Basque restaurant a fun ride


691 14th St., Atlanta. 404-996-2623, $$$

2 of 4 stars [very good]

This latest restaurant from the Castellucci Hospitality Group (the Iberian Pig) is their most mature and best effort yet. Inspired by a tour of Basque country in Spain, chef Landon Thompson offers a fine interpretation of this intriguing regional fare.

You will want to start your evening on a stool facing the bar, behind which cooks toast thick slices of bread on a griddle for pintxos (“peenchos”), those anything-goes canapes that are a staple of Basque bars.

Try the Caña Klasikoa, which combines creamy goat cheese with roasted veggies and a few pistachios for good measure. Want something a bit more austere? The pan con tomate — crunchy grilled bread with a blood-red swipe of garlicky tomato puree — tastes good, particularly with salty boquerones (pickled anchovies) laid atop.

Move on to fuller fare in the comfortable dining room. A whole daurade fish off the wood grill sports milky flesh and crackling skin enhanced by a sprinkling of crunchy garlic chips. And you must make room for desserts, such as the frozen berries with billowing plumes of liquid nitrogen smoke.