This is another awesome Tasting Collective dining club event we attended. (You can read about the previous posts about Tasting Collective events here: http://www.foodlovergirl.com/fish-cheeks/   http://www.foodlovergirl.com/win-son/    http://www.foodlovergirl.com/f-o-b/   http://www.foodlovergirl.com/xixa/   http://www.foodlovergirl.com/huertas/    http://www.foodlovergirl.com/bessou/    http://www.foodlovergirl.com/maharlika/   http://www.foodlovergirl.com/traif/   http://www.foodlovergirl.com/lalito/  http://www.foodlovergirl.com/noreetuh/  http://www.foodlovergirl.com/traif-2/   and http://www.foodlovergirl.com/nom-wah-tu/). Tasting Collective is a dining club for food lovers, and they offer brunch and dinner at great NYC restaurants. They close off the restaurants for the club, so we get to have the entire restaurant and chef(s) all to ourselves. So, this is more than just eating food at a restaurant, but you get to have the background story and its passion from the chef(s), eating 8- to 12- or more course brunch/dinner created specifically for Tasting Collectives.

This event was held at Txikito, ten course Traditional Basque Feast. This restaurant is owned and operated by husband and wife chef team. They have a few other restaurants in NYC. I always enjoy Basque style food, Spanish cuisine and tapas, so I was excited for this event!

The inside looked a bit small from the first glance. They had a bar to the right of the entrance, and a thin counter to the left. The interior is heavy with wood, making it cozy and warm atmosphere that is so inviting.

They had a small dining area in the back, with bright red tables and a large teal wall with white tree, accompanied by fun and cute creatures. I really liked the way it looked, almost like a wood cabin, warm and homey.

To the left of the dining room was another room, with a glass divider with the same tree with fun and cute creatures on it. Pretty adorable and cool way to create a separate, semi-private space. Our event was in this room. This was the first event we attended that they didn’t close the entire restaurant for the event. We were pretty crammed in there, barely fitting the table, sitting over the edge… And since there were no space to put everyone’s coats and bags, the seating was really, REALLY tight. Not very comfortable but we somehow made it work and survived.

This room was also heavily covered with rough wood, from walls to ceiling. The welcoming and cozy atmosphere is carried out into this space. One of the owner/chef team, Alex Raji came out and the beginning of the event to greet us. Chef Raji was trained at “the other CIA,” Culinary Institute of America. Her husband, Chef Eder Montero grew up in Spain’s Basque region, who brings authenticity to their Basque cuisine.

The first course was Marijuli with crushed tomato, ibérico jamón, and basque anchovy. We each got one piece. It had nice crunchy texture from the exterior of its baguette, but the middle part of the baguette was a bit mushy from the crushed tomato placed on top. Had good amount of salty flavor from the anchovy and jamón. A nice way to wake up the taste buds.

The second course was Croqueta de Bakalo, which is crispy creamy cod croquettes. I fell in love with salty cod dishes when I traveled to Portugal many years ago with my mother. So, I was looking forward to having their cod dishes. They house-cure the cod, which is a plus. Again, we each got to have one croquette, and it was rather small. I say it was slightly larger than tater tots. The exterior was indeed crispy, and the inside was very creamy. I liked the seasoning, this little baby was packed with flavor.

The third course was Pimientos de Gernika. Now, the server who brought this to our table said “Shishito Peppers”… and they are two different kinds of peppers, so… I am not sure if we were being served fried gernika peppers or fried shishito peppers… From my research, gernika peppers are always sweet, without heat, and with tougher skin. The shishito peppers that are popular in Japan has thin walls. They have mild heat with a little sweetness. It is said that one our of ten shishito peppers are really spicy, and I tell you, the one I ate off the plate was really spicy! So, I am guessing they were shishito peppers??? I am still confused, but either way, they were a tasty side dish or appetizer. Had simple seasoning of salt, and tasty. But then, I was a bit disappointed that this “side dish” was one of the course dinner item instead of being a side dish to go with a main dish.

Next up was Mondatio Tutera, with warm grain of artichoke, jamón, and roncal cheese on baguette. This one had a nice crunchy baguette all around. It was again on the salty side, which was seemed like their theme of the dinner so far. It was certainly tasty and had nice thick texture from artichoke. The combination of jamón and roncal cheese was quite tasty.

The fifth course was beautiful, it took my breath away for a second. It was Pulpo de Roca, which is carpaccio of imported Spanish octopus, espelette pepper, and basque olive oil. We shared this plate among four people, so we didn’t get to have too much. The octopus was sliced paper-thin, without losing its texture. It was tender and soft, not chewy at all which was awesome. Simple yet great flavor. It was so addictive, I wish if I could’ve had the plateful for myself!

The next item was very interesting. Gulas del Monte, which i a king oyster mushroom mock elvers with sizzling garlic oil and porcini pil pil. We learned some history on the back-story of this dish from Chef Alex. She told us that way back when, the Angulas (baby eels), also known as elvers were a traditional Basque dish. The delicate elvers are very expensive, and some started to look for an alternative. They started to use Japanese “surimi” as a substitute, and are called “gulas. ” Here are Txikito, they went even further, adding another twist to this dish. Instead of using elvers or surimi, they used king oyster mushroom, shredding them thin to mimic the elvers. How clever! And it was super delicious… It was like a firm noodle, and had a little kick to it from the spice. Really nicely done!

The lucky number seven was Bakalo Andra Mari with olive oil poached dayboat cod with 3 basque sauces. The black one was squid ink sauce, the red one was salsa, and the last one was pisto, which is a Spain’s version of ratatouille. We shared this dish between two people, so we all got really small portion. All the sauces went well with the cod, complimenting the flavor of the fish, The cod was plump and cooked to perfection.

The next one was Pochas, which is braised white beans with mussels, white wine, and parsley. They use the imported Basque white beans, and they have nice creaminess and dense skin. They are picked during mid-season before they are dried out, therefore they have semi-green hue. This beans are usually served with quail and red sauce, but they added another twist here again. To reflect on the freshness of the beans, they kept the seasoning simple with just the olive oil and parsley, and the juice from the mussels. We shared this dish among four people, so we each got one mussel with beans. It was nice and comforting, beans were soft without being mushy, and the mussel was not fishy but plump.

The last savory course was Cochinillo, which is a suckling pig served crispy with frisée salad and tximitxurri sauce. We shared this among the four of us. It was a small piece to be shared among so many people, but we had a nice taste of it.

The piece was ribs, with mostly bones. After removing the meat off the top of the bones, it was not easy to get the rest of the meat that are left around the bone. But we kept picking at them and did a good job getting as much meat off it as possible.

The small amount of the meat that we did get, it was quite tasty. The skin was very crispy and the meat was still juicy and tender. It had a strong salty flavor, which was calmed down by the frisée salad. The salad acted as a nice palette cleanser against the rich pig flavor. I wish if I could have had a bit more in order to fully appreciate the dish…

The very last course was the dessert. This was the only individually served dish, and it was Txakoli Poached Pear with almond crumble, olive oil ice cream, and sea salt. It had a cookie crumble on the top, which I believe had some salt. The salty enhanced the sweetness of the ice cream and pear. The pear was very fresh and at the perfect ripeness. The ice cream was velvety and had great flavor. Really delicious!

We had a nice dinner here, I was not stuffed but at a nice point of fullness. Each dish was very tasty and high quality. I liked the uniqueness of the dishes and creativity that came with it. It was not as comfortable, as we were over the edge of the table, and the portion received was small…but we were still happy to attend this event. Chef Alex was great, provided us with loads of interesting information and very personable. If you are looking for Spanish Basque Tapa style restaurant, give this place a try!

For those of  you who are interested in joining this great dining club, Tasting Collective, you can use this link to get a discounted annual rate of $115 (over 30% off the normal $165/year) for the first year: https://tastingcollective.com/?invite_code=JUN4346



Txikito – 240 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

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