Euskalduna Studio

Euskalduna-26I usually don’t write about, or visit, new or recently open restaurants, both for thinking many of the spaces are still in a defining phase, or for thinking flaws are many times forgivable, or simply because the Internet is already full of posts that live of the new, the trendy or the instant. But there are exceptions to the rule and this is a different restaurant to every level, so the will to write about it came easily.

I first tasted Vasco Coelho Santos cuisine in 2014, there were highs and lows, with some dishes better than others, but the highlight of that night was his creativity, his technique and his respect for the products.

Well, almost 3 years have passed, a few dozens of private dinners, many mistakes, and experiences, a successful “chicken house” – BaixóPito -, several trips around the world… Et voilà! The Euskalduna Studio was born; fruit of that boldness and creative need Vasco always demonstrated. A restaurant against the current, starting by its location, in a not so beloved area of Porto’s downtown, a small room with an intimate ambiance, with a little heat from the use of wood, balancing with the use of the iron and stone. Just two tables and a long counter, working like orchestra chairs in a theater play, in which the team, instead of a Kabuki play (a type of Japanese theater) presents us an Omakase menu, where the guests join the adventure of tasting the best from what the producers have to deliver each day.

Euskalduna-25If on one hand the food concept and decoration are Japanese inspired, the name comes from a pun with Vasco and the Basque country, “Euskalduna” in the Basque language. A region which influenced him a lot, both at a technical level and the composition of the dishes, due to his passage through the El Bulli, Mugaritz and Arzak.

Off with the history, on to the visit, on the 2nd day of the soft opening, mixing the tension of the opening with the demanding crowd visiting that night, among which several chefs, one of them with a Michelin star, international gastronomers and old friends – if it were me, my hands would’ve shaken much more than his, and his team’s, did.

Euskalduna-23The idea is to enter the restaurant and get carried away, like in a theater play, by the arguments (in this case around 10 moments) proposed by the chef, without restrictions (so the anti-gluten brigade can always check over your restrictions with the team while making your reservation). It’s true I like to know what I’m about to eat and chose my food, but sometimes it’s important to step outside the box and put ourselves in the hands of someone wanting to please us and satisfy us.

Euskalduna-2Edgar Alendouro – the sommelier with a Quinta das Bágeiras Super Reserva 2013

Seating at the counter, where the experience promises to be more captivating, we started the show with a toast of Quinta das Bágeiras Super Reserva 2013, one of the greatest sparklings from Bairrada, made by one of our best vignerons – Mário Sérgio – who with a blend of Maria Gomes and Bical produces a wine with identity, austere and citric, revealing an interesting body in the mouth and a freshness that allows it to accompany nicely the snacks to follow.

To start, an interesting and great version of the classic Bolinho de Bacalhau (codfish cake) – with a crunchy cape and a creamy and delicate interior.

Euskalduna-5Crab, pork tail
Followed the crab, in a great cream and the white meat from the paws, accompanied by a peculiar pork tail. If separately all the elements worked well, in the mix, the intensity of the overly toasted pork tail crunch overlapped the sweetness and subtlety of the crustacean.

Euskalduna-6Lamb tongue, hollandaise sauce, pea flower
Vasco must have some special attraction for tongues, which he always cooks with masterly, I must say. Great texture, simple flavor elevated by the sauce (that could’ve been even more intense) and the truffle, despite not in its best shape.

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Euskalduna-8Garlic and Parmesan
If the tongue may shock most of the guests, the garlic won’t fall behind. A clove cooked at low temperature, posteriorly nixtamalized (a cooking process in an alkaline solution of lime), finished with parmesan cheese. A garlic with crunchy cape and creamy interior, nice game of flavors, with a wow factor.

On the glass, was a Madeira Sercial 10 years, from Barbeito, which minerality, dried fruits, and resinous notes brought great freshness and accommodated very well with the intensity left in our mouth by the garlic and cheese.

Euskalduna-9Sea urchinParmesan tile and monks cress 
Reading the name of the dish is the same as reading umami bomb, and that’s what we got, a great snack in which even the combination of the cheese with the seafood worked.

Euskalduna-10Soup of the day – 70º egg, herbs, seaweed, beetroot and vegetable broth 
Excellent egg, cooked at low temperature and cured in sugar, nicely paired with a selection of herbs and seaweed. The beetroot brought earth notes that gave some heat and structure to the dish, but the clear broth was missing some more intensity and flavor.

Harmonizing was a young Pormenor 2015, a white from Douro, promising a lot to those who save it for some time, with a vibrant acidity, still very energic, not overlapping the delicate dishes it accompanied.

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Euskalduna-11Mackerel, Cucumber, and Gin
This is another dish the young chef has been developing since he started his project of private dinners and it showed a great level. Excellent technical rigor, the flavor of the fish and the combination of its greasiness and fat with the freshness and acidity of the gin and the cucumber. A great dish!

To go with, nothing less than a gin sour, prepared with the use of the siphon, presenting the same foam we found on the plate. Very good!

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Euskalduna-12Prawn from Algarve, curry powder, mango salad, scarlet shrimp cream 
This was the highlight of the evening! The prawns were delicate, sweet, had the right texture, very well paired with the cream made with the scarlet shrimp heads (I wonder where the bodies went to), a fresh and slightly spicy mango salad, and an iced curry powder made in the pacojet.

A great dish, where everything is in balance and makes sense, including the turmeric tea (Indian saffron), with sweet and warm notes (despite a bit cold); helping to clean the stronger and striking notes of the curry.

Euskalduna-15TMonkfish, chicken giblets sauce and turnips 
If the chicken giblets weren’t too much in relation to the fish, the dish would’ve been superb. Once the fish dose –  perfectly cooked – was small, the sauce and the intensity of the giblets took the reins of the dish.

As to the wine, the sommelier may have read my thougts and brought a wine I love, but rarely find, the Encruzado Munda 2008, a wine going through a great phase, slightly oxidated, with a nice structure and all the elements in the right places, a wine that went very well with the dish.

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Euskalduna-17Mindinha” Rib and Pineapple
One of my favorite cuts, being from Trás-os-Montes, and so many times despised, here very well treated with the low-temperature cooking, missing just a bit more caramelization on the outside. High score to the sweet roasted pineapple mille feuille – a nice pickle would’ve also help elevate the dish.

There was time also to clean our palate with the bread, developed by the team with the help of the master Mário Blanco Peres, which while not yet tuned, let’s out the aromas of the sourdough that will make this bread one of the moments of the menu in the future.

With the meat, we drank a Douro wine, Campo Ardosa 2009, with notes of the typical herbs of the region, controlled fruit, and good structure and ending.

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Euskalduna-19Apple
The pre-dessert brings fruit and freshness, in a combo of several textures of green apple, that served well its purpose of cleaning the palate.

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Euskalduna-22French toastGorgonzola Ice cream
The ending presents itself in a simple way, of modest aspect, but don’t be fooled, this French toast, cooked the Basque way, is astonishing, from the flavor to the texture game, and its good relationship with the ice cream. A beautiful homage to the region that so greatly influenced the chef, resulting in a great ending to this meal!

And for a toast, a delicious white Kopke 10 years, an aromatic wine, with balanced wood and intense, resulting nicely with the dessert and the conversation between guests and the team in the end of the “play”.

EuskaldunaIt’s also important to highlight the overwhelming crockery used to present the dishes, particularly the pieces designed exclusively to the Euskalduna, in black clay from Molelos.

Final Remarks 
Euskalduna is one of those restaurants where you don’t go to eat, but to have an experience, a “gastronomic staging” that ends with the satisfaction of our taste buds and senses. It’s a conceptual space that tears apart the city’s habits and promises the guests several sensations, of discovery, of discomfort, of ecstasy, it’s a game of highs and lows, where the texture game shines – due to his passion and inspiration for Mugariz – and the respect for an excellent raw material.

A space that despite the obvious mistakes I referred, must remain faithful to its irreverent spirit, assuming the risks of the almost daily creation of a menu. It’s up to the guest to learn and accept the highs and lows as moments and acts of a good theater play because in the end the smile and the will to applaud won’t escape.

To put on your bucket list! A future case of success of Porto and Portugal!

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Euskalduna Studio
Menus from 70€ (without beverages)
Rua de Santo Ildefonso, nº404 – Porto
00351 935 335 301

Versão Portuguesa

 Photos:Flavors & Senses

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  • By Euskalduna on January 23, 2017 at 5:00 pm

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