TABLES Basque in rustic glory
Christine McCabe tries a US diner doing Spanish with a twist
WAS introduced to Basque cuisine a lifetime ago in, of all places, Reno, Nevada, at a small familyrun restaurant where patrons crowded at long, communal tables tucking into steaming bowls of lamb stew. In food-savvy San Francisco, Basqueborn chef Gerald Hirigoyen has given his native cuisine a fresh, west coast twist at the acclaimed Piperade, one of this city’s must-visit restaurants.
Set two blocks from the waterfront, wedged between the Embarcadero and the Financial District in a renovated warehouse, this charming eatery, opened seven years ago to rave reviews and a chef-of-the-year gong, is a long way from the humble shepherds’ fare of northern Nevada or indeed the Basque country.
But Hirigoyen pays homage in the form of a large shepherd’s table, anchor to the restaurant’s rustic, but stylish, fittings that include an oversized clock face and a chandelier fashioned from used wine bottles.
Lunch starts late on a Friday here. Barely anyone tips up before 2pm, giving we famished tourists a substantial head start. Our French waitress is all smiles and clearly knows her way around the Spanish and Californiacentric wine list (where Basque wines are a feature), recommending a cava to start: d’Abbatis Brut Nature, Catalunya 2005 ($US10 [$14] a glass) made from 30-year-old parellada vines.