[Spain: Bilbao] 1* Nerua by Josean Alija

Rating: ❤❤❤1/2 (3.5/5)

When I was visiting Basque Country for the first time two years ago, I was told that I shouldn't miss the 1* Nerua located in the iconic Guggenheim Museum. I didn't have time to visit then so I decided to give it a try when we revisited the area back in May. Named for the river that flows through the city of Bilbao, Nerua's menu adapts to the changing of seasons. At the helm is Chef Josean Alija who is an alumnus of the legendary El Bulli. When I went for lunch, I was presented with 3 menus: 5 Products for €80, 9 Products for €110 and 14 Products for €145 where I ended up trying the 9 Products menu with wine pairing.

When the chef was young, he apparently lost his sense of smell and taste in an motorcycle accident and he had to learn how to taste things again. While he was still recovering from the accident, he managed to win the Best Young Chef competition which restored his confidence as a chef. I was all the more intrigued and as I had heard great things about Nerua from several foodies, I was looking forward to the meal. However, it didn't really live up to expectations. The dishes were mostly "simple" with just two or three ingredients (which is fine if they were executed superbly) but I found the flavors to be quite boring and one-dimensional. Although the food tasted fine and not offensive in any way, it was just that none of the dishes were particularly memorable. I'm not sure if it was the menu we chose or what, but based on my experience, Nerua wouldn't be on the top of my recommendations especially with so many other outstanding restaurants in this region.

We were invited to tour the kitchen first and had a few welcome bites there, but none made an impression. Our rule of thumb is that you can generally tell if the meal will be good right from the beginning and this should have clued us in, but we were still hopeful that things could have turned for the better.

The main dining room was very minimalistic and predominately white in color with a window view that overlooks the giant spider sculpture by Louise Bourgeois.

Tomato Lasagne with cream and chile mixe

Artichokes with olives and anchovy broth

Oyster in black sauce

Zurrukutuna with garlic soup, pan sopako bread and cod fish

Grilled Mussel with carrot sauce

Of all the dishes, the Fried Hake with stewed water spinach was probably the best as the fish had been cooked to perfection but even then it wasn't the best hake I've ever had.

Marinated Rack of Lamb with celeriac cream

Whipped Milk Casein with strawberry ice cream and violet meringue

Avocado Cream with fenugreek ice cream, black olive and coffee

Petit Fours

Abandoibarra Etorb., 2, 48001 Bilbo, Bizkaia, Spain
Tel: +34 944 00 04 30

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