When was the last time you took a walk down Redondo Beach Pier? The retro South Bay boardwalk has seen better days, sure, but lately there have been whiffs of a food and drink revival at this salt-crusted harbor. There has always been Quality Seafood, of course, a market selling fresh crabs and oysters to packed tourist crowds on weekends, but there is also the reliable craft beer bar Naja's and a relatively new taproom from local upstart brewery King Harbor. I once had the best agedashi tofu I've ever tasted at a wonderful izakaya below the pier, but sadly the cramped tavern closed when the owner-chef moved to Japan.
The most recent draw to the harbor has been A Basq Kitchen, a small Spanish tapas bar that opened in 2015 right along the waterfront. The chef is Benat “Bernard” Ibarra, the executive chef at Palo Verdes' Terranea Resort. He decided to open his own restaurant highlighting the Basque cooking you'd find in the pinxto bars of places such as San Sebastian — a breezy, casual place to pop in for a few simple small plates and a glass of dry Spanish cider or the peculiar red wine-and-Coke cocktail known in Spain as the kalimotxo (also called the poor man's sangria).
You'll find fresh oysters, which pair well with the bright tang of Txakolina, or plates of sharp sheep's milk cheeses, house-made fig jam, cured Spanish meats and a variety of crunchy pickles. There are sweet-salty jamon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese; fried, garlicky shrimp served atop slices of grilled bread, which soaks up their savory juice; mussels and chorizo steamed in white wine; and piperada vasca, a dark and hearty vegetable stew that you can order topped with jamon and a fried egg. The kitchen does an admirable job with the classic bar snack patatas bravas — crispy, home-fried potatoes squiggled with a creamy tomato garlic sauce.
It's also worthwhile to check the chalkboard of daily specials, which might include grilled rockfish or octopus, little rosemary lamb skewers called brochettes or giant pans of paella, usually served on Thursdays.
With its tucked-away location and relaxed vibe, A Basq Kitchen has the giddy appeal of an unexpected gem — the sort of place you might stumble into after a day at the beach. It just so happens that the food is pretty special, too.
A Basq Kitchen, 136 N. International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach; (310) 376-9215, abasqkitchen.com.