TA­BLES Basque in rus­tic glory

Chris­tine McCabe tries a US diner do­ing Span­ish with a twist

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

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.

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