Txotx is a newly opened pintxos bar in Oslo that tries to introduce the authentic Basque style of cooking and culture of eating. Located in the long, flat, yellow brick building in the backyard next to Schous bryggeri in-between Trondheimsveien and Thorvald Meyers gate – it is well hidden. A hint is to walk through the gates next to the Italian restaurant Trattoria Popolare, into the alley where you might have been before to visit Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri.
To start with the question everyone will be asking themselves – how the hell do I pronounce the name Txotx? Apparently, it’s Cho-ch, if that makes any more sense. Try saying the first letters of the word chocolate twice. Something like that. Maybe the name is supposed to draw attention away from the already difficult word pintxos (you say pin-chos, by the way). Difficult to pronounce restaurant names have become some sort of trademark for Nevzat Arikan, who also holds a stake in Oslo restaurants like Arakataka, Happolati, and the former Ylajali.
Parts of the Team From Nedre Foss Gård
Apparently the restaurant group of Arikan have had this unique venue in their posession for a while. The Txotx pintxos bar project might have fast forwarded as a result of employees that were left without a job after the tragic fire at Nedre Foss Gård last year. At least you still find Mats Vaulen in the kitchen as head chef, and sommelier Jessica Senning as the restaurant manager.
What is a Pintxo?
A pintxo is like the less known little brother of the tapa. A pintxo is a mouthful, or maybe two bites, and each piece is served with a pintxo stick or skewer. These sticks serve two functions: holding the piece of food together and keeping track of your bill. Different looking sticks can signalize varying price levels. Traditional pintxos have ingredients from the Basque country: local ham and cheese, octopus, sardines, anchovies, olives, chilis, Iberico pork, tomatoes, and garlic.
The Authentic Basque-Style
In Basque country, pintxos are bar snacks, usually accompanied by wine, that are enjoyed while you socialize with friends and strangers. There’s a culture of bar hopping and eating a few pintxos at each stop, as well as drinking, and this is the kind of authenticity that the team at Txotx wants to replicate. I guess all Oslo needs now are more pintxos bars! There’s already one at Mathallen, but it’s not open in the evenings.
First Impressions on Opening Day
I never seem to be able to follow my own advice of not visiting a restaurant on the first day of opening. Unfortunately, this was the only chance I had of dropping by in a long while, due to travelling. My first impression was pretty good, though, if not I wouldn’t be sharing this experience. Restaurant manager Jessica introduced me quickly to the concept. There are three main categories to choose from: the cold section of premade pintxos, the warm selection made to order and raciones – bigger portions.
Flavors of the Basque Country
I picked three cold pintxos, one warm and one bigger plate. I asked Jessica for a wine recommendation and she let me taste both a white wine and a natural cider. I loved the latter in particular, which I found out is available at the Norwegian wine monopoly. My favorite bites were the cold, premade ones. A tender octopus with a Basque-style salsa, a red pepper filled with crab and topped with anchovies and a skewer with gildas chilis, olives, and anchovies.
The racione of bonito sofrito was authentic, although personally, I like tuna less cooked. The dominating flavors were of rich tomato juice and garlic, and crispy pork rinds added that crunch you want. My least favorite dish was the Croquetas de Iberico. The inside of pork and potatoes lacked flavor, in my opinion, and had a less appealing texture, while the coating was too thick and dry. Let’s put that on the account of first-day-of-opening area of improvement, though. I wanna go back and live like they do in Basque country again!
What is your best pintxos bar experience? Please share in a comment.