When we asked Íñigo Axpe from bulthaup San Sebastián about his customers in the gastronomy sector, he didn’t hesitate to recommend Juan Ramón Goikoetxea, “Goiko”. A native of nearby Zarauz like Íñigo, Goiko is the owner of Kata4, a restaurant and oyster bar –and much more– that he opened in 2011 on Santa Catalina street, on the banks of the Urumea river, with one of the most pleasant outdoor café areas in the entire city, just a few steps away from the Hotel Maria Cristina.
We asked Goiko about his relationship to the restaurant business and how Kata4 got started. “I wasn’t originally in the field of gastronomy; I worked in the metal industry for many years, but about ten years ago I had to start over in a new direction. I had always valued good cuisine with the best ingredients, and I saw there was potential for distributing French products here. I started distributing foie and other duck and goose products, as well as oysters and champagne, in the Basque Country; from that point on, the idea of setting up an oyster bar started to develop. There was none in Donostia, and I thought it was an opportunity that someone ought to seize.” He found a venue at an extraordinary location next to the Santa Catalina bridge and decided to try his luck. The concept of an oyster bar on the banks of the Urumea turned out to be a total success.
Kata4: an oyster bar with many facets
Kata4 featured seven varieties of oysters, most French and some Galician; some were flat and some deep, and Goiko served them with a range of French champagnes. Over time, his curiosity and his receptiveness to his guests’ requests led him to extend his menu and include preferences that appeared to change throughout the seasons and the hours of the day.
365 days in Donostia
“From May to the film festival in September, we have many international visitors who appreciate our selection of oysters, but who also want to taste some local dishes,” says Goiko. “On the other hand, the rest of the year we have a loyal clientele of locals who order their all-time favorites: white beans from Tolosa, fine red bream, horse mackerel, or a T-bone steak.” When we ask Goiko about innovation in Basque cuisine, he replies that it undoubtedly has its following, but that many people seem to be returning to the tried-and-true values: simple preparation that allows you to fully appreciate the flavor of the best natural ingredients.
From morning till night
“Kata4 also changes throughout the day,” adds Goiko. “We open up at 7:30 a.m., and many lawyers and businesspeople from the neighborhood come to have a cup of coffee and start their day in a familiar place where they feel comfortable. By mid-morning, some come back and others step in to have a few pintxos; we usually have about 8 to 10 pintxos on the counter and then another 10 or 15 in the kitchen, which aren’t set out on display but can be ordered. Many of these appetizers can also be served as a small portion or as a full dish.” Throughout the day, some guests stay for lunch, some stop by in the afternoon for a glass of wine, others have their evening meal… and, needless to say, some may stay on for an after-dinner drink in good company. “The point is that people have a good time,” says Goiko; “we want them to feel at home in a relaxed setting, trusting that whatever they order won’t let them down.”
From Basque cuisine to global gastronomy
This relaxed atmosphere beyond the counter is by no means incompatible with a highly discriminating approach inside the kitchen. Nor does its passion for the best ingredients stop Kata4 from including some truly elaborate dishes in its menu. Although Basque cuisine prevails, the cooking team boasts members from several different countries, such as Australia, Peru, and Italy: you can enjoy anything from marvelous baby squid to an unforgettable ceviche. And if to all of this you add seasonal, locally-sourced products, you end up with dishes such as an organic Basque free-range chicken egg cooked at a low temperature with mushrooms, foie and Italian truffle: the best of all worlds.
Wines also have their place in Goiko’s venue: he recently decided to set up a wine corner where he now offers five or six new wines every month to explore different varieties beyond his standard wine list: California, New Zealand, Australia, Albariño, Penedès… whatever he has been drawn to recently and is eager to share with his clientele.
The bulthaup meeting point
Juan Ramón Goikoetxea is a bulthaup customer. Delighted with the open kitchen Íñigo Axpe designed for him and his wife Laura, he explains: “We enjoy getting together in the kitchen, having a glass of wine and chatting with our friends in a space where we all feel at home. Íñigo is an outstanding professional with a great sense of design, who also knows how to listen to his customers’ needs.” We ask him whether he enjoys cooking in his bulthaup kitchen. “Actually, that’s Laura’s turf,” he laughs. “Where I really cook is in my sociedad gastronómica, the gastronomy club I share with my friends in Zarauz. The sociedad with the best views in the entire Basque Country,” he beams, faithful to his long-standing values, to what lives on despite all the changes in its surroundings.
Photographer: Pablo Axpe