Going Coastal

Ariel Cheung | May 21, 2018 | Feature Features National

West Town is awash in flavors of the Basque and Bordeaux regions, as Bar Biscay deliciously drops anchor.
Whole prawns get paired with bright apple balsamic and avocado ($16) at the newly opened Bar Biscay.

It’s hard not to believe in serendipity when it comes to Bar Biscay. Consider the cosmic machinations it took for a series of staffing switch-ups to result in owners Joe Campagna (Graham Elliot Bistro), Scott Worsham and Sari Zernich-Worsham (mfk) landing on Johnny Anderes—himself a recent victim of fate after the unexpected shutter of Honey’s in the West Loop—as their executive chef.

But, as luck would have it, crowds have been flocking to the new West Town eatery for a taste of what Anderes has cooked up. There’s lots to love at the brasserie, which “summers in Spain and winters in the French countryside.” Nice places to be.

Central to the concept are pintxos, the oft-skewered Basque small plates. At Bar Biscay, these easy-to-love bites, all $9, range from the craveable gougères—crispy cheese puffs oozing with manchego—to white anchovies tenderly wrapped around asparagus and haricots verts. Ideal for happy hour, they pair seamlessly with crafty cocktails. One particular favorite was the Las Cinco Muertes ($14), an appealing mezcal-focused riff on a sazerac. Thick and sweet, the Wrath of Kalimotxo ($10) is another enjoyable upgrade, this time on a Basque staple, as the amaro, vermouth and angostura bitters mimic cola in the red wine-anchored drink. The diverse wine list offers up gems like the floral, fruity Bodega del Abad mencía ($32 per bottle) and the melon-tinted Lagar de Cervera albariño ($46).

The large plates are equally well executed, with standouts like the supremely tender whole oxtail ($28), an Anderes creation lovingly accented with pine nuts and orange gremolata. Unsurprisingly, the restaurant named for a European gulf excels with seafood, deftly uplifting smoked mackerel ($10) with a light sauce. The whole fluke (market price) is meaty and roasted to perfection, as the crispy skin and the plump, moist fish are supremely paired with a buttery beurre nantais.


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