The Vegetarian Option: Basque Tapas at Euzkadi
My friend Eva is from Barcelona, so when I was looking for recommendations for tapas she was the first person I asked. After some thought she came back with one suggestion: Euzkadi. The word "Euzkadi" refers to the Basque country, the small region in the north of Spain with its own community, its own traditions, and its own language. The restaurant Euzkadi features a wide variety of tapas, most of them familiar to anyone who has eaten these small plates before, as well as a selection of Spanish wines. After how the food will taste, there are two big questions for diners at a tapas restaurant, vegetarian or otherwise: "How much will I have to spend?" and "Will I be full after eating?" At Eva's suggestion we each ordered a glass of txakoli, the sparkling Basque white wine that is the traditional accompaniment to tapas, and tried to answer those questions.
We started with the most familiar dish to me, patatas bravas ($8.95): chunks of fried potatoes drizzled with a spicy aioli. Although Eva wasn't a fan, I was actually impressed by this dish. The aioli was actually spicy, and the creamy texture made a nice match for the crisp potatoes. Best of all, the plate was huge, making it perfect for sharing throughout the meal.
Guiso de alubias and garbanzos ($8.95) was a pleasant surprise. This was a stew of mushrooms with two types of beans—creamy white beans (the alubias) and firmer chickpeas—with tomato confit and strips of sweet roasted peppers. There was a pleasing herbal quality to the dish that I couldn't quite put my finger on that elevated it a step beyond the ordinary.
The favorite vegetarian dish of the night was unquestionably the bombas de queso de cabra ($7.95). Rounds of goat cheese were rolled in fine breadcrumbs and deep-fried until just crisp on the outside, then drizzled with honey. The crunchy crust gives way to a creamy interior, and the sweetness of the honey was the perfect match for the salty, tangy goat cheese.
Less successful was the espinacas a la Navarra ($7.95). It wasn't a bad dish—the spinach was sautéed with garlic and pine nuts, and it was only just barely cooked so it still retained some texture. The problem here was the raisins, which failed to make their presence known. The touch of sweetness they should have lent to the dish would have made this something special.
So we return to those two questions we considered at the beginning of the meal. How much will you have to pay? For less than $40, we ordered enough food for two people (full disclosure: there were three of us, and I was the only vegetarian, so the others ordered a few more tapas for themselves). Will you be full? Absolutely, the portions of these particular tapas were not at all stingy. And most important of all, they were all good.
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian.