Basque Kitchen by Aitor

The hype: There’s lots going for this place – whether it’s the fact that Chef Aitor Jeronimo Orive formerly from Iggy’s is at its helm, or simply because Basque cuisine is placed in the limelight; a rarity here. Whatever it is, this Unlisted Collection venture is poised for greatness.

The vibe: The 30-seater Amoy Street shophouse space is bright and welcoming, in contrast to Blackwattle whose address it replaced. It retains much of its modern, clean design notes, but with a kitchen that is now more opened up and featuring three counter seats that weren’t there before. Upstairs, a bar and private dining space can seat an additional ten.

The food: Chef Orive may be Spanish, but his family has roots in Basque Country. And it is from his heritage that he draws from for his interpretation of Basque cuisine. For better or worse, it is a more refined, modern take on traditionally hearty Basque food, an influence inexplicably related to Orive’s fine dining chops.

There’s a lunch set ($45) and a seven-course dinner ($115). Whichever you choose, there are a few dishes that stand out. Orive’s version of the classic Marmitako stew is a must, and here, chef gives the dish an elevated treatment by offering it deconstructed. And instead of tuna, raw bonito is used. The result is a more nuanced dish that offers multiple taste profiles yet remains decidedly rustic.

Definitely have the Oxtail Bomba Rice, where braised angus oxtail is cooked with bomba rice, chicken stock, onions and mushroom, before being served topped with confit quail egg yolk and chive aioli. It’s an intense confluence of flavours, with a texture and consistency reminiscent of risotto. Then dive into another very Basque dish, the txuleta, a generous serving of charcoaled angus prime rib and beef jus served alongside classic mash. It’s beefy with a good amount of fat, and is best had with wine (or a Basque cider).

The drinks: There is a strong wine list here, with over 100 labels all from Spain. 150ml glasses start from $16. But since you’re here, you might as well try some Basque cider.

They serve it traditionally, by having it poured from a half-corked bottle from height (kinda like the way teh tarik is made, but only pulled once). Importantly, this isn’t cider as we commonly know it. It isn’t sweet, has no additional flavouring, and is not carbonated. Tart, flat and dry (but sharp on the nose), the Zapiain Basque cider ($28/bottle) they offer craves to be paired with food for a marriage of drink and eats rarely seen here. In fact, they’re probably the only one carrying it.

Why you’ll be back: Are there even any other Basque cuisine-focused restaurants in Singapore? Orive’s take on it may be refined and modern, but stays true to his heritage by offering touches of Basque tradition hardly seen here. We find it unique, and is an injection of variety that is much-welcomed.