The new wine, coffee and tapas bar Txikiteo in the Linen District takes the popular phrase "less is more" to new heights with its pared-down menu and rustic Basque fare.
- Lex Nelson
- Walls of windows flood the small Txikiteo space with natural light.
Inside, the small restaurant space is spare, with unfinished concrete floors and an open kitchen directly behind the light wooden bar, giving guests an up-close view of their dishes in progress. Two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows lend the restaurant an indoor-outdoor feel, an impression accentuated on warm nights when the doors are left open, turning the outdoor tables clustered around fire pits on the sidewalk into a true extension of the indoor space. It also serves the dual function of letting sound escape, as the bare-bones space is prone to catching laughter and throwing it from wall to wall.
Txikiteo—pronounced "chee-kee-tay-o," according to a tongue-in-cheek video posted by its sister restaurant The Modern Hotel and Bar—opened the week of Treefort Music Fest, and is now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on the bottom floor of the Watercooler Apartment Building on Idaho Street. Managers Chef David King and Dan Ansotegui split the daily grind, though apart from breakfast the two serve many of the same menu items.
During dinner service, Ansotegui—a Boise restaurant veteran and Basque folk musician who started both the Basque Market and Bar Gernika—presides over a small staff of cooks and servers, who plate up elegant, rustic dishes like braised lamb, serrano ham sandwiches, charcuterie and cheese boards, and simple tapas.
- Lex Nelson
- The charcuterie board is a can't-miss dinner item at Txikiteo.
The dinner-only tapas range in price from $2-$3, and are centered on fresh vegetables, seafood and toasted slices of artisan bread. What you see on the menu is what you get: "sardine, lemon, chive on bread" is just that, although the name fails to capture the crunch of toast, the creamy zing of lemon spread or the oily, briny taste of the skin-on sardine sprinkled with bright green chives. The charcuterie board is another must-have, loaded with thin slices of serrano ham, traditionally-spiced chorizo Soria, mild lomo embuchado (dry-cured pork loin) and earthy smoked goose stagberry salami, as well as crumbling slices of liverwurst with the iron taste of offal but the consistency of good chocolate cake. The board also comes stacked with sweet and salty accoutrements, including pickled cauliflower florets, onions and mushrooms. The standout, though, was a mostarda made from cherries, apricots and figs cooked down in honey, white wine and mustard; its unexpectedly sweet punch was a welcome break for the palate after so many savory bites.
- Lex Nelson
- The two-bean salad packs an herby, brightly-flavored punch.
The bean salad made with two types of beans (white and green), arugula and creamy chevre was a close second in flavor impact with its bright, bold herb notes. Still, in the eyes of its creators the food at Txikiteo likely comes second to its selection of wine, coffee, cider and beer.
The eatery gets its name from the Basque word for an upscale wine-and-tapas pub crawl, so it's no surprise that Txikiteo has a short menu and a long wine list, with most bottles sourced from the Basque country or neighboring regions in France and Spain.
The 2015 Saenz-Olazabal "Gardacho" Garnacha, flown in from the Navarre region of the Basque Country, was a smooth red with lots of legs on the glass and a sharp, light bouquet. It paired well with the earthy cuts of charcuterie, while the 10-year Kopke NV Tawny Port—so sweet it was almost like maple syrup in the glass—was heady with bites of orange-infused chocolate mousse prepared by the pastry chef at The Modern and trucked in to Txikiteo daily.
- Lex Nelson
- The orange-infused chocolate mousse was served topped with candied hazelnuts and creme fraiche.
Smaller versions of big-ticket items like the charcuterie and cheese boards are offered at a discount during the lunch hour ($12 versus $20, with three items instead of five), when additional sandwiches also make an appearance on the menu. In the morning, the restaurant opens at 7 a.m. to cater to Watercooler apartment residents, offering oatmeal and granola as well as truly Basque dishes like chorizo with polenta and egg alongside artisan coffee roasted by Form & Function.
Though restaurants often struggle to be all things to all people, with its variable price points and simple, straightforward dishes, Txikiteo may just succeed at establishing itself as both an in-and-out breakfast spot and an intimate dinner destination. Whether you have $6 or $60, there's now another good place in Boise to spend it.