Directora and Chef – Mina Restaurant
A sweet couple from Seattle are seated at the bar and having coffee after finishing a ten-course lunch. They are definitely restaurant-going people and have been travelling northern Spain. They’ve even visited some of the acclaimed three-star Michelin restaurants. Still, they lean over the bar and tell you in a hushed voice – this just may have been the best meal of our lives.
The next evening, a German husband and wife are sitting at a table and quietly make their way through a fourteen-course dinner. During the pause between each course, they turn to watch the kitchen at work, smiling, obviously pleased. When the petit fours are served after the dessert courses, they ask to speak to the chef, Álvaro, and the husband tells him – we have a restaurant and travel from time to time to try new things, get inspiration … the dishes we just ate are our ideal.
These are snapshots from two consecutive days at Mina. Lara and Álvaro have been running the restaurant since 2006. Imagine how many moments likes these must have taken place since then. Even for me, an intern, expressions of gratitude like these, when people can’t help but to let the kitchen know how much they enjoyed the past two hours, make the sacrifices of time (and good hair, burnless arms, etc.) worth it.
Lara and Álvaro have poured their hearts into their restaurant and it shows in the details. Plus they have a Michelin star. Plus two beautiful sons, Diego and Mikel, who keep them busy outside of the restaurant. I was grateful to have the chance to work with and learn from them over the past couple months. And when they agreed to do the B2S questionnaire I was like Awww hell yea!!!! Hablamos!
Coffee or tea?
L: The truth is I don’t normally drink caffeinated drinks except when I’m really tired. I really like the aromas of coffees and teas, but I prefer them for cooking rather than to drink. So, except for when my body can’t go on, I don’t drink stimulants.
A: Both. For mornings, coffee, and afternoons, tea. Before working the night service, I have one tea always. White tea.
Beer or wine?
L: Both also. Depends on the time of day, the season, the region where you are … but if I had to choose, wine.
A: Both also. Wine. But if it’s a hot day, I’ll have a beer. (Laura: he can’t live without wine, add that!)
Describe your typical breakfast.
L: Café con leche and toasts … with good butter and quality marmelade… perfect, happy! (Laughs.)
A: Café con leche and a bocadillo. Of ham.
L: I prefer sweet in the morning … sweet and a lot (laughs). (B2S: Me too!)
What is your earliest food-related memory?
L: Breakfast, and when I was a little girl, milk and cookies every day.
A: Being in my grandma’s house. My grandma cooked for everyone, and she was always in the kitchen… making dishes and traditional foods. She cooked for at least 7 or 8 people every day.
Describe your ideal sandwich.
L: I would say a bocadillo* that has some of pork for sure… ham and tomato for example, I like a lot… or tuna with spicy pepper.
A: A good bread made with natural yeast, and inside, anything from meat to tuna with spicy pepper and also ham with tomato.
Where would you travel to eat?
L: Well, right now I have several gastronomic destinations where I want to go. For example, in the United States, New York and San Francisco. In Spain, I would return a thousand times to my favorite places, which are El Celler de Can Roca, Casa Marcial in Asturias, or my mom’s house, or Alvaro’s grandmother’s.
A: United States, also Singapore and Hong Kong again … that region.
Name 5 people you would like to invite to a dinner party.
L: I would invite my closest friends. Álvaro and four friends. For me, when I think of having a dinner party, I think of having fun and laughing, I don’t think about meeting famous people and talking about nothing interesting. I care more about having a comfortable atmosphere and a good time.
A: I would invite Lara, and people who are interested in gastronomy… friends. Famous people aren’t interested in gastronomy.
L: Actually, I’m going to make one change. If I could invite anyone, even someone who isn’t here anymore, I would invite my great-uncle because he was always super happy and I would love to have dinner with him again.
What are you in the mood to eat right now?
A: Noodles, spicy noodles with pork belly.
L: I’m going to tell you exactly what I’m going to eat when we leave today, in a bar close to here, Basaras: a pintxo of tortilla, a gilda**, an anchovia “con alegria” which is a thin strip of really spicy pepper, and a croqueta of cod… with a glass red wine.
* a bocadillo is like a Spanish hero, not like a superhero, but a sandwich made with a baguette sliced in half and meat, fish, etc. in the middle.
** a gilda (pronounced heel-da) is a typical Basque pintxo or tapa which consists of an olive, a pickled spicy pepper (a guindilla) and an anchovie, all drenched in olive oil.