The El Cid neighborhood off the new Cultural Corridor in West Palm Beach just got a whole lot more beautiful and tastier with the opening of Basque at Biba in late March. Serving award winning Spanish tapas and plates out of a food truck no less is something only chef Miguel Angel Rebolledo could pull off with such flair.
Basque is a joint venture between Hotel Biba where it is located in a newly designed courtyard filled with flowers, shaded tables and a private hideaway vibe. Chef Rebolledo, who mastered his culinary skills at Spain’s most famous restaurant, El Bulli, won “Best Taste of Coral Gables” three years in a row, “Best Paella in Miami” two years in a row and “Best Croqueta in Miami” in 2016.
His viral Instagram worthy paellas and Spanish tapas are dished out from a sleek ivory 22-foot mobile kitchen parked out front Hotel Biba on Belvedere Road. Servers glide in and out of the back end of the truck into the restaurant with the expertly plated platters while Chef Miguel dashes from the stove burners into the courtyard to make sure everything is going smoothly.
The full bar offers an innovative, hand-crafted cocktails but really the best thing to drink here is the red, white or rosé sangria. I went for the rose, something I’d never seen. It came iced with a beautiful blush color and filled with sliced strawberries and blueberries. Sparkling and refreshing, this just may be my new favorite spring libation. Some were trying Spain’s Estrella beer of which Basque is the exclusive Palm Beach County purveyor of.
And the food! This is some very confident swaggering cuisine, laden with unusual sauces and pairings that make you stop and savor from start to finish. Spices, nuts, creams and even squid inks infuse the dishes with a rich exotic taste.
I started off with some Boards of mixed Spanish meats of cured hams and sausages made from famous black footed pig, the wooden platters had pickled peppers, olives and cheeses, some with spiced rinds. The “Pan con Tomate” were fresh toasted slices of pan de cristal (glass bread) brushed with fresh tomato, garlic, thyme, evoo lacing the top.
I really loved – and devoured – the dates stuffed with cheese and almonds, wrapped in bacon and charred on the grill. The secret is the charring as it makes for extra crisp bacon and also caramelizes the dates. There was an apple emulsion for dipping but they honestly didn’t need any embellishment.
A cool spinach salad followed with almonds, green apple slices, shallots, raisins and almond butter dressing, an intriguing mix of fruity and nutty and greens.
I tried four different tapas that show a full range from eggs to seafood to meats and potatoes. The Patatas Bravas are fried Kennebec potatoes with aioli and brava sauce drizzled on top which is garlic, chile, paprika and tomatoes, a smoky dense pairing with the taters.
The Croquetas are so good they’ve won awards – these fried orbs contain shredded chicken, kimchi and a traditional aioli (garlic mayo). The Scallops are enormous, some of the largest I’ve seen in restaurants, broiled and nestled in a sauce of butternut squash puree, orange segments and sherry! More bold pairings of fruit and vegetables that only a sure hand can pull off.
Now for the real deals – Paellas. Basque at Biba offers a few. I tried the Vegetable skillet, big enough to feed 3-4 people with Bomba rice – richer and plumper than regular yellow rice – and cauliflower, eggplant, wild mushrooms and herbs. Rich and savory, the chunks of vegetables were a fabulous medley tossed with the sofrito rojo (onions, garlic, tomatoes and olive oil).
The Seafood Paella drew a chorus of oohs and aahs from our table. Made with short cut Spanish noodles instead of rice, this one dish wonder had octopus, calamari, clams in the shell and shrimp, baked with a black squid ink sauce. This is one seriously wholesome paella, with rich deep flavors of the Mediterranean.
Chef Rebolledo brought out a witty desert called “Upps! I Dropped the Ice Cream” – three scoops of housemade delights on a bed of butter cookie mousse and a cracked upside down ice cream sugar cone on top. Ha ha, and yummy, the ice cream flavors of pistachio and cheesecake were delish but the chocolate honey flavor blew my mind. You’d think it would be too sweet and intense but the chocolate had a bittersweet undertaste, while the rich honey brought out its richness. Using the broken cone pieces as a scoop, the fight was on for getting every last meltingly wonderful drop.
During our meal, flamenco guitarist Gyorgy Lakatos played music. He is there every Wednesday and Sunday night, as a great addition to the atmosphere.
Basque at Biba is already a hit with its inspired new cuisine. The restaurant features luxe indoor and outdoor seating, most of which is located in a 4,000 square foot courtyard with a retractable cover, spectacular lighting, beautiful landscaping and custom misters, which cool the space by up to 20 degrees during summer.
Basque is located at the historic Hotel Biba that was built in 1929 and designed by the famous architect Belford Shoumate. The hotel is one of the earliest motor lodges in the United States and a grand example of Bermuda Vernacular architecture, which has earned it the distinction of being included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Intimate ceilings featuring exposed beams, hand-made light fixtures, custom furniture, and restored original Terrazzo floors create Basque’s warm and inviting setting. This inspiring restaurant sets the bar high and hurdles it with ease.
Basque at Biba —320 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33401.— serves dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Brunch on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is also available for private parties and weddings and provides complimentary valet parking. For more information please visit eatdrinkbasque.com or follow @eatdrinkbasque.
Basque at Biba, a Swaggering Spanish Restaurant