Pintxos offers tasty tapas with a Basque flair

a/Student Living by

Three weeks after Christmas, I still had not gotten my girlfriend a gift. In a last-ditch effort, I decided to plan her a romantic night out to an expensive restaurant. As a student, my knowledge of Montreal’s fine dining was limited to O. Noir, ‘that crazy blind place’ I’d been told about in first year. Wanting to actually see my girlfriend of three years during dinner, I perused online restaurant reviews for better options.

A trail of Gazette, Urbanspoon, and OpenTable reviews ultimately led me to Pintxos (pronounced ‘peencho’). Pintxos specializes in pintxos, a Basque take on Spanish tapas. Originally a simple snack, tapas are now known as a menu of small, elaborate plates, on which chefs can display their inventiveness with Spanish and global flavours. The restaurant’s executive chef, Alonso Ortiz, designs food that we, as financial dependents, usually only get to see on Iron Chef.

We went on a Tuesday night after a day of classes, and sat down to a table with a heater and window view. The ambience was dim—romantic, and quiet—not loud enough to mask our vehement sniffling. In a French accent, the waiter recommended to my girlfriend a wine “which the women love.” I, on the other hand, ordered from a disappointing selection of beers.

Pintxos’ menu is an incredible two-page list of dishes with ingredients that you probably have never heard of but that all sound delicious. Every plate had something I’d never tried before. I ended up going with the chef’s choice, which includes three pintxos tasters, one full pinxtos, and one plato—or entrée—for $38. My girlfriend ordered four pinxtos.

Round one of our food arrived quickly. My first dish was the taster plate. On it were smaller portions of the ‘foie gras torchon with onion confit,’ the ‘yellow beet tartar with smoked salmon and feta cheese,’ and the ‘avocado soup with Serrano ham.’ It was exciting to try so many new flavours, but I had to restrain myself from finishing the whole plate in less than 10 seconds.

Next, the waiter brought my full pintxos, the ‘stuffed fig with Serrano ham and mahon cheese.’ The fig was so beautifully arranged with the ham and the cheese that I felt bad eating it so quickly. Despite the portion sizes at Pintxos, and the speed at which you could consume each dish, the food really makes you take the time to think about the textures and the combinations of flavours you are experiencing.

Thankfully, the platos was something more substantial: ‘filet mignon with roasted asparagus and goat cheese.’ Again, the plate was aesthetically breathtaking. The steak was served on top of mashed potatoes, asparagus, and basil, and the goat cheese was slightly melted on top of the steak, gravy dripped around the plate. The filet mignon was perfectly rare, and tasted rich and juicy with the cheese and gravy.

By the end of my platos, I was full, but I couldn’t resist dessert. I ordered clafoutis, a soft, spongy cake with black cherries and powdered sugar. The cake was sweet and creamy, while the cherries provided a sour tinge and thicker texture.

Once the euphoria of dessert was over, I remembered that I was paying for all of this, and the bill was not pretty. The dinner, with drinks and dessert for two people, was well over a hundred dollars.

While certainly expensive, Pintxos was a special occasion, and I recommend it for anyone who has to entertain a date, parents, or classy friends. Order from the wine list and make sure to get a platos, or you might leave hungry. More importantly, eat slowly, and enjoy the food! Otherwise, it’s going to be a quick meal.