Bilbao has been on my bucket list for several years but so far I never made it. That’s why I was happy all the more to discover Jai Alai. The restaurant in Palma offers a fabulous choice of Basque specialities, cooked with fresh produce from the Bay of Biscay and lots of passion for its traditional recipes. The simple yet delicious appetizer set us in the right mood, already. And I was to learn more about the pungency of peppers and how it relates to their color.
Basque cuisine often focusses on only few ingredients of the highest quality, like the macedonia of three tomatoes we chose for a starter. An eye-catching mix of reds with a salty breeze of pieces of anchovy and olive oil, all that it needs for a sensational taste. Or the Bacalao Vizcaina, cod Basque-style in a sauce of dried red peppers with onions and garlic, that had spent many hours simmering on the stove. The dishes warm your heart and soul, maybe the Basque answer to the rough climate of the Atlantic coast.
If you’re not familiar with the Basque menu simply ask Garbiñe. She proudly explains about the different dishes and their preparation. From her I learned how green peppers turn red in time and finally become the small, dry pods that we use for seasoning. We also followed Garbiñe’s recommendation for the Txakoli from the small bodega Doninene. I had never tasted Basque wine before and was surprised how the fresh and dry white wine perfectly matched the food. You can even take a bottle home, Jai Alai offers a small choice of Basque specialities like cheese, wine, salt and canned fish for sale.
Garbiñe Legarreta and chef Sandro Bruni have been a couple for many years. And since the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach Italian-born Sandro soon developed a passion for Basque cuisine. From Bilbao they moved on to Mallorca and eventually opened their own restaurant. By naming it Jai Alai Garbiñe and Sandro not only pay homage to Pelota, the most popular sport of the Basques. “Jai Alai” is also the Basque expression for a happy celebration. What a beautiful way to say “Enjoy!”