To her credit, the great tapas master of Chelsea, Alex Raij, doesn’t seem to care what the lordly mandarins at Michelin think. She and husband Eder Montero’s restaurant, Txikito (Raij was the chef at the excellent neighborhood tapas joint Tía Pol), isn’t built for grandeur. It’s built, like a sturdy fishing boat, for surviving in rough weather, over the long haul. The walls of the snug little room are clad with faded old clapboard, and the little gray chairs are made with what looks like recycled plastic. The menu of exotically spelled Basque finger snacks and drinking foods (the restaurant’s name means little in Euskara, and is pronounced “chick–KEE–toe”) is impressively diverse without being overstuffed. It’s also informative (did you know the Basque name for pig trotters and tripe was “txarripatak”?) and fairly modestly priced, provided you don’t order fourteen things at once and many glasses of good, inky Tempranillo, like I did.
I liked the tuna sandwich (atún), the salty, fatty lamb chops (chuletillas), the crispy little bundles of blood sausage (morcilla), and the cool little blocks of foie gras drizzled with a violet gelée (foie mi-cuit). Some of the more exotic Basque dishes promise more than they deliver, among them my eagerly anticipated, though wet and rubbery, pork trotters, and an over-salted helping of squid in ink. But you can wash away these mild moments of unpleasantness with sips of many interesting Spanish wines (try the sweet, sangria-like Basque Zurracapote), and if you visit on Wednesday nights, the kitchen serves a giant rib-eye, which will provide you and your family with enough protein for several weeks. The desserts are designed with a similar heft in mind, particularly the puffy muscatel cake, which is cut in thick, country-size wedges and hoisted to the table with a Michelin-approved dollop of crème fraîche on top.Note
The “El Doble” burger, served at lunch, is one of the better new burgers in town.Ideal Meal
Foie mi-cuit, morcilla, lamb chops, arugula salad, muscatel cake.
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