i remember being surprised, while in san sebastian, spain, to discover that so many people ate just the way i’d always wanted to.  i liked that you could see the dishes before you ordered (i also like chinese restaurants with pictures of everything on the menu).  i liked that you didn’t have to commit to just one dish, that you got to have a couple of bites of something and then move on.  

after waking from our siesta, my travel partner and i would make our way from the hostel down winding cobblestone streets to those that were most highly populated with tapas bars.  it took only a couple meals for us to establish our favorites; one had a cheery, moustached proprietor, another grilled to order meat skewers that we couldn’t get enough of.  

each restaurant is dominated by an expansive counter, covered in plates of tapas, skewered and stacked. customers help themselves, call out for vino tinto, then step back to eat and socialize.  when you’re ready to pay, you simply approach the counter and tell someone what you ate.  they trust you to tell the truth, and most people do.  

txori (pronounced chor-ee, in basque a “tx” sounds like our “ch”) knew it couldn’t be an exact replica of a san sebastian tapas bar if it hoped to survive in belltown.  we’re accustomed to sitting down while eating, we don’t trust food that is sitting out in the open, we have a hard time tossing dirty napkins on the floor, and we have the health department.  

and so, with these differences in mind, txori has perfectly woven basque and seattleite.  while some of the food is displayed, it is done so in a glass case.  attention has been given to the interior of the restaurant; it is spare, white walled and wood floored, with red and sea green accents.  servers come to your table and payment is not based on the honor system (somehow i don’t think it would work as well here).  

and yet, when my lips have closed around a piquillo con morcilla (piquillo pepper and blood sausage on a bit of crisp bread) the fact that i’m not in spain fades from my consciousness.  anchovies with olive tapenade are briny and saline in the perfect you’re-close-to-the-ocean way.  octopus, potato omelets, and squid fill the menu.  silverware is tiny to suit the only-what-you-can-fit-on-a-toothpick portions (called pinxtos), perfect for spearing the ensalada de pato confidato (duck confit, orange, and romaine lettuce) tucked in its mini, white serving dish.  


while some complain that they don’t leave txori full, i adore the fact that most things on the menu are two-bites bit.  it’s all i ever find myself wanting of most dishes anyway.  i’m curious to know what they taste like, i find out, and then i’m curious to know what something else tastes like.  

thomas keller has said that what we can taste fades after only a few bites, and that eating much more reduces our ability to detect subtle flavor.  i think he may have realized this after eating in a spanish tapas bar.  

txori’s wine list is a respectable basque selection, its cocktails consist of basque classics (red wine and coke), and more original, consistently impressive creations.  i recently had a pizzaro, fresh orange and carrot juices with pisco.  i make it a point to try creative cocktails on a regular basis, but this one caught me in my blind spot.  perfectly refreshing and slightly sweet, something about the juices brought out all the best in the pisco.  when – if ever – it gets warm in seattle (or when i finally move somewhere farther south), i plan to be drinking these on my rooftop.  

anyway.  other things i love about txori are that it’s open until 1 am every night (though, i guess because it’s seattle, few people seem to take advantage of it), it has a new, tapas sized deck just waiting (and waiting, and waiting…) for summer, and throwing napkins on the floor is encouraged.  i’m not sure when i’ll make it back to san sebastian, but txori makes that more digestible.  

Txori Bar on Urbanspoon


~ by patmybutter on June 9, 2008.

One Response to “txori”

  1. […] vine is where all my food-conscious friends want to go for their birthday, within-walking-distance txori (related by owner to the harvest vine) is usually where i end up. my dinner at the hv inspired me […]

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