The Basque Country has a gastronomic culture more alive and vivid than pretty much any other part of Europe. Whilst avant-garde restaurants such as Mugaritz, Arzak are at the forefront of culinary innovation in the region, small restaurants that can be found dotted around the countryside make up its real wealth. One such restaurant is Landa.
Located in the small village of Mendaro between San Sebastian and Bilbao, Landa is as simple and unassuming as it gets. The décor or service do not really stand out in any way, and it feels like this restaurant caters to (discerning) local palates, rather than passing tourists.
The menu is simple: a couple of starters are listed next to the products that are available that day: turbot, sole, percebes, langoustines, etc. As is customary in such restaurants, there is little by way of garnishes at Landa. The food here is product-focused to the extreme, which a vast langoustine, bigger than most lobsters demonstrates. The meat is juicy, sweet, and crunchy; it is simply exceptional. Given that brothers Juan Mari and Asier Landa Muguruza, who run the restaurant, are fanatic hunters, fishermen and foragers themselves and provide quite a bit of produce for restaurants such as Ibai, Etxebarri, Elkano or Ganbara, having such phenomenal products here is perhaps not quite as surprising as that.
Equally good is grilled sole served in rich garlic oil. More rustic than that of Ibai for instance, the product quality and cooking are superb. That Landa serves excellent meat next to the plethora of seafood options is evidenced by the txuleta. Served perfectly cooked, with a charred, crispy crust and a liberal coating of salt this is meat that is not only intensely flavoured, but also remarkably tender.
Landa is a restaurant that will not impress with its décor, its location or its technical prowess. What it will do, however, is serve superb products in a most charming and warm environment. That alone is worth the drive to Mendaro.