Kaiku : Saint Jean de Luz, France
There’s just something about France, isn’t there?
Even that one-star Michelin category is given a makeover and a bit of fresh air on the French side of Basque Country. Tedious foams and displays of chefly muscle become daintier, more delicate, and (dare I wager) tastier.
Of all the one-star Michelin restaurants in a 100-mile-radius of San Sebastián, Le Kaiku (Saint-Jean-de-Luz) is in my top three.
That position was in no way influenced by the fact that a gorgeous summer evening spent strolling the promenade of La Gran Plage is hard to beat, nor the fact that the French really know how to do the aperitif, down to the glasses they choose to present their miserly pours of alcohol.
No, I loved Kaiku because of the delicate hand with which chef Nicolas Borombo directs and dresses all his dishes. There are surprising ingredient combinations (txakoli, black garlic, green asparagus) and variations in texture that are infinitely imaginative (lime blancmange with pea glacé).
The best way to “do” Kaiku is to go in a small group and order one of everything. Seriously—the tasting menu is grand and well priced (€78), but leaves off some of my favorite dishes in favor of glamorous Les Landes foie gras, juicy langoustines, and line-caught hake. It’s a shame to miss the faux risotto that often appears on the menu, or the razor clams, or even the octopus, grilled and served with pork sausage and that lovely Basque vinaigrette, xipister.
As befitting any grand restaurant in France, the wine list is both extensive and varied. We were happy with a mid-priced, achingly pale rosé from the Rhône Valley.
Desserts change often, but they always have that French je ne sais quoi about them. Except je si sais…it’s classic technique and backbreaking attention to shapes, textures, proportions and, in this case, gold flakes.
A few pro tips:
Kaiku is located in the oldest building in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, so apart from getting ready for major vibes, if you go on a dog day of summer you may find yourself a bit sweaty (no A/C).
Kaiku offers a midday lunch menu at only €38. It’s an amazing deal for those who are on a tighter budget or simply want to experience another starred meal without breaking the bank.
17 Rue de la Republique
Saint-Jean-De-Luz, France 64500
+33 559 261 320