walking on 9th Ave. in Chelsea, it’s easy to sail right past an adorable little wine and tapas bar and never know what charm and culinary delights lay tucked inside.

and i’m pretty sure i’ve done that numerous times to Txikito before finally going there for dinner last week.

tell me: how would you pronounce this word? because honestly, i had no idea, until i went to the website and saw it spelled right out for me:  Chic-Kee-Toe.

and after a little research, i discovered that “txikito” means a small glass of rosé (wine), while a “txikiteo” is a tapas crawl from bar to bar around Spain. two things that entice me greatly.

and living up to its namesake, this quaint little tapas & wine bar definitely was charming.

Photograph by Laura Salierno

the Basque-style restaurant claims to be “the only place in New York offering a current expression of this austere but sensual approach to cooking,” and to be perfectly honest, i went into this dining experience without a clue as to what “Basque” suggests. if you say “wine & tapas,” i’m there. we can discuss specifics later.

Basque: a region that is located around the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north-central Spain and south-western France. (Wikipedia is my best friend.) so essentially, the dishes contain both Spanish & French influences, and include a great deal of seafood, meats, & vegetables (of which I’m 2 for 3.)

the space was very intimate and inviting, and i felt like i was walking into an earthy wooden box of a cave, tucked safely away from the bustle of the city. the soft lighting and sparse, unencumbered details gave it a very romantic, elemental feel, and now that i’ve read a little bit about Basque cuisine, the atmosphere definitely seems consistent with the simplicity and elegance of the food.

we chose four tapas, all seafood dishes, 3 of which i took pictures (please excuse the fabulous camera phone photography, as usual). i didn’t think the mini tuna sandwich warranted a pic, but the other three were quite remarkable and unique. 

Pulpo: octopus carpaccio; lemon oil; marjoram; Piment d’espelette

 Txipiron “Encebollado”: squid ribbons a la plantxa w/ sweet onion and pine nuts

 

Pil Pil: legendary Basque salt cod, poached in olive oil

they were all really good. i’m partial to seafood as a rule, and these tapas did not disappoint (even if my pictures don’t do them any justice and probably make them look disgusting). the cod was probably my favorite, even though it was a bit saltier than i’d have prefered (“salted cod,” hello), but i enjoyed all three. the best seafood i’ve ever had? no way. but tasty all the same.

the best part was, i left satisified but not grossly full, which is key. oh, and the glass of rosé i ordered (without even knowing that this wine was the restaurant’s name piece…i’m just on a dry rosé kick lately) was really great. the waitress described it as “tasting like summer,” and it was a dryer, sparkly sort of French rose, served in a traditional drinking glass rather than a wine glass. i’m guessing this is all part of the Basque culture as well, and it made the whole experience that much more uniquely memorable.

verdict: definitely a cute, quaint little tapas bar with a unique niche and an intimate feel. i’d say it’s probably not the best for a big group, but perfect for a date or small-group-of-friends setting. the service was great, the food was inventive and enjoyable, and the sweet atmosphere was ideal for a quiet, understated evening out. i wouldn’t say it’s one of my fave restaurants i’ve been to in the city, but i dug the experience they created. overall, a nice time.

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