Hubster is a big fan of Spanish tapas and one of the more traditional tapas restaurant we have gone to is Zarzuela in Russian Hill which we both really enjoyed. Aatxe is a newer place with a very Bay area take on Spanish tapas and Basque cuisine in general. With a location off Market St. near the corridor to Castro, this restaurant definitely has more of a nightlife vibe than Zarzuela‘s cozy family-owned feel. A reasonable-sized bar with healthy looking wall of hard liquor greets diners as they enter the place. I believe they are also known for their wide variety of gin which parlays into a creative selection of cocktails making this as much a diner’s destination as a drinker’s.
We started with a Pinxto Flight (mainly because we couldn’t narrow down our choices from this section of the menu). For $15.50, we got all 5 small bites, starting from the top and moving clockwise with Fried oyster topped with Iberico XO & squash, Pan con tomate y lardo, Pintxo gilda (which is a pepper, olive and anchovy skewer), Salt cod, egg & roasted pepper, and Mushroom & nettle croqueta. They were all quite delicious. I especially liked the Fried oyster and Salt cod, egg and roasted pepper bites the best.
These bites of octopus were tossed with persimmon, root vegetables sliced ever so thinly, green onions and olive oil for a nice refreshing salad-like dish. The octopus was cooked perfectly.
From the Conserva section, we ordered the Mussel Escabeche. Seeing as these are the “preserved” dishes, it was a mini mason jar filled with mussels in smoky red olive-oil based sauce mixed with onions and garlic. An escabeche usually means that the dish is marinaded in a acidic, vinegar-based mixture, but the taste didn’t have that preserved taste. It was delicious and had such an interesting depth of flavor. Hubster used every bit of bread they served us to soak up the sauce and down the last mussel. This was probably one of his favorite dishes.
The Trumpet mushrooms were grilled and served with sliced delicata squash, potato migas and cheese fondue on the side. The fondue was a bit cheesy, but it probably wasn’t as necessary to the dish because the mushrooms were so succulent and the migas added a nice crispy texture.
Gambas al Ajillo is as classic as you can get when it comes to Spanish tapas and this was essentially the same. Shrimps were tender and juicy with the classic garlic laced sauciness and a slight spicy kick.
The Salt Cod Buñuelo were surprisingly light considering they were deep-fried. The savory salt cod filling was tasty and I particularly like the garlic aioli as it complemented these fishy donuts quite nicely.
The flan was fine. I’m not the biggest fan of this egg custard dessert, but Hubster quite enjoyed it and felt it made for a perfect end to a delicious meal.
All in all, I really enjoyed the food. The portions are pretty small for each dish, so you inevitably have to order quite a few to feel full. We probably ordered just the right amount, but I didn’t get a chance to try the paella which is a usual must for me at an Spanish restaurant. Needless to say, that would have been excessive. However, it really felt like authentically conceptualized Spanish food using Northern California ingredients in all its fresh,”farm-to-table” glory. The place is really perfect for a big group looking for delicious food, plenty to drink and a grand ole time.
2174 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94114
PAFO Ratings for Aaxte:
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 4 stars