Kinou – Authentic Cuisine from the Basque Country, at Keong Saik
The Basque country, the homeland of the Basque people, is nestled at the border between Spain and France. The Basque people have their own language, culture and traditions – so it is no surprise that they have their own unique cuisine. When I had the opportunity to sample Basque cuisine right here in Singapore, I jumped at the chance!
Kinou is a cosy restaurant and bar located at Teck Lim Road, between Neil Road and Keong Saik Road. When we entered the restaurant, we were greeted with the aroma of grilled meat and garnish.
We were told that the name “Kinou” was Chef Benjamin’s mother. The Chef named the restaurant this way as he wanted to showcase his mother’s home-cooked food and family recipe. This certainly got us excited to try out the food.
We were first served with glasses of Ricard. Ricard is a famous and favourite drink of the Basque Country, and is made from licorice and anise. The taste was strong and medicinal, but also refreshing – a perfect start to our meal.
We were then treated to two tapas dishes as starters. First off, we had a dish of padron. Padron is a type of pepper, with some similarity to capsicum. Our padron was stir fried with a mix of salt and grated cheese. It was crunchy with a nice charred aftertaste. The taste was delightfully complex – salty, tangy with a touch of cheese. This dish truly whet our appetite for what was to come next!
The second tapas served was txistorra, a grilled spicy cured sausage served with three separate garnishes – squid ink (black), chorizo (pramge) and crushed red capsicum (red). I loved the rich mix between the grilled meat and the taste of the sea brought out by the squid ink.
Out of curiosity, I searched up the differences between the txistorra, and the more familiar chorizo. It turns out that the key difference is that txistorra is semi-cured (cooked over approximately three days), while chorizo is fully cured.
Our third dish was xipiron. Two rows of small grilled squid were immaculately served with separate garnishes of squid ink (black) and chimichuri sauce (green). The squid was perfectly cooked, with a delightfully chewy texture and with no trace of the “sea”. The squid went very well with the garnishes, in particular squid ink. However, as the grilled squid and squid ink were somewhat heavy, the chimichuri sauce provided a nice counterpoint. The chimichuri sauce was refreshing with a hint of garlic. When I first tasted the sauce, I thought it reminded me of peppermint – sure enough, we were told that the sauce was made from oregano mint, olice oil and garlic. We finished up the dish in no time.
As we were having our food, we were wondering whether the Chef was in the house. It turned out that he was away on an exclusive catering event. Perhaps this may be something for us to consider, the next time we would like to have fine dining in the comfort of our homes (or offices).
We then came to the mains. First up, we had a steaming pot of piperade. This was a stew based on onion, green peppers and tomatoes. There were also generous servings of bacon and an embedded sunny-side-up. I loved this dish – it was hearty, slightly spicy and also slightly tangy with the tomato base. The vegetable base went very well with the meat and egg. As someone who loves spicy food, I finished up all the green peppers. We were told that this dish was similar to an Italian ratatouille. This dish truly tasted like it was lovingly cooked by one’s mother!
The next main was the pulpo gallega. I must say that this dish is truly the star of the dinner. The key ingredient was octopus, which was stewed and baked with potato. There were also touches of ham. The potato was hearty and tasted of the sea – I have truly not tasted potato cooked this way before! The octopus was tender– reminding me a little of takoyaki. The combination of potato and octopus was, again, very unique and interesting to me. Having done some further research, I realised that this was a very traditional Basque dish. Needless to say, this was one of our favourite dishes in this dinner.
Last, we had the gateau Basque. This was a layered cake with jam. It was indeed a sweet note to end a satisfying dinner!
We toured around the premises. There was an outdoor area at the back where we could dine al fresco. There was also a private dining area that could comfortably seat five to eight diners.
The restaurant opened in 2018 and was initially at a three-storey shophouse, mostly serving drinks and having Basque food as tapas. The restaurant, as with the rest of the F&B industry, fell into difficult times as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, they pivoted to focusing on Basque fine dining and moved to this cosy location. I was heartened to note that, on a Wednesday evening, the restaurant was filled with satisfied diners.
All in all, this was a unique and tasty gastronomical experience. The food was outstanding but did not lose the “home-cooked” touch. The venue was cosy and relaxed. Aromas from the cooking wafted in from the open kitchen. Added to this, the staff was friendly and ever happy to share about the Basque Country, language, traditions and cuisine. For those of us who have been deprived of travel and eating overseas cuisine, this was definitely an experience not to forget. I would certainly recommend this restaurant!