February 3, 2010
After a week of sometimes interesting, sometimes excellent, but relentlessly extreme and excessively cerebral eating in restaurants in San Sebastián and Bilbao, I crossed back into France craving honest food—just good, fresh, seasonal food cooked by someone who likes to make other people happy with a meal. I was about to head inland to an old Basque auberge when I suddenly remembered Arrantzaleak in Ciboure, a wonderful seaside shack, and open on Sunday.
I tried to call for a reservation, but the phone was constantly busy, and getting there wasn't easy—I got lost again and again en route. But by merciful accident I finally arrived, there was a free table, and bashful chef Ramuntxo Courde took the order himself. I settled in over some locally fished, hot grilled shrimp served on a piece of slate, accompanied by a Domaine Brana Irouléguy Rosé, and suddenly all was well with the world. The sun cut through the clouds, and a pair of swans appeared on the Ciboure River just as the main course arrived—Basque style louvine (sea bass), grilled on a wood fire and sprinkled with garlic chips, chopped parsley and white wine vinegar. It was the most delicious meal I had had in a week, and I'll never forget the address or how to get there again.
18 ave Jean-Poulou, Ciboure, 05.59.47.10.75. Prix-fixe menu €33 per person without wine
Originally published in the April 2008 issue of France Today
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