Reviews for Pintxo tend to be either glowing or damning. Overall I have a positive impression of this restaurant, but I can also understand some of the criticisms. A lot of whether you like Pintxo will depend on your expectations.
The menu focuses, not surprisingly, on pintxos. Pintxos, like tapas, are small portions of food typically eaten when bar hopping with friends in Spain. The main difference is that they originate specifically from the Basque region.
Pintxo takes the bar hopping aspect out, while sticking to the theme of small plates of Basque cuisine. If you want the kind of "traditional" Spanish tapas experience you've found in other parts of Spain, don't look for it at Pintxo.
To get a full meal, order 5 - 6 pintxos per person plus dessert. Most pintoxs are in the $6 - $8 range, which is on the pricey side for the portion size offered.
While it may be tempting to share pintxos, I don't recommend doing so. While many can be split, they are not really designed to be shared. In general if everyone in your party is interested in a particular dish, order multiples.
My favorite pintxos on the menu are the ones involving grilled seafood. Standouts include the seared calamari with onion confit, grilled lobster tail, and grilled chorizo and octopus. In each case, the grilling adds good flavor to the seafood. The calamari is tender and is perfectly complemented by the sweet onion confit. The grilled lobster tail, which unlike many of the pintxos on the menu can easily be shared by 2 people, comes unadorned but is cooked well. The grilled octopus stands up well to the spiciness of the chorizo that accompanies it.
I also like the fresh marinated sardine filet with avocado and peppers, as well as the seared scallop with chorizo tapenade. These two choices, however, are particularly small in size.
The stuffed fig with serrano ham and mahon cheese is salty and sweet. The balance between the two isn't perfect, but this pintxo provides a nice way to bridge lighter pintxos on the menu with the heavier ones.
I have mixed feelings about the seared foie gras on a bed of lentils. It was great the first time I had it. The second time, however, the foie really needed a few more seconds on the fire. Parts of it weren't cooked enough and in fact were still slightly refrigerated, which really took away from an otherwise good dish.
I wasn't overly impressed with the crab and shrimp stuffed piquillo. The flavors of the mushy stuffing are a bit bland.
Desserts were pleasant, and like the pintxos not too large.
Ambiance and service
Pintxo is the kind of place most appreciated by couples. A group of 4 might enjoy the atmosphere, too. The 2 intimate dining rooms of 8 - 10 tables each provide a pleasant dining experience, and the noise level is such that it's possible to carry on a conversation
with your dining partner(s).
At the same time, the dining areas lack the kind of crazy buzzing environment that is good for a large group of people. Additionally, the low lighting and cozy atmosphere lend themselves better to a romantic evening out than a boisterous gathering.
Both time I have visited, the service was very good.
Should I give it a try?
If you are part of a large group, expect a typical Spanish tapas
experience, or have trouble knowing that each bite of food is costing you multiple dollars, then no. Skip it.
If, on the other hand, you plan to dine in a group of 2 - 4 people, place importance on dining atmosphere, like grilled seafood presented in interesting ways, and don't mind paying a relatively high price, then yes. Go for it!
256 Roy St. East
Parking: Street (ample free parking at metered spots right by the restaurant after 6 p.m. on Sunday)
Dress: Casual or smart casual
Price: Allow $70 - $100 per person, depending on hunger level and drink choices, including tax and tip.
Highlights: Pintxos of grilled seafood. Pleasant atmosphere. Good Spanish wine list.