguingoniz is self-taught and has only worked in his own restaurant, developing his grilling method himself. He also built the ovens and tools he uses to cook almost anything over an open fire. The restaurant uses local woods for its grills. One Michelin star. A book on the restaurant’s grilling method’s was published in 2017. Click here to buy Etxebarri.

Aldura Aldea, 20
Errenteria, Gipuzkoa

Number 14 on list: Mugaritz continues to be the second best Basque restaurant in the world, although it dropped from its 2019 spot as Number 7 on the global list to Number 14. Owned by chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, it’s located in a renovated farmhouse in Errenteria (Renteria), near Gipuzokoa. Mugaritz is a model for new Basque cuisine. It closes for four months every year, according to its website, to devote time to creativity. His restaurant has boasted two Michelin stars since 2006. See the reservation page for dates the restaurant is open. For 2021, the restaurant is open from May 1 to Oct. 31.

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Herrerieta Kalea, 2
Getaria, Gipuzkoa

Number 16 on list: This restaurant, located in the small seaside town of Getaria halfway between Bilbo and Donostia, is famous for its grilled turbot fish, served whole. The restaurant jumped to third Basque restaurant on the list this year. It moved from Number 30 on the global list to Number 16. The grills are located just outside the dining room. Fish soup, richer and darker than any you have tasted before, are also a must-have. One Michelin star. In 2018, it was in spot 77, so this fish restaurant is improving quickly.

Barrio Legina s/n
Larrabetzu, Bizkaia

Number 49 on list: Azurmendi, led by chef Eneko Atxa, was Number 14, but it’s dropped to 49 this year. In 2014 and 2018, the restaurant received the award for most Sustainable. The restaurant, located on a hillside outside of Bilbo, uses a lot of vegetables and herbs that it produces right on its property and implements composting. The restaurant also includes a winery specializing in txakoli run by his cousin Bertol Izagirre.

Recycled materials were used in the building of the restaurant in 2012 and the building works with geothermal power, solar panels and recycled rainwater. The restaurant composts its waste locally and picks up its produce from local farmers. Three Michelin stars.

Av. De Abandoibarra, 2
Bilbo, Bizkaia

Number 53 on list: Nerua, the restaurant located inside the famed Guggenheim Museum, has moved up and down on the global list. Chef Josean Alija serves modern dishes based on local produce, which the top Basque restaurants are known for. It’s museum location is part of the appeal. One Michelin star.

Av Alcalde Elósegui, 273
Donostia, Gipuzkoa

Number 94 on list: Arzak, the restaurant that began the trend of new Basque cuisine, has lost some of its sheen, dropping gradually to Number 94 on the global list. The restaurant’s fame began under Juan Mari Arzak and continues today under his daughter, Elena Arzak. Juan Mari was responsible for the culinary revolution begun in the 1970s.

Click here for the history of the family restaurant, which was built on a hillside overlooking Donostia in 1897 by Juan Mari Arzak’s grandparents and started as a wine shop and tavern. Three Michelin stars.

Chef Martin Berasategui owns several restaurants around the world and has eight Michelin stars to his name. He opened his first restaurant, outside of Donostia, in 1993 and he earned his first Michelin star at the age of 25. This restaurant was on the global list for several years, but now it has dropped off the list. Perhaps Berasategui is a bit too busy, opening more and more restaurants around the world. But he is making gourmet Basque cuisine more well known around the world. Click here for “La Cocina de Martin”  with easier recipes.

Michelin stars are a rating system used by the red Michelin Guide to grade restaurants on their quality. The guide was originally developed in 1900 to show French drivers where local amenities such as restaurants and mechanics were, according to Wikipedia. According to the Guide, one star signifies “a very good restaurant”, two stars are “excellent cooking that is worth a detour”, and three stars mean “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey”. The listing of starred restaurants is updated once a year.

Check individual websites for the times the restaurants are closed.

According to the website, the selection process for the world’s best restaurants is based on an anonymous poll of more than 1,000 chefs, restaurant owners, food critics and other industry insiders from around the world. Each member gets 10 votes and at least four of those votes have to go to restaurants outside their region.

Amazon Prime members can watch De la Vida al Plato, a free series of documentaries of Spanish restaurants, which includes Asador Etxebarri and Echaurren. See “De la Vida al Plato” in Spanish.

Arguingoniz speaks about his restaurant and his form of cooking, in Spanish.