The little seaside town of Getaria was torn apart for decades. Not because of two competing football teams, but rather because of its two seafood restaurants. Elkano and Kaia Kaipe originally belonged to the same family, but issues resulted in them being separated and eventually trying to outshine each other with the quality of the food they serve.
Elkano built up a network of the region’s finest fishermen, to ensure that its seafood was so fresh that it did not touch ice before being served, whilst Kaia Kaipe has its own boats and installed huge tanks that keep the fish and shellfish alive until shortly before being served. Whilst the tensions between the family members are now less tangible, the two restaurants still insist on doing their own thing.
The main difference for the guest is the huge variety on offer at Kaia Kaipe, whilst Elkano simply serves what is available that day. This means that Kaia Kaipe allows you to choose products such as spider crab, langoustines, turbot, etc. which are mostly taken out of the tank right before being cooked.
The produce served here is doubtlessly of amazing quality, but there is some inconsistency in the cooking: Michel Bras claims to have been served the finest langoustines in his life at Kaia Kaipe, but we have not been that lucky with overcooked langoustines on a couple of occasions. The direct comparison between both restaurants, however, should be done with their speciality: grilled turbot.
The turbot at Elkano feels like a masterpiece both in terms of sourcing and cooking, seasoned perfectly and given just the right amount of olive oil and vinegar to emulsify the juices. At Kaia Kaipe, the quality is no less impressive, but it feels as if the fish is not cooked quite as carefully as that (although in this case we’re splitting hairs). This is still turbot that makes anything served in three Michelin-starred restaurants around the world look old, but it is not quite as perfect as that served at Elkano.
One aspect in which Kaia Kaipe is clearly in a league of its own is the wine list. Packed with great bottles from all over Europe, this alone is reason enough to come here for a meal.
Kaia Kaipe is a restaurant that offers remarkably high-level cooking. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything of this quality anywhere else in the world. In that respect, the rivalry between Getaria’s two fish restaurants might simply benefit the guest.