The Best Potato Omelettes in Bilbao
22 May, 2017
The world’s pintxo capital (referring to what trendies would call “finger food”, which has been around in the Basque Country since time immemorial) also boasts some outstanding tortillas de patata or potato omelettes. And, speaking of omelettes, we ought to clarify certain points before moving on to locations. Firstly, a great potato omelette should reach the table with the egg slightly moist. Any other option is an aberration which no omelette connoisseur would approve of. But, take note – I said “slightly moist”; not liquid, but set. There is nothing worse than an omelette with runny egg drizzling all over the plate. You do get them, and we have even been served the occasional one in establishments allegedly renowned for their omelettes.
Let’s proceed – with onion included, please. The secret of the perfect omelette is the balance of flavours between the egg, onion and potato. And, if we remove one of the vertices of the triangle, the creature will be bereft of that sweetish touch provided by ripe onion. That does not mean further ingredients are not welcome, but they should be added judiciously, without them stealing the show. Or that there shouldn’t be any exceptions either - we all know that the omelette world is impregnable.
Lastly, the perfect omelette should always be golden brown on the outside, without being burnt – there is nothing more awful than the taste of singed egg. The texture should be pliant, mellow, well-set, and the potato soft and smooth; well cooked but without being dry or pasty, or hard and crisp either.
Another factor to be considered when talking about the potato omelette phenomenon is what time of day to eat it. The answer is unquestionable, and only narrow-minded folk would say otherwise – at any time of day. And, when I say at any time, I mean for elevenses, afternoon tea, for lunch or dinner, as a snack, when you get back from a party in the wee hours, but also – and here is the clincher – for breakfast. At 8 in the morning. With the marks left by the bedsheets still fresh on your face. Accompanied by a nice milk coffee. The Basques are well aware of this. Indeed there are also so many other things those of us from other Spanish autonomous communities need to learn from them. We unfortunately aren’t that adroit at bold, early-morning pairings.
So, after this long, hard reflection on the perfect omelette and having eaten some and consulted with Eneko Sukaldari, one of the leading experts on potato omelettes on the planet, we went in search of the finest in Bilbao. Let the discussion commence…
Brass 27. That an establishment with a hipster calling, acclaimed for its superb brunches, should make what is likely the best omelette in town is a sign that times are changing. Even for Bilbao. While the long-standing classics are shutting shop, others are opening. (This is a subject apart – the havoc wrought by the crisis on something as hallowed as the potato omelette.) And, they show the world that serving up a fine omelette is not necessarily at odds with a chic-industrial-vintage aesthetic. The Brass 27 variety is mellow and balanced, with a perfect creaminess. Interestingly, it rubs shoulders on a fusion cuisine menu with dishes of South American and Asian inspiration, like Pad Thai with prawns. Gee… it’s the 21st century!
Swansea. Located near the San Mamés stadium and thus frequented largely by a football crowd, this commonplace establishment in the best sense of the word boasts one of the best omelettes in Bilbao. What makes it so special? Let’s dispense with superfluous detail – if we took a mugshot of the perfect potato omelette, the resulting picture would be that of the Swansea omelette. It oozes prowess – the egg is done to a tee (not apt for lovers of well-cooked food or compact omelettes), the outside is an exquisite golden brown and the sole accompaniment is a piece of bread. Wicked! Rodríguez Arias Kalea, 70
La Ribera Bilbao. Delightful venue with a sophisticated industrial look, housed in La Ribera market, with lovely views of the estuary. Here you can taste some grand omelettes while listening to live jazz; pair them with cocktails, include them in a brunch and savour that fantastic goldie touch, their perfect balance, powerful flavour and smooth, mellow, ideal consistency, the stuff of our dreams for some time to come.
Salón de Juego Concha 1. There are many reasons to love Bilbao, and one of them is that among the best omelette venues in town – a centre of pilgrimage for gourmets and epicures from the world over – is located in a gaming saloon. The hangout on Calle General Concha has long featured a fabulous omelette – tender, delicious and with perfect flavour and consistency. A round of roulette after the tuck-in… the ideal finishing touch to a perfect evening!
Brace yourself before venturing into the wonderful world of Bilbao’s potato omelettes – book your Vueling to the city here.
By Laura Conde of Gastronomistas.com
All photos courtesy of Eneko Sukaldari
22 May, 2017