A Taste of Spain in the Heart of Broadway in San Francisco

Meat madness at Txoko.

Txoko restaurant, which opened this summer on San Francisco’s colorful Broadway, is all about the meat.

In fact, the restaurant, named for a traditional members-only Basque gastronomical society, serves up a menu of Spanish-inspired small plates — with only one “big plate.”

And that is a Flintstone-sized “Painted Hills Bone-In Rib Eye Steak for Two.” Two? Seriously, this could easily feed four. Though, my server told me on the night I had been invited in as a guest of the restaurant that she has seen two people actually clean the plate.

We’re talking a splay of meat slices on a platter that is essentially prime rib cut as a steak. It’s incredibly juicy, beefy, and rich as butter.

It’s a he-man portion. But wait — there’s more. The “big plate” also comes with two side dishes, each holding thick slabs of potatoes cooked in butter, of course, as well as heirloom tomatoes, and shishito peppers — ringed by a vibrant chimichurri sauce.

I’m not even a major carnivore, but even I was blown away by how magnificent this steak was. It’s $65, which is a pretty good deal compared to traditional steakhouses elsewhere.

It takes 45 minutes to cook this behemoth over mesquite — time enough to admire or blanch at the quirky decor of what was once the legendary Enrico’s restaurant.

Quite a few have balked at the funky vibe of this place. But considering it’s surrounded by strip joints, can one really complain too much?

The whimsical, slightly twisted mural.

Tables with the flimsy napkins in dispensers.

I kind of liked the eccentricity of this dimly lit place that has a huge bar, bare dark tables, enormous wheel-like steel light fixtures, and a crazy mural by North Beach artist Jeremy Fish that depicts cartoon animals feasting on, um, animals. Yes, nothing like a little cannibalism to whet the appetite, hey?

The tables are adorned with glass canning jars of silverware and — my one big quibble with the place — diner-style metal dispensers that hold the flimsiest paper napkins ever. Seriously, I can get heftier napkins at the local movie theater.

But napkins and interior aside, it’s the food that will make the real lasting impression. Chef Ian Begg, formerly of San Francisco’s Cafe Majestic, definitely knows his stuff.

Shrimp with a Green-Goddess-like basil panna cotta.

From the “small bites” section of the menu (items that serve one), we each started with a small coffee cup filled with Oregon pink shrimp atop a silky panna cotta suffused with intense basil ($3 each). The heat of roasted peppers cut the richness beautifully.

Classic oysters on the half shell that can be ordered by the piece.

Next, Beausoleil oysters, which can be ordered by the piece, served with a zesty lime mignonette.

Next, on to small plates, which are definitely substantial enough to share. Thick slices of green tomatoes were fried in a light, lacy tempura batter ($10) and stacked on a plate with a tangle of fennel, black olive tapenade, ricotta and smoked tomato vinaigrette. It was soft and crunchy, salty, acidic and fruity.

A modern spin on fried green tomatoes.

Braised pork belly. Oh, yeah.

Braised Kurobuta pork belly ($12) was juicy and tender as it gets, with butter beans, gypsy peppers, shishitos and a sweet onion puree that caressed everything it touched.

Then, the only main course on the menu.

You get two plates of these veggies along with all that beef. Oh my!

Owner Ryan Maxey explained that he and Begg were inspired by their time visiting pintxos bars in San Sebastian, which typically serve small plates and only one big plate — usually a massive bone-in rib eye.

Truth be told, we took most of ours home.

Of course, we couldn’t pass up dessert. Befitting its character, Txoko offers some rather unusual ones, including foie gras ice cream with roasted figs ($8).

We stayed with tradition, splitting a gateau Basque ($8). A dense, cookie-like, buttery cake, it’s filled with housemade strawberry jam and served with a dollop of Straus yogurt sorbet.

A lovely gateau Basque.

It’s like a pastry perfect for breakfast. Alas, we couldn’t help but devour ours entirely that night, though.

But as you can imagine, we still had plenty of leftover rib eye. It made for a fine breakfast with eggs the next day, too.

More Meaty Places: Alexander’s Steakhouse

And: Bourbon Steak

And: LarkCreekSteak

And: Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

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Date: Wednesday, 28. September 2011 5:25
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, General, Meat

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14 comments

  1. 1

    A lovely restaurant. The food must have been wonderful.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. 2

    That is some pretty nice food. I love the Wolfgang puck restaurants. The more gourmet the better. Nice art. My favorite restaurant in Jackson is Merry Piglets, and the walls are filled with tourist pigs doing things around Jackson. Good Mexican.

  3. 3

    Wow! The food all looks pretty great, lucky you! And what a nice restaurant!

  4. 4

    That looks like the cote du boeuf we had in Paris, except the hubby ate most of it….which didn’t agree so well with his digestion. ;)

  5. 5

    If there’s one cuisine I don’t eat enough, it’s spanish food…I’ll have to check this place out the next time I’m in SF!

  6. 6

    My hubby would love all the meal… I think I would enjoy the small plates most. The animals seem fun!

  7. 7

    Did Meat Boy eat most of the meat or did he finally meet his challenge? ;-) Some of the small plates look pretty big too.

  8. 8

    Oh, boy! I would be feasting on this lineup of delicious looking meat, Carolyn! For some reason, my eyes get drawn back and forth to that beautiful oyster! :) Nice post!

  9. 9

    Ben: Nope, even Meat Boy could not finish that big ol’ hunk of rib eye. Imagine that! ;)

  10. 10

    Could I book in a table for two here please? It sounds delicious! And it must have been big if Meat Boy couldn’t finish it! :P

  11. 11

    That looks like a great, fun place to dine and I guess you’d never leave there hungry.

  12. 12

    This sounds like a must-try for me, now I just to find someone to go with.

  13. 13

    I have not tried Txoko yet, we’re on the lazy side and with good restaurants close to home, can be a bit opportunistic. However, this sounds like its worthy of a trip. That area of NB doesn’t bother me, and it definitely has its own vibe. Come for the food, stay for the atmosphere.

  14. 14

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